Zodiac thriller: Andy Robinson plays Scorpio in the Clint Eastwood classic Dirty Harry, now a two-disc special edition DVD.
Politically polarizing in its day, back
when movie critic Pauline Kael labeled the film as a fascist work
alongside 1971’s other violent dramas Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange,
Siegel’s film now seems refreshingly old school in its senses of rhythm
and storytelling; Hollywood can’t make noirish movies like this anymore
because there’s so much flashy cutting and needless close-ups. The
movie’s initial five minutes alone feature no dialogue, as Scorpio
blasts away his first victim, followed by Callahan quietly,
methodically, picking up the trail, all done with Siegel’s perfectly
composed widescreen shots. Director Eastwood’s Oscar-winning western Unforgiven
paid homage to his mentors, spaghetti western king Sergio Leone and
B-movie maestro Siegel, but it’s obvious that Eastwood learned the most
from Siegel’s compact style. Dirty Harry shows a master at
work, as Siegel elicits some darkly moral ambiguities from Eastwood’s
lean-and-mean avenger, while allowing his star too many iconic screen
moments to count.
For this third DVD incarnation, Dirty Harry
is treated to a widescreen (2.35:1) remastering that lends vivid
sharpness to Bruce Surtees’ nighttime photography, which was pretty
dark even in Nixon-era theaters; scenes that take place in Frisco
locales such as the naughty Tenderloin district and the old Kezar
Stadium seem to boast more visual detail than ever. The stereo
rechanneling of the former mono soundtrack sounds crystal-clear, with
plenty of aural background effects and a punchy rendition of Lalo
Schifin’s jazzy-funk compositions.
New to this edition is a commentary
track from Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel, who adds some factoids
such as picking out the scene that Eastwood actually directed when
Siegel was ailing. Too bad much of the time Schickel just sits back and
offers play-by-play yammering, much like he did for the 2004 DVD of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
He doesn’t even bother to point out the movie’s best inside joke: Next
to Callahan’s favorite hot dog luncheonette is a movie marquee playing
director-star Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me!
Also in the package are some extras
ported over from the 2001 DVD: “Dirty Harry: The Original,” a 30-minute
catalog of clips and catch phrases hosted by Robert Urich; 27 minutes
of interviews left over from the Urich segment; and “Dirty Harry’s
Way,” a vintage seven-minute puff piece from Professional Films, Inc.,
with some grainy behind-the-scenes shots. The 1993 Cinemax documentary The Man from Malpaso offers a 58-minute overview, encompassing everything from Eastwood’s days as a Universal contract player to Unforgiven, including welcome comments regarding the strangely neglected 1974 gem Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. A new vignette, the 26-minute “The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry,” has even more accolades from stars such as Michael Madsen.
also 11 minutes’ worth of five trailers for Eastwood’s quintet of Harry
Callahan blowouts; actor Albert Popwell turns up in several spots (he
was a different character in the first four movies, including Magnum Force, The Enforcer and Sudden Impact), but his most memorable scene is in Dirty Harry
as the initial recipient of the “six shots or only five” speech (“Hey!
I got’s to know. . . ”). Warner Video’s art department also deserves
plaudits for the package design, which features a plastic cover with a
bullet hole-shattered glass effect. Incidentally, all five Dirty Harry flicks are available separately or in a box set loaded with more goodies.