Film Review: 1941 (1979)

Also known as: The Night the Japs Attacked (working title)
Release Date: December 13th, 1979 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, John Milius
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Ned Beatty, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, Penny Marshall, Nancy Allen, Eddie Deezen, Slim Pickens, Dianne Kay, Wendie Jo Sperber, John Candy, Frank McRae, Lionel Stander, Michael McKean, Joe Flaherty, Don Calfa, Elisha Cook Jr., Mickey Rourke, John Landis, Dick Miller, Donovan Scott, James Caan, Sydney Lassick (uncredited)

A-Team, Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, 118 Minutes, 146 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 142 Minutes (TV cut)

Review:

“You get me up in that plane, then we’ll talk about forward thrust.” – Donna Stratton

Considering that this was directed by Steven Spielberg and is loaded with dozens of stars that I like, having not seen this until now seems like a crime. But honestly, it came out when I was a year-old and it wasn’t something that I saw on TV growing up in the ’80s. Frankly, it flew under my radar for years and even if I saw the VHS tape in a mom and pop shop, the box art wouldn’t have piqued my interest.

I have now seen the film, though, and while I enjoyed it, I can see why it wasn’t held in the same esteem as Spielberg’s other work at the time.

This features a lot of characters and ensemble pieces like this can be hard to balance. With that, this felt more like an anthology of separate stories that don’t really come together until the end, even if there is a bit of overlap leading to the climax.

Everyone was pretty enjoyable in this but at the same time, they all just felt like tropes and caricatures, as none of them had much time to develop. That’s fine, though, as this isn’t supposed to be an intense dramatic story about war coming to US soil.

One thing I will point out as great in this movie is the special effects and being that this featured World War II military vehicles, it almost felt like Spielberg’s test drive before directing the Indiana Jones ’80s trilogy, which employed some of the same techniques and effects style that this film did.

The miniature work was superb and I loved the sequence of the airplane dogfight over Hollywood, as well as the submarine sequence at the end. The action was great, period.

I also generally enjoyed the comedy in this. It’s almost slapstick in a lot of scenes and it kind of felt like Spielberg’s homage the comedy style of Hollywood during the time that the movie takes place in.

That being said, the costumes, sets and general design and look of the film was great and almost otherworldly. This felt fantastical but in the way that the films of the 1940s did. There was a cinematic magic to the visuals and the film should probably get more notoriety for that.

What hurts the film, though, is that it just jumps around so much and it’s hard to really get invested in anything. There’s just so much going on at all times that your mind loses focus and starts to wander.

The story, itself, isn’t hard to follow but nothing seems that important, other than the Americans need to defend their home from this rogue submarine that appeared off the coast of Los Angeles.

In the end, this is far from Spielberg’s best and I’d call it the worst film of his uber successful late ’70s through early ’90s stretch. However, it’s still an enjoyable experience.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other comedies with Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi or other Saturday Night Live cast members of the era.

Film Review: Magnum Force (1973)

Also known as: Vigilance (working title), Magnum .44 (Spanish speaking countries), Dirty Harry II – Callahan (Germany, Austria)
Release Date: December 13th, 1973 (London premiere)
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: John Milius, Michael Cimino
Based on: characters by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Felton Perry, Robert Urich, Kip Niven, Tim Matheson, John Mitchum, Albert Popwell, Suzanne Somers (uncredited)

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 124 Minutes

Review:

“You’re a good cop, Harry. You had a chance to join my team, but you decided to stick with the system.” – Lieutenant Briggs, “Briggs, I hate the goddamn system! But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I’ll stick with it.” – “Dirty” Harry Callahan

Although, John Milius considered this the worst film he was involved with, I consider it to be fucking badass and a worthy sequel to the original Dirty Harry, as it builds off of some of the statements from that film and really examines how broken the justice system is from a cop’s perspective.

While this isn’t quite the classic that the original was, it is still a high octane, balls out action film with a certain kind of grit that could only exist in the 1970s.

Clint Eastwood is back as “Dirty” Harry Callahan and even though he tossed his badge in the river in the previous film, he’s back to work, crossing the line and fighting the scumfucks of San Francisco. In this film, however, the scumfucks just happen to be fellow police officers that operate like a team of Punishers.

The film is just as much a thriller as it is an action picture and it almost feels kind of noir-ish in its narrative tone, as there are swerves and twists. While you might see some surprises before the film reveals them, they’re still effective and make this an interesting story about corruption and justice.

Eastwood seems more fine tuned as Harry in this film and it’s obvious that he’s real comfortable in the role. Hal Holbrook plays opposite of Eastwood in a lot of scenes and I really enjoyed the banter between the two stupendous actors.

The film also features a young Robert Urich, as one of the dirty cops. It’s cool seeing him in this early role, as a piece of shit, especially since he typically played good, mostly moral characters as he got bigger roles and established himself as a really likable actor.

This is the longest film in the Dirty Harry franchise but there really isn’t a dull moment and time doesn’t feel like it’s wasted. This has a bulky story with a lot of layers to it but it’s easy to follow and moves at a good pace.

Ultimately, the film delivers where it needs to and the finale was really well done, as Harry has to outwit and survive the young killer cops that are determined to silence him.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Dirty Harry movies, as well as the Death Wish series.

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.