- Jun 13, 2002
Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-Ray)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, 1.85:1 (The Dead Pool)
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: All Titles: English 5.1 TrueHD; English 5.1, Japanese 1.0, Portuguese 1.0 Dolby Digital; All titles also carry various versions in French, Spanish (Castilian and Latin), German and Italian.
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish.
Time: See individual titles.
Disc Format: 5 SS/DL Blu-Ray’s
Case Style: Collector’s box with digi-packs.
Theatrical Release Date: See individual titles.
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 3, 2008
Our first introduction to San Francisco Police Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan in 1971’s Dirty Harry (102 minutes) shows us a cop who barely plays by the rules of the department he works for. He is not quite a rogue cop, but he comes just to that line, looks over it, then looks back to see how much he can get away with to satisfy his own inner sense of justice. Harry is having lunch one day when he notices a bank robbery in progress. His “shoot first, ask questions later” principle goes into effect as he subdues a handful of robbers, filling most of them with holes from his .44 Magnum. He approaches one injured thug and delivers his trademark “Do you feel lucky? Well, do you punk?” line, and in that short scene we know all we need to know about Harry. This picture, loosely based on the Zodiac murders in San Francisco around that time, has a killer calling himself Scorpio (Andy Robinson) and he’s killing randomly and taunting police and the public alike. Harry tracks him down, but his lack of respect for the rules of the law (he can’t be bothered by such things as half a dozen constitutional amendments or a couple Supreme Court decisions) sets this psycho free to harm others. Harry ultimately makes a decision to right the wrong of the system, causing himself heartache in the process.
Two years later Harry returns in Magnum Force (1973), picking up not quite where we left off as we get no explanation as to how Harry remains on the job after the events of the last picture. All we really know is he’s doing surveillance, but his cop curiosity can’t leave him alone, putting him into conflict with a new lieutenant (Hal Holbrook). Harry’s caper this time is a series of killings that lead him to believe it may be a cop responsible. Harry meets four young motor cops and he is seen as a bit of a hero to them as the possibility that they too could do it there own way. Screenwriters John Milius and Michael Cimino flesh out Harry the person here, showing us his run down one bedroom apartment and giving Eastwood a little more to chew on as an actor as Harry deals with the emotional (GASP!) ramifications of events around him.
Harry is confronted not only with irritated superiors, but in 1976’s The Enforcer he is also strapped with a female partner in the form of Tyne Daly. Daly’s character, Kate Moore is a commissioned officer who has spent the first few years pushing paper as all female officers did in SFPD at the time. The department and the mayor want to appease national trends on hiring more women, so Moore is promoted to Inspector. Harry and Kate are tracking a violent terrorist group (think Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army) who wind up kidnapping the mayor. In this picture the Dirty Harry formula is in effect with Harry having his usual run-ins with thick headed bureaucrats who are trying to make him conform to the new rules placed on police. At this point, Harry’s attitude is becoming tedious, and his actions are now becoming comic. The saving grace to the picture is Eastwood and Daly, both of whom turn in great performances. Eastwood is finally showing more depth and range, and Daly keeps us interested by her spunk and enthusiasm.
As Sudden Impact (1981) opens, we instantly know we have entered the 80’s with composer Lalo Schifrin’s synth score all but replacing the bombastic horns and strings of the previous pictures. We are also introduced to a different aesthetic from previous films in the opening night time flyover of San Francisco and moving into a parked car. Eastwood took on the role of director with this picture, and his style, evident in these opening scenes, suggests a more jazzy noir aspect to what we are about to see. Harry’s still pissing off the bosses, but he almost seems tamed a bit, not quite as angry as in the previous films. Sandra Locke plays a woman hell bent on vengeance on the punks who raped her, and when her path inadvertently crosses with Harry’s, the two like minded souls strike up a relationship. Eastwood directs and plays Harry just a little more tongue-in-cheek in this outing with more snide quips and fancier kills. The whole mood of the picture is also darker with the villains being more aggressive and Locke as the anti-hero counterpart to Harry mirroring this violence. While still not as good as the first picture, a quick return to form after the blah The Enforcer.
1988’s The Dead Pool limps in as the last of the series, with still another writer and director. Harry is strapped with a fifth poor (victim) partner, responsible for $13k plus in damages to a squad car and a female reporter (Patricia Clarkson) who wants the story of Harry and a new series of killings, this time surrounding an in-production movie and video shoot. Nothing is really added to the series except Harry maintains the characterization he had in the last picture, and a couple notable actors turn in fair performances, Liam Neeson and Jim (or James) Carey. By now the fact Harry still has a job for as much complaining his bosses do amazes me…
If there’s one thing that can be said about Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry pictures is that they are products of their time. Watching them today we are able to evaluate just how much society and policing has changed. The first two pictures make us believe The Man with No Name rode a horse to San Francisco and the laws of the old west still applied. As the series progresses, Harry must conform to stay in business although he continues to be a thorn in the side of bosses everywhere. Being a police manager, I’ve had employees very similar to Callahan and they just don’t last too long, so the fact that Harry makes it as long as he does is a miracle. The pervasive need for the SFPD to keep Harry on the payroll does not balance out to the liability lawsuits they’d wind up paying. Regardless, it makes for great movies and I enjoyed each picture since Harry could do all the things I’d thought of anyhow. The movies also show the progression of Eastwood as an actor and a filmmaker, the latter of which he only came into full maturity years later.
