Friday, July 16, 2010

REVIEW: The Enforcer

The Enforcer
Director: James Fargo
Year 1976

The Enforcer is the third installment in the Dirty Harry series, and wouldn't you know it, Harry's at it again. With the same gritty feel of the first two films, The Enforcer deals with a group of terrorist hippies called The People's Revolutionary Strike Force, that set their mind on terrorizing the city of San Francisco. That is unless they get the large ransom that they've requested. Harry is assigned the case as usual, but this time he won't be doing it alone. Director James Fargo does an excellent job in bringing us back into the world of Dirty Harry and this entry is a seamless collaboration that melds perfectly with the previous two installments.

Harry's one smooth criminal killer.

Harry is as bad ass as ever, as he thwarts the bad guys at every turn. There's an amazing set piece that occurs right at the beginning of the film, where Harry must negotiate with a group of robbers as they hold a number of shoppers hostage inside a grocery store. He makes chit chat with the head robber and hears their demands, then Harry hops into the nearest cop car and drives the hulking beast straight through the store and begins shooting up the place, taking all of the bad guys out in one quick blaze of glory. It's a great sequence and shows us just why we love the character of Harry Callahan.

When Harry goes grocery shopping, he pays in bullets.

Of course, the aftermath of this chaotic scene is just as entertaining, as Harry emerges out of the smoky wreckage and says one of his smart ass lines. Just like the rest of the series, we are given some great one liners and stupendously witty sarcastic remarks that are sure to go down as some of the most fun filled lines in Eastwood's long outstanding career. The guy has a million of them, but the Dirty Harry series is ripe with some very memorable lines that will have you coming to terms with why you love this character so much and his impeccable dry sense of humor.

Jesus Harry, what the hell did you do?

We also have a great change of formula to the storyline in The Enforcer. Harry is given another partner but this time it is a police woman named Kate Moore, played by the strangely attractive Tyne Daly. Considering the great lengths that these films go to in showing the ever changing landscape of the police force and how Harry is slowly being left behind in a long forgotten age of hard nosed and gritty police work, it's nice that they've given him a partner that shows the morphing of gender roles in society at the time and the cultural movement of being more politically correct. The slow friendship that the two begin to build throughout the movie is quite pleasant to see unfold and it's a rather unique moment to see Harry beginning to soften a bit as he gets to know his partner better. 

Freeze dirt bag!

A Dirty Harry film wouldn't be complete without a superior to breathe down the neck of Harry and fight him at every turn. The person to fit this bill in The Enforcer is Capt. McKay, played by a cocky Bradford Dillman. Just like in Magnum Force with Hal Holbrook's character, Capt. McKay is equally as dickish to Dirty Harry, always trying to stop him from doing what he does best, bust up the bad guys. Dillman has been in a few great films in his career spanning from the 1971 monkey-tastic Escape From the Planet of the Apes, to the 1974 underground bat infested film Chosen Survivors, all the way to the brilliantly enjoyable 1978 film Piranha. He even gets another role in the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact, so needless to say the guy has been in a slew of genres and can perform in diverse roles. He does wonders for the douchebag role of Capt. McKay and ups the scale for other friendly nemesis' of Harry.

If I know Harry, shit is about to hit the fan.

The action is pretty fierce in this installment, with a lot of things blowing up courtesy of the inclusion of a bazooka that the terrorists carry around with them. A dramatic scene occurs when the terrorists are tired of being ignored and decide to abduct the mayor of the city. They attack his convoy at the edge of a raised draw bridge and proceed to blow the shit out of everything in the area. The scene is nuts and shows the cruel nature that these terrorists possess, as a female member of the group executes the bridge worker with a regret-less distain. The scene is a very remarkable Dirty Harry moment.

In this movie things go boom!

The fiery relationship that I mentioned earlier between Harry and Capt. McKay, sparks some very interesting and hilarious confrontations that result in some of the most outstanding lines in cinema history. One of the moments happen when Capt. McKay tells Harry that he's going to be transfered to personnel. Harry responds with, "Personnel? That's for assholes!" McKay calmly responds back with, "I was in Personnel for ten years." Harry smirks back as he exits the room, "Yeah." Now that's an outstanding exchange of words by two great actors that can really chew up a scene with their simple and entertaining banter.

Mister, I hate your mustache!

A similar moment occurs when Harry hands over his badge to Capt. McKay and gives one of the best lines that anyone could ever give when quitting the police force. Harry hands the badge over and says, "Here's a seven-point suppository, Captain." Captain McKay exclaims, "What did you say?" Harry barks back, "I said stick it in your ass!" Hot damn that is funny, especially when it is said with such authority and in all seriousness. That's one thing that Clint Eastwood excels in. He makes some of the most outlandish dialogue and tricky situations seem natural and normal within the cinema realm. That's a knack that he has carried on throughout his entire career. 

Now that's one way to get him to talk.

This film seems to suspend Harry in a constant state of being pissed off at the world, because for most of the picture he is interrogating everyone in sight, beating thugs till they talk, and just plain getting creative and using a plunger to make a sleazy porn man sing like a bird. It's pretty funny to see Eastwood gritting his death for 70% of the films run time, but it's great to see him work his frustrations out on the many poor saps that get in his way.

Harry's confessional turns ugly.

In the music department, this time Jerry Fielding provides the groovy soundtrack with an added hint of danger. Unfortunately, the previous films composer Lalo Schifrin, for reasons unknown to me, wasn't able to provide the music for The Enforcer, but was able to flavor his stylings throughout the rest of the series. Although Fielding took over the reigns for this film, you can hardly tell the difference for he blends Lalo's style into his own compositions in the movie. It also doesn't hurt that he's a long time collaborator with Eastwood, having scored for a handful of his films like 1976's The Outlaw Josey Wales, 1977's The Gauntlet, and the 1979 prison film Escape from Alcatraz. The familiarity between the two shows as Fielding melds with Eastwood's movements on the screen, complimenting his acting style and aiding in bringing out some expressive moments in the story.

A romantic boat ride for two.

The look of the film is on par with the rest of the series and the thanks goes to cinematographer Charles W. Short, whose had some past experience working on the second Dirty Harry film, Magnum Force, as second unit director of photography. The cinematographer from Magnum Force, Frank Stanley, must have been giving Charles some pointers because there is a striking resemblance between the look of both films. While not as expressive as Dirty Harry, the first entry in the series, Magnum Force and The Enforcer provide a pleasant looking aesthetic that compliments the daring visuals from the original film, all the while helping move the series into a modern direction.

Leave it on the doorstep and get the hell out of here.

In the thrilling conclusion to this film, we are brought to an inauspicious location located in the rundown prison island of Alcatraz. The location is absolutely perfect for the final confrontation between Harry and the terrorist group that has been plaguing the story throughout the entire film. The director uses this location to great effect as Harry infiltrates the prison walls and stalks through the hallways of this fortified relic. It's a great spot for the dramatic conclusion that is both rewarding in its demise, but bittersweet for the price it pays on our main character Harry. 

And boom goes the dynamite!

The Enforcer has everything that you'd want to see in a Dirty Harry film. It's got action, drama, humor, and most of all it has Clint Eastwood in top form. The direction is diverse yet threaded within the story, making for a driven narrative that flies by in entertaining fashion. The music gels well with what we've come to expect from the series and the overall look of the picture is scattered with traces of eye candy, which doesn't quite rival the beautiful compositions that we were blessed with in the original Dirty Harry tale, but has a flavor of its own that opens the gate to a new generation and era for Harry to run amuck in. I highly recommend this film to Dirty Harry fans the world over and to anyone that loves to see Clint Eastwood bare his teeth and pull his trigger, multiple times with bloody results.

4 out of 5 stars   Another Great Entry In The Dirty Harry Series!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

REVIEW: Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural

Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural
Director: Richard Blackburn
Year 1973

Lemora is a wickedly haunting film that plunges the audience into a fairy tale world filled with vampires, werewolves, and other unsavory creatures that thirst for young girls blood. The story of Lemora is a frightfully weird tale that seems stripped from the pages of Grimm's Fairy Tales. We follow a young girl of thirteen named Lila Lee, played by an angelical Cheryl Smith. Lila is a seemingly normal child that sings in the church choir, that is until she recieves a strange letter from a woman by the name of Lemora. The woman asks for Lila to come visit her sick father and forgive him for his past sins, seeing that he is a gangster and on the run from the law. Lila, curious about the secrecy of the letter, sets off on a journey that quickly spins out of control and takes her into the very heart of darkness.

Lila before her journey to hell.

Now, before you think this is some saturday morning kids movie about little red riding hood or humpty dumpty, think again. This film is dark. Not only does it deal with some creepy monsters like vampires and werewolves, but it also touches on some sexual creepiness that tends to move into the realm of, what the f@ck is going on here? To be fare though, when dealing with vampires, you'll always tend to brush a little too closely to such taboo ideas, especially when it involves a thirteen year old girl. Thankfully, the director doesn't push the creep factor to much and just relies on the unsettling idea of vampires wanting to make Lila one of their kind.

Hey, turn that frown upside down.

The atmosphere in this film is just thick with gothic visuals and otherworldly creatures that it really is an experience to sit down and view. I've never seen anything quite as striking as what is presented here. As the story moves along and Lila journeys farther and farther away from her home, the look of the film gets darker and more foreign compared to the real world. There's an almost blueish sheen that seems to cover the lens as Lila takes a secluded bus ride through some of the most unusually disturbing forests that my eyes have ever seen. Wild creatures roam the edges of the forest, scraping their claws against the sides of the bus as it plunges through the darkness. The visuals are just top notch and there are so many scenes, like the one that I've just mentioned, that will stand out in your mind years after viewing. Watch out, these images have bite.

It's the school bus of the damned!

There is a strong sense that all that is happening on screen is something that has been pulled out of a dream. The air is filled with a hazy residue that seems to suffocate the reality from the lens and give way to a nightmarish world plagued by monstrosities at every turn. I was pulled instantly into the world that director Richard Blackburn had created, and for this reviewer there was never any going back. You get lost in the dark corners of this film, hidden under the moonlight sky as the innocent Lila struggles to come to terms with all that is happening to her. Just like you, she is lost in a dream that is steadily turning into a waking nightmare.

And they said it would be a 5 star hotel.

Not only are the visuals nightmare inducing, but the characters are equalling enthralling in their awe-inspiringly strange performances. When we are first met with the bug eyed and pale skinned Lemora, played by a monstrous Lesley Taplin, she is hypnotically starring at the audience, beckoning us to question our sanity. The manner in which she speaks is so soft spoken yet venomous as a viper, that we'd have to be dead to not be able to feel the tension in her words and the recoil of Lila as she surveys this oddball women that has requested her from afar. There is such a cloud of mystery throughout the whole film on whether these new found acquaintances are friend or foe to Lila and we never really ever gain a sense of comfort in this strange world. I've never felt such an overwhelming presence from a film before, but Blackburn and company have created something special with this film.

It's story time with creepy Lemora. Yippie!

The creatures that roam the forests of this world are hideous in their deformities and savage in their nature. We are presented to two separate factions of beasts, one resembling the creatures in vampire lore and the other taking strong elements from the concept of the werewolf. The werewolves are shown as blood thirsty animals that attack at random, anything that comes within their view. The vampires however, are equally as fearsome, yet have a elegant tact about them. The effects for both creatures are simple at best, but the end result is just as effective. I prefer this low budget approach to such a fantasy driven piece, especially when the atmosphere of the entire picture helps to mask much of the shortcomings when it comes to the special effects makeup. Who needs a million dollar makeup crew when you have atmosphere like this.

Introducing a face only a mother could love.

Another film that I can't stop comparing Lemora to is Bob Clark's Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. There are so many similarities between the two films that it's just impossible not to think of one when you're viewing the other. The makeup effects are strikingly similar in each and the atmosphere that both are able to achieve in each film is palpable even though they both come from such low budget origins. The overall look of each film manages to capture that pitch black notion of being lost in the middle of the woods with only a torch or lantern to light your way. Even the music shares a common thread of resonance that can't help send shivers running down your spin from the sheer primordial nature of it.

Lila the peeping tom. What a perv.

While I'm on the topic of music, you really can't get any darker then this soundtrack. The sounds are morbidly brutal and harsh to the ears as the soundtrack morphs into a series of moans and wails from the surrounding creatures of the woods. It's unsettling at best and achieves its intended result with a blood curdling shiver that is hard to shake from your mind. The combination of synthesized doom and low brooding melodies, accompanied by the cries of the creatures of the night is some of the sweetest soundscapes that I've ever heard for a horror film. This soundtrack goes down in history for being the most horror inducing experience to have ever graced my televisions speakers.

What a wonderful night to frolic in the woods.

When I mentioned that this film was dark, I wasn't just talking about the tone of the film. I was also talking about the overall look of the movie. There is so much black that encompasses the frame, that you swear that you are lost right there with Lila as she quietly tries to hide from her blood hungry attackers. I love the fact that some scenes are only lit by one single light or a string of subdued and hazy hued colors. There's just something special about the look of this film that makes it stand out and immediately brings you into the world that has been created.

Real sneaky sis.

I've been talking up all the visual and audio aesthetics of this film, but haven't gotten down to the nitty gritty of the acting. Well for a low budget obscure gem like this, the acting is pretty decent. We are given some very tense moments when Lila is making her way from rundown house to rundown house as she stealthily avoids the hordes of undead as they search for her. These moments are great and rely on the already stellar atmosphere to push these scenes along. You'll feel yourself holding your breath in some of these scenes, not realizing until our main character is clear from the danger. It's a huge accomplishment for such a little film to achieve, but it manages to overcome the shackles that many low budget films place upon themselves and in doing so, it ascends to another plain of thought.

I'm talking with the girl in the mirror.

I wouldn't peg this film as having very strong dialogue or a cohesive narrative. It is more like an experience. Imagine if you had a dream as a child that scared the living bejesus out of you. You woke up to explain the whole thing to your parents, but as you go to tell them the horrible and gritty details you begin to hear yourself and you realize that it doesn't sound very scare when said aloud. Well this film is what you experience right before you wake up to tell your parents about. It can't be described, only lived. I really don't know how the filmmakers were able to achieve this little miracle, but it's the closest thing that I've ever seen that nails the feeling of being a helpless child lost in a nightmare.

Holy shit! There really are monsters under the bed!

I can't say enough how amazing this unknown film is. The fact that it is the directors only feature film credit is astounding. He contributed to only one other project and that was to do some directorial work on the Tales From the Darkside television show. Other then that, this sadly underused director only has Lemora to his name, which isn't so bad seeing the quality of the work. I just only wish he would have made more features because I would have loved to see what he could come up with next. Still, if it means just one feature or nothing at all, I'm glad that it's Lemora that sees the light of day. The film is just astounding and should be seen by all horror fans.

Sometimes I feel like a vampire or werewolf is watching me.

Lemora is a film that transcends the confines of the medium and reaches a place in our lives where we have felt the most vulnerable and alone. Our nightmares. It brings a fantasy tale to life and presents it in the most morbid of ways. The use of lighting, locations, sounds, and music, are so complete and intact throughout the film and at such an even level of dream-likeness, that you'd be hard pressed to find anything that remotely comes close to delivering the atmospheric quality that it so relishes in. This film is highly recommended to anyone who loves low budget horror films that ascend their shackles and for anyone that has ever gotten lost in their own dreams.

5 out of 5 stars    A Low Budget Masterpiece of Horror!

REVIEW: Magnum Force

Magnum Force
Director: Ted Post
Year 1973

Magnum Force is the superb follow up to the 1971 hit film Dirty Harry. The story continues with a new baffling case that legendary Harry Callahan has to crack before the end credits roll, but before cracking the case, he has to crack a few skulls. Just like in the first film, Harry takes his hardcore policing to the streets of San Francisco and leaves no thug unscathed. Clint Eastwood reprises the role of Harry Callahan, the same role that made him a pop culture icon and led to a countless number of copy cat films since. This time, director Don Siegel hands over the reigns to a new director, Ted Post, who doesn't necessarily have the impeccable skills and visual flare that Siegel brought to the table, but he still manages to make a more then worthy addition to the Dirty Harry series.

