Dirty Harry: Two-Disc Special Edition (WB, 1971) D: Don Siegel, w/ Clint Eastwood, Andy Robinson. Rating: NNNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Forget the cultural icon cliché, standard-bearer for right-wing idiocy and spouter of over-quoted taglines. The original Dirty Harry came before all that. It kicked ass and stoked major controversy when it was new, and now, 37 years later, it stands as one of cinema’s all-time great thrillers.
Working-class San Francisco cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) loses perspective when the regulations keep him from busting publicity-hound serial killer Scorpio (a chilling Andy Robinson). Violence and moral ambiguity escalate.
The appreciation docs and commentary by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel do a fine job of exploring the movie’s immense impact, its controversy, its roots in the western and its mythic and moral dimensions.
But there’s one point I think they’ve overlooked: Harry’s final act is to chuck away his badge. The disgust he displays may be directed at himself, not the system. Tie that to the movie’s opening shot, a track across a plaque listing San Francisco cops who’ve died in the line of duty, and we get a very different view of Harry and the law ’n’ order philosophy he supposedly represents, and the movie gets a giant push toward tragedy.
The one-hour bio of Eastwood on disc two was made in 1993. It’s very good, but there’s a newer one on the five- disc Dirty Harry box set that contains all the sequels. Unless you like to watch Eastwood milk the persona, you don’t need the sequels.
EXTRAS Disc one: Schickel commentary, Dirty Harry doc, retrospective interviews, promotional doc. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese audio and subtitles. Disc two: appreciation doc, Eastwood bio. Widescreen. English audio. Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles.