Harry Callahan is a tough, streetwise San Francisco cop whom they call Dirty Harry. In this action classic, you’ll see why – and also why Clint Eastwood’s reputation as a premier film star and moviemaker is secure. A rooftop sniper (Andy Robinson) calling himself Scorpio, has killed twice and holds the city ransom with the threat of killing again. Harry will nail him , one way or the other, no matter what the “system” prescribes. Filming on location, director Don Siegel made the City by the Bay a vital part of Dirty Harry, a practice continued in its four sequels. Forty three years after its arrival the original remains one of the most gripping police thrillers ever made.
1971 – Certificate: 18 – American Film
7.5 out of 10
This week I’ve inadvertently become a champion and role-model for the downtrodden masses, as I successfully concluded my fight for compensation as a result of the evil and corrupt banking industry misselling me Payment Protection Insurance for a credit card. As we all know now, every single person who’s ever worked for a bank is a child of the Devil. From the CEO to the office cleaners. They exist for one purpose only and that’s to rip everyone else off. Well they made one BIG mistake trying to take me on. After many letters, the MBNA has finally capitulated, agreed it made a ‘mistake’ and has paid me back, with interest. I can’t decide what to spend it on first, a yacht, a jet or an Aston Martin or two. I guess a few lines of coke and some high-class ‘escorts’ wouldn’t go amiss either. I can finally get rid of all my pathetic, stupid, so-called friends and buy myself a whole lot of new ones that better fit my improved social status. The rich and the powerful will invite me to everything. A-list celebrities will be at my beck and call. My membership of the Bilderberg Group is assured. I’m going to start voting Conservative at once, not that I really need to worry about politics now, as I could easily buy myself a whole country if I wanted to. So I guess you probably want to know how much I got? Well, the cheque I was sent is made out to me for 20p…
“Dirty Harry” is a film about a naughty policeman, which was inspired by the Lurkers’ 1999 non-hit “Go Ahead Punk”. (I’ve got this on a very limited edition 7” single in grey vinyl, number 34 of the 125 that were made.) Its main character Harry Callahan was based on James Callaghan, who was British Prime Minister from 1976-1979 and thus oversaw the invention of punk rock by the downtrodden masses that he created during the Winter of Discontent. “Winter of Discontent” was also a great track from Political Asylum’s Winter EP, a copy of which I was sold by the band on the Fulham Palace Road, on my way to a Lurkers gig at the Fulham Greyhound. (The latter was tragically renamed/relaunched earlier this year as an American theme pub called the Southern Belle. WTF?) Its historical significance aside, this film gave us the original police officer who doesn’t play by the rules but gets away with, who still haunts TV and films to this day. Scorpio is also a great psycho without a thread of remorse whatsoever and stands up well to the more modern versions that have followed in his wake. I doubt there’s anything else I could possibly say about this film that hasn’t already been said 100 times before, so won’t. But for what’s now quite an old film, it still looks good. Essential viewing.
This movie is pretty light on music, which is just as well given it was made in the early 70s.
The trailer’s very long and seems to be desperate to portray Harry as more of a victim of circumstance than a police officer who really ought to be sacked for gross misconduct at the very least. He could easily be Martin Riggs‘ father.
Recommended for police officers, psychos and school bus drivers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Not once but twice, Harry gives us one of his two, world-famous quotes, here and here. What other character would have the audacity to do that? (Arnie’s done it but not twice in the same film I don’t think.) That’s like a DJ playing the same song back-to-back, it just doesn’t happen; (unless you’re John Peel and you’re playing the Undertones, but that’s okay). He must have been feeling lucky, punk.
In the same way that I feel a bit sorry for teenagers these days, growing up in a period swamped with crappy indie rock bands with nothing to say and auto-tuned dance music, I also feel sorry for those people who are now in their early 50s, who were teenagers in the early-mid 70s. It must have been awful deciding who to go and see, the Osmonds, David Cassidy, Paper Lace, the Bay City Rollers, Yes, or Emerson, Lake and Palmer; or maybe I’ll just kill myself instead. The first half of the 70s was a barren, talentless, artistically worthless vacuum. (Please don’t bother to take me to task over this statement; I’ve already determined this to be a fact, using the most up to date scientific methodology that you wouldn’t understand and a massive super-computer.) Unfortunately, the movie industry was equally as guilty of falling into this void. Now I appreciate that there were occasional, individual flashes of worthwhileness during this time and that people will say I’m missing the point of the vibe of the movies made then. To these people I’ll just say this; there are sometimes positive aspects to sitting in a traffic jam for ages, but on the whole not very many. You’re basically stuck there and you don’t have a lot of choice; rather like living in the early 70s with its range of music and films I suppose. Why do I even watch films made in the early-mid 70s? I must be a sick individual to put myself through the same pain, over and over again. I guess I must feel a bit of the pioneering spirit prevalent in the 19th Century Gold Rushes, living rough in the hope of uncovering that gem of artistic merit that makes it all worth it. (I’ve long given up on finding a whole seam of gold; just one flake would do me now).
1976 – Certificate: Not Rated
This obscure, B-movie home-invasion thriller (well I have to call it something) is about two young women who randomly turn up at some rich guy’s house in San Francisco and proceed to basically trash the place and fuck-up his life. Quite why is never really explained. To their credit, the two women do carry out their ‘mission’ in a very determined manner and never really show any signs of wavering. They were really quite disturbing and convincing at times. George (the victim) was a bit of a wimp to be honest; his wife beats him at croquet for goodness sake. It didn’t take much to make him cheat on her either; I really didn’t warm to him at all. There’s an awful lot of food eaten and thrown about too. The technical quality of this film is abysmal (lots of scratches and dirt all over it) and it’s pan and scan (an invention of the Devil) as well, so we lose a lot of the action off of the sides of the screen from time to time. The other thing that marks this film out is the music. Of course, it has the normal selection of horrible 70s inspired tunes; at one point George plays an LP for one of the women that his children have just got him for his 40th birthday. It did occur to me that they must have a terrible relationship, given the noise that came out of the stereo. However, the biggie music-wise is the song that gets played over the opening credits and at several points during the film over montage-like sequences. “Good Old Dad” is evil. It goes on and on, and on. It was amusing enough the first time, but by the 2,000th play it had actually caused me a measurable level of psychological damage. Come to think of it, the women in the film had probably heard it once too often, which would explain their behaviour. Oh I nearly forgot, the ending is one of those, “what the f***?” ones. However, I’m not going to entirely trash this film, as hidden inside all the bad things is a good movie trying to get out. It’s probably worth persevering and giving it a watch, if it’s Sunday and raining outside.
Recommended for time-travellers, who want to visit a bad place.
1 cat and no decapitations. The cat is so cute! Its name is (I think) Teaky and it’s lovely and white. It even has several lines of dialogue (although I do have reason to believe these were dubbed). It’s in two scenes, but sadly its final one involves it being hurled through a glass window. Poor Teaky. :-( If the same scenes had been in a more well know film I’m sure we’d be looking at an Oscar nomination at the very least.
Top badass moment? You don’t get a good look at it, but George’s stereo seemed to be pretty awesome; it certainly impressed the two woman and to his credit I don’t think he was even using it as a penis extension either. As well as being one of life’s essentials (like water, air, food, shelter, etc), having a big stereo is badass.