Harry in his too cool for school shades.

Harry's problems start out when a slew of unsolved crimes begin to crop up in the city. All of the victims are the lowest of the low, like a mob boss who has just manipulated the justice system having been acquitted of all charges and the pimp who loves to smack his hoes up and steal all of their money. These two fine upstanding shit stains are just the tip of the iceberg, as many more criminals begin to be bumped off one by one. The premise of having a vigilante running around the city taking out crooks is a rather genius concept to throw into the world of Dirty Harry. It's a nice touch to see Harry kind of shrug off the idea of criminals being killed by saying, "Couldn't of happened to a nicer bunch of guys." He agrees with the demise of these despicable men, yet he still knows he has to do his duty and capture the perpetrator who is committing these seemingly random murders.  

You make me sick.

It's also an intriguing concept, because Harry is often thought of as the main suspect. Who else but Harry would be riding around town dealing out his own special brand of justice? To make matters worse, the audience is shown in the very beginning of the film, that the unnamed killer is in fact dressed up in a patrolmen's uniform while riding a police motorcycle. The stakes seem raised against Harry in that he will come out of this one clean, but sure as shit, we know he will find a way.

Let Harry show you punks how it's done.

We are also introduced to a new brand of policeman in the form of the four new recruits, who happen to be a crack shot with a gun. These young police officers are fresh out of the academy and represent the coming of a new age at the precinct. Tim Matheson plays Officer Phil Sweet, Robert Urich plays Officer Mike Grimes, David Soul plays Officer John Davis, and Kip Niven plays Officer Red Astrachan, rounding out the imposing group of elite cops that share a unique kinship to Harry Callahan's work on the streets. As the film progresses, we find that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not the sorts that Harry approves of. The idea of bringing this group of opposing rookies into the story is a genius one that sets a fire to a rather intense story of paranoia and mistrust among the police force.

That's one hell of a pool party you got there man.

The way the mysterious killer takes out his target is reminiscent of James Cameron's Terminator, as he coldly and collectively terminates anyone who is a collective target. The man draped in police gear, cooly walks up to his intended prey and fills them full of lead. It's creepy in that nonchalant manner, where a person can just extinguish a life and not bat an eye. The numerous scenes that display the killer at work are astonishingly effect in there representation of a man without a conscious or soul. The addition of making the killer fit in more with the horror archetype of a slasher killer is a great twist on the crime genre and one that gives this story a little bit of an edge over typical cat and mouse games.

Harry as he shoots squirrels in his
backyard as they try to steal his bird seed.

Another great addition to the cast is Hal Holbrook as the assholeish boss from hell, Lt. Neil Briggs. As soon as the film starts, he has it out for Harry and he never lets up throughout the entire runtime of the film. Hal does a spectacular job, as he usually does, in making us believe he has a chip on his shoulder courtesy of Dirty Harry. Holbrook has been in so many classic films that it's hard to list them all, but my favorites have to be John Carpenter's atmospheric 1980 masterpiece The Fog, the ever entertaining 1982  horror anthology Creepshow, and one of my personal favorite roles, his turn at Hamilton Johnson in Chevy Chase's excellent comedy sequel Fletch Lives. He's a stupendous actor and one that nails his part in Magnum Force with an expertly crass delivery for his crotchety Lt. Briggs role.

Hal Holbrook at the Manchester Morgue.

The action set pieces are up to par on what we now expect from a Dirty Harry film and their delightful in their diversity and unabashed mayhem inducing qualities. There's a sequence where Harry and the rest of the police force are raiding a mob boss' hangout, only to have the bad guys be tipped off by an unknown source. The baddies lay in wait and then finally take it to the cops, firing with all they have. At the end of the sequence, the main boss tries to escape in his car only to have Harry jump onto his hood and cling on for dear life. The stunt work is phenomenal and Harry's character gets whipped around like a ragdoll as he holds on amid the chaos. Finally he is flung from the car to land in a heap of boxes in a lavish and drama filled spectacle. Needless to say the action is full force and comes on strong.

Damn it! Every time I go into the country I end
up getting an Eastwood on my windshield!

