Wednesday, July 05, 2017
Directed by Don Siegel and screenplay by Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, and Riesner from a story by the Finks and Jo Heims, Dirty Harry is the story of a San Francisco cop who tracks down a killer while breaking all of the rules to do so. Based on the real-life Zodiac killings in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the film is an exploration of a man who will do whatever it takes to track down this killer sniper as the character of Dirty Harry Callahan is played by Clint Eastwood. Also starring Andy Robinson, Reni Santoni, Harry Guardino, and John Vernon. Dirty Harry is a gripping and thrilling film from Don Siegel.
A killer sniper is on the loose and demands $200,000 as the San Francisco police try to stop him yet there is one person who is willing to go after him without the need of jurisdiction or what the law says. All Harry Callahan needs is a .44 Magnum pistol and his hunch into capturing this mysterious killer known as Scorpio (Andy Robinson). The film is about a detective trying to catch this killer who has been using the city as his playground where he would hide from certain distances and kill whoever he sees as panic is looming all over the city. The film’s screenplay, which would feature some un-credited contributions from such noted-filmmakers like John Milius and Terrence Malick, starts off with the search for this killer known as Scorpio who would send a message to the city as its mayor (John Vernon) tries to figure out what to do as well as police officials. Lt. Al Bressler (Harry Guardino) would assign Callahan to the case as Callahan reluctantly takes a partner in Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni) who is new to the force.
The character of Harry Callahan is kind of a loner who prefers to do things his way despite the fact that there’s rules into dealing with criminals and such. Yet, he is someone who know a thing or two about the criminal operates as well as the fact that things such as trials, juries, and all of these things won’t stop them. His new partner Gonzalez would understand why others call him Dirty Harry since Harry does play dirty as well as the fact that he’s prejudiced and quite cynical but knows what to do when the city is in trouble. Especially as the killer Scorpio is killing everyone as the second act revolves around Callahan and Gonzalez trying to find the killer who has kidnapped a young woman as they race to save her life. Yet, it is followed by this third act in which Harry’s tactics would cause some trouble due to legalities and such as Harry know that it would only cause more trouble forcing him to take the law into his own hands.
Don Siegel’s direction is definitely entrancing for the way the film opens with this massive wide shot of San Francisco seen from a tower as it follows a killer who would look into scope to target a woman swimming on a pool at a rooftop as he then shoots her on her back as she would die. Much of the film is shot on locations in San Francisco and areas nearby including Marin County as well as a scene in Universal Studios in Hollywood where the city of San Francisco is a character in the film where Siegel takes advantage of many of its sites and locations to play into Callahan’s search for Scorpio. While Siegel would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations, he favors more intimate shots in the action and drama as well as some of the moments of suspense. Notably in the medium shots in which Siegel would use for much of his compositions as it relate to multiple characters as well as close-ups for some shots including Callahan’s own idea of chance whenever he confronts a criminal.
The direction has Siegel take on some very intense moments as it relate to the violence as a sequence in which Callahan stops a robbery with just his gun is an indication of what kind of man Callahan is. Especially as he’s someone who doesn’t like to waste time while not afraid to break rules in moments that are very serious and crucial. There is also a moment in the third act that relates to Scorpio in what he would do to get himself out of trouble as it is quite violent yet it shows that this is a man that is very smart in what he needs to do survive. All of which lead to a showdown between him and Callahan as the latter knows that if something needs to be done and done right. You might have to break some rules in order for justice to be served. Overall, Siegel creates an exhilarating and confrontational film about a police inspector who does what it takes to get the job done to stop a killer from wreaking havoc in San Francisco.
Cinematographer Bruce Surtees does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of low-key lights and such for many of the film’s nighttime interior/exterior scenes with some natural lighting for the daytime scenes. Editor Carl Pingitore does brilliant work with the editing as it is straightforward for the dramatic moments but has an element of style in its approach to rhythm for the film’s suspenseful moments. Art director Dale Hennesy and set decorator Robert De Vestel do terrific work with the look of the police offices as well as the mayor’s office and the place where the killer lived. The sound work of William Randall is fantastic for the way gunfire sounds as well as some of the chaotic moments that goes on during some of the film’s action scenes. The film’s music by Lalo Schifrin is amazing for its jazz-driven score that play into the action and the suspense as it is a major highlight of the film.
The film’s superb cast feature some notable small roles from Lois Foraker as a local dame known as Hot Mary, Ruth Kobart as a school bus driver, William Paterson as a judge, Albert Popwell as a bank robber wounded by Callahan, Woodrow Parfrey as a diner owner friend of Callahan, Lyn Edgington as Gonzalez’s wife, John Larch as the police chief, and Josef Sommer as the district attorney who would mess things up for Callahan in the film’s third act. John Mitchum is terrific as the homicide inspector Fatso DiGiorgio who helps Callahan in some of the investigation as he shares some of Callahan’s views on the law. Harry Guardino is fantastic as Lt. Bressler as Callahan’s superior who doesn’t like Callahan’s methods but is aware that they work as he also tries to make sure that Callahan doesn’t get into any trouble. John Vernon is excellent as the city’s mayor who is trying to not to worry the public as he has a liking toward Callahan’s views but doesn’t want him to go too far. Reni Santoni is brilliant as inspector Chico Gonzalez as Callahan’s newly-assigned partner who learns a lot about what Callahan does as he also try to make an understanding of what is happening as well as be new into the world of homicide.
Andy Robinson is amazing as the killer sniper known as Scorpio as this psychotic madman that has no qualms in killing everyone with a sniper rifle as well as whatever he can find just to terrorize people. Finally, there’s Clint Eastwood in an outstanding performance as Harry Callahan in what is definitely one of his most iconic roles of his career. It’s a performance that has Eastwood be no-nonsense as well as show a sense of cynicism about the ways of the world with a dark yet dry wit that is engaging as well as be a total badass who refuses to take shit from anyone.
Dirty Harry is a magnificent film from Don Siegel that features a tremendous performance from Clint Eastwood in the titular role. Along with its brilliant supporting cast, an incredible film score, dazzling locations, and a riveting story. It’s definitely not just one of the finest crime films ever made but also a film that explores a man trying to hold the law without any compromise. In the end, Dirty Harry is a phenomenal film from Don Siegel.
Dirty Harry Films: Magnum Force – The Enforcer – Sudden Impact – The Dead Pool
Don Siegel Films: (Star in the Night) – (Hitler Lives) – (The Verdict (1946 film)) – (Night unto Night) – (The Big Steal) – (The Duel at Silver Creek) – (No Time for Flowers) – (Count the Hours) – (China Venture) – Riot in Cell Block 11 - (Private Hell 36) – (The Blue and the Gold) – (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) – (Crime in the Streets) – (Spanish Affair) – (Baby Face Nelson) – (The Lineup) – (The Gun Runners) – (Edge of Eternity) – (Hound-Dog Man) – (Flaming Star) – (Hell is for Heroes) – (The Killers (1964 film)) – (The Hanged Man) – (Stranger on the Run) – (Madigan) – (Coogan’s Bluff) – (Death of a Gunfighter) – (Two Mules for Sister Sara) – The Beguiled (1971 film) - (Charley Varrick) – (The Black Windmill) – (The Shootist) – (Telefon) – (Escape from Alcatraz) – (Rough Cut) – (Jinxed!)
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