Saturday, June 28, 2008

Do You Feel Lucky?

The first movie featuring Inspector Harry Callahan of the San Francisco Police Force, 1971’s eponymously titled Dirty Harry, was at once a box office home run, a polarizing and much debated product of its time, and a thoroughly unexpected jumpstart to a franchise of an iconic cinematic character. What is often overlooked is that its sure-handed direction was deftly executed by cagey vet Don Siegal, a less-is-more type whose ability to convey kinetic on-screen action marks him as the sort of unfettered stylist that once flourished in the Hollywood studio system. The original Dirty Harry remains a 70’s classic and the best of the bunch (with one of the all time cool daddy villanous turns from the unforgettable Andy Robinson), while the follow-ups vary in both tone and quality, ranging from 1973’s Magnum Force (a tight, no excess follow-up), 1976’s The Enforcer (virtually a TV-movie-of-the-week), 1983’s Sudden Impact (Dirty Harry goes hardcore, directed by Eastwood himself), and 1988’s The Dead Pool (wickedly close to self-parody). The new set (Dirty Harry: Ultimate Collectors Edition, 1971-88, Warner, $74.92, 530 minutes) puts all the Dirty Harry efforts together and includes a ream of bonus material include documentaries, postcards, production correspondence and even a replica Callahan ID card, more than enough to make even the casual fan’s day.

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