There's also a large dose of drama set in this narrative. Harry is up against more then just an unnamed killer who likes to dress up as a policeman as he maims the cities undesirable residents. He's also contending with the suspisions of others, as he most fits the bill as the one making all of the killings. The killer even likes to use the same model gun that Harry is so fond of, the .357 Magnum. It seems that someone is pointing all of the fingers at Harry and through the use of these plot devices, the director is able to create a very real sense of paranoia and frenzied mistrust. It's a great way to continue Harry's storyline, by creating a sequel that really ups the anti in throwing something original and rather deep at our main character.

Now you put the bullets in this round circle looking thing, right?

The choice of the visuals for Magnum Force are quite different from what we were presented with in Dirty Harry. In this film, we are given a brighter color palate that is mostly set during the day, making even more disturbing that all of these violent acts are occurring in broad daylight. Was San Francisco really this dangerous during this time period? Who cares, it's a Dirty Harry film and I'm glad that they upped the stakes and went a different route with the action taking place during a cloudless sunshine filled day. It's a great contrast to Dirty Harry's darkened San Francisco underbelly that so prevalently is displayed during those dark covered nights.

Harry's leisurely Sunday morning drive takes a drastic turn.

There's also an entertaining change in Harry's personal life. He actually has women throwing themselves at him in this flick. I'm not being a smart ass here, they are actually throwing themselves at him. Harry runs into an old police buddy of his and finds that he isn't doing so well, so he decides to visit the man's wife and children to see what the story is. He finds out that his relationship is strained and that he has fallen into a depression, but instead of the wife being all distraught over this situation, she finds it the perfect opportunity to proposition old Harry for a roll in the hay. It's pretty funny to see the hardened cop that is Harry, have to sort of fend off the advances of a housewife, but the end result seems to fit to Harry's character as he gently finds a way out of it. There's even a neighbor of Harry's that asks right out, "What does a girl have to do to go to bed with you?" This simple line just proves the point that Harry is indeed the MAN.

Dirty Harry is Hell on Wheels!

Just like in the first film, there is a slew of comedic scenes that intertwine themselves within the action set pieces. Harry's expert and sarcastically driven wit is on hand and in true form. These witty remarks work wonders as Harry battles words with Hal Holbrook's Lt. Briggs. There's some classic lines that the two characters come up with and the conflicts between the two really add to the rivalry that they share. Another great moment comes when Harry finds a bomb in his mailbox. One of his neighbors annoyingly asks what he is doing and threatens to call the police on Harry for destroying a mailbox, as Harry desperately tries to dismantle the box. Harry turns and shows the bomb to the man saying, "If you'd bothered me any more, we'd all be stuck to the ceiling now. Here.... would you like to hold it?" The neighbor runs up the stairs saying that he doesn't want to be involved. The comedic timing of this scene is just spot on and I caught myself laughing out loud at this whole scene. Pure genius and pure Dirty Harry.

Dirty Harry, you are one smug bastard.

The comedy is spot on for a Dirty Harry film, and the same can be said for the satisfying ending of Magnum Force. All of the Dirty Harry films seem to be able to wrap everything up and serve the audience with a satisfying demise to the films central bad guy, giving him his just desserts and leaving Harry as the undisputed bad ass of film. Magnum Force is no exception and there's enough twists and turns in the old formula to really churn out something special in this effort. I won't give it away, but it's quite explosive. Yeah that was cheesy, but it felt so right.

Harry walks off into the sunset,
which is now replaced by a burning car.

Magnum Force is an amazingly cohesive effort that delivers a worthy sequel that has all the things that we have come to love in the original Dirty Harry film, yet manages to expand on the ever violent universe that director Don Siegel set up. The addition of adding a killer that mimics Harry's style of policing with the combination of a moral decision that Harry is presented with in the near closing segments of the film, really add to the already stellar qualities that make Harry such an intriguing character and explosive icon of action cinema. Magnum Force is highly recommended to anyone who loved Dirty Harry and want to see him kick more ass and take more names.

