Dirty Harry: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Clint Eastwood has appeared in a LOT of movies, but he might be best remembered for his role as Inspector Harry Callahan better known as "Dirty Harry". The phrases he utters have become almost as popular as the man himself "Go ahead, make my day" (though that didn’t come until a later Harry flick) and "Do you feel lucky punk, well do ya?" have become part of mainstream American culture. And this is the movie that started it all. At the time, 1971, Eastwood was already a well-established Hollywood star with his Western movies under his belt, most notably "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". Still, Eastwood wanted to transition out of his western roles (though he would later return to a few of them with "The Outlaw Josey Wales", "Pale Rider" and "Unforgiven") and into something more modern. It was at this time that Eastwood started his career as a Director. Though he didn’t direct Dirty Harry, he went behind the camera for the first time in "Play Misty for Me". Still, Dirty Harry remains a landmark in Eastwood’s career and it has received fairly good treatment thanks to the Dirty Harry Collection.

Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) has earned the nickname "Dirty Harry" for many reasons. Some think it’s because he doesn’t like anyone and others because it’s him that always ends up with the dirty jobs. Either way, Harry is the original renegade cop who everyone turns to in a crisis. But in the streets of San Francisco, there is a killer on the loose by the name of Scorpio (Andy Robinson). Perched atop the many rooftops of the city, he uses a high powered rifle to kill innocents and writes an open letter to the city wanting money or else he will continue to kill a person a day until his demands are met. Naturally, the police aren’t too happy about this and it’s Harry who is assigned the case. While it’s true that Harry has his own methods that the Mayor (John Vernon) and his superiors don’t approve of, he does usually get the job done, there’s usually a body trail though! He also likes to work alone, but is assigned a new partner (his previous two have ended up in the hospital or dead) and as his boss puts it "You either work with a partner or you don’t work". Harry quickly tracks down the killer, but after roughing him up a little, the killer turns to the law and claims that he was the victim of police brutality. Finding a loophole in the system, Scorpio is turned loose and it seems that only Harry believes he will go right back to killing.

Though the film is some 30 years old now, I think it still stands up very well to the action movies of today. There is violence, rough language and a grittiness that makes the film feel a lot more real than those of the modern era. While it is very dated with the clothes, hairstyles and cars, it doesn’t seem to matter as I was as captivated as I was the first time I saw it. Eastwood would go on to make four more of the Dirty Harry movies, and all were popular, but none as popular as the original. Though Eastwood and Mayor John Vernon are the only two stars of the movie who went on to successful careers, the rest of the cast plays well and they all make it work. This is now the second incarnation of Dirty Harry on DVD, as the original was one of the first movies offered on the new format. Given a new digital transfer and some added supplements, you need to make Harry’s day and get this new Special Edition!

Video: How does it look?

As mentioned above, Dirty Harry was given a brand new High Def. transfer that looks leaps and bounds better than the old one. While the previous one was anamorphic, it was plagued by scratches, nicks and artifacting. This new version maintains the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it appears the print was cleaned up from the original. While there are a few trouble spots, I found it very void of artifacting and only a few "blips" here and there are distracting. There is a bit of edge enhancement that took away from the movie, but considering it’s age I was still impressed. On the whole, we’ve seen how good older movies can look when properly restored and this is yet another example. Great job.

Audio: How does it sound?

Remixed as a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, Dirty Harry is essentially a mono mix with some surround effects. I seem to remember a few helicopter scenes that activated the surrounds, but for the most part the action is limited to the front three channels. Dirty Harry’s .44 magnum sounds as good as it ever has though! Dialogue is a bit distorted at times, thus giving it that "aged" feel (i.e. You can tell right away that it’s a movie made in the 1970’s). Still, it does sound nice for the most part and if you have something to complain about, this may be the only thing. A French track in mono is also included. But Dirty Harry just doesn’t have the same effect in French, you know?

Supplements: What are the extras?

While not a fully-loaded Special Edition, Dirty Harry has more supplements that it’s sequels. A documentary is included entitled "Dirty Harry: The Original" which is hosted by Robert Urich (who had a small part in Magnum Force). It’s mainly flashbacks and scenes from the Dirty Harry movies, but it has new interviews with stars and Clint himself. Very interesting and entertaining. A 1971 Behind the Scenes documentary is a short 6 minute bit of fluff, but it was 30 years ago and they weren’t exactly concentrating on "supplements" then. Still, it tells a bit of what to expect from the movie and has some extra footage as well. An interview gallery is a very interesting featurette, it has interviews from a dozen or so stars that tell the effect the movies had on them, or Eastwood himself. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself tells how Eastwood was one of the three people who inspired him to go into acting. An interesting feature, to hear so many points of view yet the all praise Eastwood (as they should). There’s some text-only features, such as the "Famous Quotes" that tells the whole "Do you feel lucky…" speech and such. On Location and Behind the Scenes are two other text-only features that are essentially production notes. They tell of where and how the movie was shot and are both very informative. Lastly, a theatrical trailer is shown in anamorphic widescreen. I find it odd how much trailers have progressed. They were much longer back then and showed literally scenes from the movie, whereas now they do tend to give away the whole plot, but I do have to admit that the trailers are more entertaining today. Just my opinion, however. Run, don’t walk to pick this DVD up.

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