Film Review: Dirty Harry (1971)

Also known as: Dead Right (working title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1971 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: Don Siegel
Written by: Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, Jo Heims, John Milius (uncredited), Terrence Malick (uncredited)
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, John Mitchum, Debralee Scott, Albert Popwell

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes, 99 Minutes (cut)

Review:

“Uh uh. I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan

Going through my list of film series I haven’t yet reviewed, I was surprised when I came to the realization that I hadn’t covered Dirty Harry yet, as it is one of my favorite action crime franchises. Plus, it stars the always badass and intense Clint Eastwood, as the greatest character he ever played after “The Man With No Name” from Sergio Leone’s The Dollars Trilogy.

This also stars Andrew Robinson as the purely evil Scorpio Killer. He’s a guy that I love in just about everything and a solid character actor that, frankly, should’ve been in many more movies.

The story follows “Dirty” Harry Callahan as he tries to take down the Scorpio Killer, who has been using a sniper rifle to pick off his victims throughout San Francisco. What I like about the bad guy is that he is just a severely fucked up piece of shit and more like a force of nature than someone with a real plan. He creates fear and panic and in an effort to take him down, Harry skirts around the rules and takes the law into his own hands. This backfires on Harry, as even after he takes down Scorpio, the guy is released because of legal red tape. Ultimately, Harry says, “Fuck all this shit!” and he doubles down, finally killing Scorpio and then throwing his badge into the river as the ultimate “fuck you” to the system.

Dirty Harry is definitely a film of its time, similar to Death Wish, which would also spawn four badass sequels. These movies were a critique in rising crime rates in the U.S. and the inability of the police and the legal system to clean up the streets and make the public feel safer. Movies like these wouldn’t fly today due to society being so sensitive and butthurt over everything. Hell, look at the total shithole San Francisco has become in 2020. It’s not as violent but the West Coast softies let bums shit in the streets and throw dirty heroin needles all over the place.

Films like Dirty Harry are great because they are unapologetic and bitchslap the crybaby pussies that try to constantly justify the terrible behavior of shitty human beings. That’s also because those people are shitty human beings.

From a technical standpoint, this movie is meticulously shot with superb shot framing and cinematography. All of the scenes atop buildings are fantastic and give you a true feeling of scope and distance, especially in regards to how the sniper sees things from above, searching for his victims.

I also like all the dark and gritty parts. The big fight in the park underneath the giant cross is a real highlight in all the things I just mentioned about the film’s visuals.

The action is also captured tremendously well from the early street shootout to the rooftop shootout to the confrontation in the park at night to the bus scene and the final showdown.

The picture is well written with good pacing and it has more energy than most films from the time.

Dirty Harry is just a great action thriller that features a character that deserves his legendary status. And just like with Death Wish, I was fine with nearly a half dozen sequels even if the quality started to wane. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the four other Dirty Harry films, as well as the five original Death Wish movies.

3 thoughts on “Film Review: Dirty Harry (1971)

  1. I absolutely love this film, and all of the sequels regardless of how long in the tooth the series became towards the end. They are the perfect antidote to all the insane snowflake crap that you have to do your best to ignore these days. I think I picked up my brand-new DVD boxset of all five films for less than £10 too which was almost robbery in itself. So much value.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually got my box set for $5 at a Wal-Mart like 10 years ago. I also got Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Highlander and Crocodile Dundee for that same price. Granted, they weren’t really box sets, they were just 5 DVDs crammed into a regular-sized case.

      Liked by 1 person

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