4 out of 5 stars               A Great Dirty Harry Sequel!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

REVIEW: Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry
Director: Don Siegel
Year 1971

Dirty Harry is probably one of the most entertaining films that I've seen in a long time. I feel ashamed that I have only just now seen this 70's gem and its equally satisfying sequels. These films are chuck full off bad ass moments provided by the cool as shit antics of San Francisco cop Harry Callahan, otherwise known as Dirty Harry. Oh and he is a dirty son of a bitch. Harry's motto seems to be to obtain his suspect by any means necessary, even if he has to bend the law a bit in his relentless effort to bring the bad guy down. Bring them down he does and in the most brutal fashion. Harry does everything in his power to try to clean up the streets of San Francisco, all the while leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Harry you're a maniac, but I love you for it.

I spy with my little eye, a woman swimming in a pool.

In the particular case of this film, Dirty Harry, we are introduced to a completely despicable man who delights in sniping random people from afar, be it men, women, or children. As the film opens we are shown a man high atop a skyscraper, focusing in on a women as she swims on the roof of a building far below. The stillness of this scene is quite breathtaking and the visuals of being that high up, present a great sense of vertigo that compliments well with the nauseating idea of a cowardly person taking life from an unseen distance.

The effects of Harry on the city of San Francisco.

The main pull of the Dirty Harry films, for me at least, is to see what Police Inspector Harry Callahan will do next as he tries to solve the many crimes that thrive within the city limits. His approach to solving the case is so unorthodox compared to the rest of the police force, that over the years Harry has earned quite a reputation among the precinct. Not only has this garnered respect from his fellow officers, but it's also provided Harry with some frightening opposition in the form of the seedy underbelly of San Francisco's finest scum and also in the eyes of his supervisors who have to deal with the backlash and endless reports over Harry's latest lead filled escapade. 

Harry asks the audience if they feel lucky. Well do ya?

The dynamics of the love and hate relationship between Harry and his higher ranking counterparts are a kind of running gag that presents itself throughout the series, as Harry must fight with both the criminals of the city and the ever changing rules of conduct and politic figureheads of the time as they enforce their politically correct beliefs on his police work. As the films progress in the series, this plot point gets more and more prevalent as indeed times do change and the idea of an out of control cop seems more of a throwback to more uncivilized times.

Harry hates back seat drivers.
Especially when they're sitting next to him.

The seemingly simple story of a cop who does anything in his power to bring criminals to justice, is brought into a more complex realm by the capable acting chops of the legendary Clint Eastwood. He brings such a restrained approach in his acting, yet is able to convey such a large range of emotions and create an array of exhilarating action scenes, that he indeed is what makes Dirty Harry that much more of an accomplished film. He plays Dirty Harry with a gritty realism that never compromises the story's integrity or washes over the audience with flashy presentation that lacks any kind of substance. Every action that Eastwood makes seems fused within the character of Harry Callahan, until you can't tell the difference between the two. That is what true acting is able to accomplish and Eastwood takes everyone to school in this aspect.

Dirty Harry is a dirty pervert.

The world of Dirty Harry is a dangerous one, filled with dark alleys, evil men, and zero remorse, but cinematographer Bruce Surtees has done a wonderful job in making the world look beautiful in that gritty and filth covered way. The lighting of the stake out scene is one in particular that really packs a punch in the visual department, while also setting the mood for what is to come. In this scene, Harry and his partner are standing watch atop a building, waiting for the killer to appear from across the street. They are given a moment to reflect on things as they lay in wait. Harry is even given an interesting little segment, where he spies in on a small orgy in one of the apartments and mentally compares how different his life is to their care free existence. It's a nice intimate touch accompanied by the brooding lighting scheme that Surtees has set up.

Mr. Dirty as he aims for the kill.

This entire brilliant scene is vibrantly lit by a large rotating overhead sign that reads Jesus Saves. As the neon sign rotates, our characters are caked in harsh reds and then subtle blues, continuing this colorful trend until the killer finally reveals himself. The scene just feels heavy with atmosphere and it brings you right to the moment at hand, as if you're waiting there with the two inspectors. It's a beautifully surreal scene that feels perfectly at home within the world of Dirty Harry.

Can you believe it folks! He's down on the 10 yard line!

The violence is also beautifully surreal in its reddish abundance as Harry pulls the trigger and lets the bullets fly. Bad guys fall in great numbers and in cleverly diverse ways while Harry rids the city of some unwanted vermin. This is 70's cinema violence in a nut shell, inspiring future films like 1974's Death Wish with Charles Bronson and basically any action crime thriller to come out that had a rogue cop out for justice. The violence was influential because it was able to tread that fine balance of keeping it visceral, yet obtaining the relevance for its existence. No death is for the sake of showing a kill on the screen. Even though the violence is plentiful and sometimes surprisingly sprung from out of nowhere, nothing happens without a reason and nothing delves so far that it starts to represent an italian splatterfest. Dirty Harry has the violence, but it has a restrained enough grip that it keeps it well within the realm of good taste.

A pretty nice shot of Harry overlooking the city.

Now, Harry isn't alone in his pursuit of finding the rooftop sniper killer. He is given a partner named Chico Gonzalez, in the form of Reni Santoni. You might remember Reni from one of the more memorable Seinfeld characters, Poppie, where he accidently pees on Jerry's couch. Santoni does a great job in somewhat reigning in Harry's explosive personality and grounding him on his actions and what they mean to everyone surrounded by him. Harry admits that everyone who has ever been his partner have reached a bloody end and after saying that, we get a clear view at what Inspector Gonzalez is up against. Later on in the film we get a moment where Gonzalez makes an important choice that highly impacts the severity that Harry is up against and helps make the world that much more real.

You did what to my grandma?

Without the character of Chico Gonzalez, the film might have felt like a contrived action movie where consequences to Harry's actions never seem to drive home or result in any kind of negative effects to the people around him. Santoni does a great job with his character, and though he serves as a pivotal role in bringing this film into a more realized realm, he still is able to infuse his performance with a pinch of charm while engaging in some entertaining banter with Eastwood's Harry.

Mister, I just crapped my pants!

There's also a large dose of comedy thrown into this film in the form of Harry's hilariously sarcastic wit. This guy has got some of the best quotes in the history of sarcastic film that the world has ever seen. Just one of many memorable moments happens when Harry is trying to explain to the mayor why he had to shoot the suspect. The mayor asks him why and Harry responds with, "Well, when an adult male is chasing a female with the intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That's my policy." The mayor asks him how he established that the man intended to rape the victim. Harry responds, "When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher's knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross." Now that's just bad ass and he says this to the Mayor of the city. There are so many moments like this that come out of nowhere in this film and each one of them are natural and feel inherent with what Harry's character would say. Nothing feels out of place or stuck in for comedic value and that's a credit to the writers efforts and Eastwood's handling of Harry.

Hanging around on top of bridges again. That Harry.

There is also some brilliant musical compositions and stylistic choices for the music in this film. Naturally you have your high octane pieces for the action scenes, but what struck me off guard was the horror elements that kept creeping up in the soundtrack. I don't know if that was what composer Lalo Schifrin had in mind, but the end result is perfect and fits the gritty setting of this picture with fantastic results. Lalo has a diverse portfolio of films that he has composed for over the years, delving into all sorts of genres and it's no surprise to see because the music that he has created for Dirty Harry is quite a motley assortment, yet so so effective. His first attempt with the Dirty Harry soundtrack went so well that he went on to score the entire series, adding his special flare for creating a marvelous soundscape.

That's one pissed off Eastwood!

Dirty Harry is a classic that, for this reviewer, has been able to stand the test of time even though it is so rooted in the era that it was created in. The concept of political correctness and the restraints that Harry has to overcome in able to make his arrest is compelling and interesting to watch no matter what year it is. The amazing action set pieces and the remarkable smart ass lines that spout from the mouth of Clint Eastwood are just great in their sarcastic splendor and blunt delivery, that you can't help but grin along with the film. I'm so glad that I finally sat down to visit this great series and got to view a character as enigmatic as Harry Callahan, the dirtiest son of a bitch in cinema history. This film is highly recommended for Clint Eastwood fans and for anyone who craves 70's cinema and the hard nosed content that comes out of it.

5 out of 5 stars      A Clint Eastwood Kick Ass Classic!