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
All five of the pictures are mastered in 1080p in the VC-1 codec with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, except for The Dead Pool which is at 1.85:1. The pictures have gone through a hi-def restoration process and each of them look spectacular, but especially Dirty Harry, the oldest of the bunch. Time and again, when older pictures are coming out on Blu-Ray we are seeing just how much life these new transfers can add to old negatives. Dirty Harry has excellent colors which are lush and vibrant with spot on flesh tones. Black levels are excellent showing great detail and depth. Magnum Force comes close to Dirty Harry, but it appears as if the picture was shot a little softer than Dirty Harry and there are numerous scenes that seem slightly out of focus, so much so I wound up getting close up on the screen to verify what I saw at my seat. The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool bounce back with sharp and detailed transfers, improving on the color fidelity of Magnum Force. While the pictures on discs two through five have excellent colors, they are not quite as saturated as those on Dirty Harry. Detail is excellent however, in the transfers of discs two through five, especially noting their age. Black levels are excellent showing great depth and detail. The night time flyover of San Francisco in the beginning of Sudden Impact and again in The Dead Pool provides an excellent test of your display to see how much detail is evident and how crisp the lights are in the night.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks are very front heavy, remaining in the fronts for most of the pictures. The surrounds engage during some of the more action oriented and chase scenes, but it doesn’t provide a terribly convincing soundstage. The front channels display excellent panning and localization of effects and music, but you never forget all the sound is coming from the front. Lalo Schifrin’s scores on the first two discs come across crisp and clear in the highs and mids. Bass levels are fair without being overbearing and this is where the soundtracks date themselves. ADR is noticed at times, but vocals otherwise were normal sounding. The surrounds and subs finally get utilized on The Dead Pool soundtrack, but they aren’t as cohesive as a more recent soundtrack. While I could localize the sounds, it just wasn’t a convincing sound field.
One note about the audio tracks: there is nowhere in the menu to choose which audio track you want to listen to, and they all default to Dolby Digital 5.1. You must use the “audio” button on your remote to get to the TrueHD track or one of the foreign language tracks. The commentaries are available via the menu, however.
The Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes in a box that houses two different digi-packs containing the five movies. There is a 40+ page hardcover book that describes the basic plot, characters and body counts of each movie with rare behind the scenes photos. In a smaller inner box you will find a personal message from Clint Eastwood, six postcards containing the poster art, replicas of internal Warner and Eastwood memos related to the pictures, a huge fold out map showing Scorpio’s kill and call pattern, and a replica of Callahan’s badge and police ID in a wallet (badge suitable for throwing in disgust).
I’m going to go disc by disc to detail the bonus materials all of which are in SD. Trailers for all five Dirty Harry movies (11:06) appear on each disc except four for some odd and undisclosed reason.
Disc One - Dirty Harry:
Commentary by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel: Schickel turns in an excellent commentary on the movie tying it into Eastwood’s career and its place in cinematic history. There are pauses along the way, but these are only to allow us to enjoy a certain scene followed by the commentary.
Dirty Harry: The Original (29:45): Robert Urich narrates this retrospective feature with Eastwood, Ted Post, Milius, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andy Robinson and others contributing. The participants talk about the genesis and making of the pictures, the character and the themes, most of which is expanded upon in the other pieces on this and other discs.
Dirty Harry’s Way (7:06): a vintage promo piece for the movie discussing the toughness of the character and introduces the supporting cast. It also ties Harry Callahan to his cinematic progenitors. The rough looking film in this piece helps us to appreciate just how nice the new transfer is.
The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry (25:31): numerous screenwriters, directors, actors and critics comment on the impact of the character of Harry Callahan and how this picture reflected the world at the time. This is an excellent piece spotlighting the sociological and legal mood of the country at the time as well as going into how Harry and his trademark lines have entered into the pop lexicon.
Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso (58:08): this is a 1993 retrospective piece on Eastwood and his career with interviews with numerous colleagues and peers. Eastwood discusses his growing up and entrance into show business and his career which makes this a good primer on him.
Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows (86:48): another retrospective on Eastwood’s career done by the BBC for the American Masters series in 2000.
Interview Gallery with Patricia Clarkson, Joel Cox, Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Evan Kim, John Milius, Ted Post, Andy Robinson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Robert Urich (27:25): these are extended interviews picked from the first three docs on this disc as well as a couple new ones. They discuss Harry and Clint as well as Clint’s career. You can watch them together or individually.
Disc Two - Magnum Force:
Commentary by John Milius: Milius leaves chunks of dead air, but he tries to tie together the first picture and this one. He is quick to point out all the symbols and the underlying themes of the picture, which we, as astute viewers, should have already picked up on.
A Moral Right: The Politics of Dirty Harry (24:15): similar to The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry this is an excellent piece that really delves into all those moral, political and sociological questions brought up in the pictures, but specifically the first two. Milius, Eastwood and a slew of other notable screenwriters, directors and writers comment on Pauline Kael’s labeling of the film as fascism, the extreme left and right viewpoints depicted and the impact of the character and the films. A great piece that could have easily been two hours and I’d have been glued to it.
The Hero Cop: Yesterday and Today (8:03): a pseudo-documentary on cops and robbers and crime and punishment and Harry Callahan’s role in it. This is a vintage piece from the time of the filming of Magnum Force and it is an enjoyable look at the process.
Disc Three - The Enforcer:
Commentary by Director James Fargo: not a terribly informational track, and Fargo interjects trivia more so than discussing the finer points of the plot or characters.
The Business End: Violence in Cinema (30:09): Eastwood and various writers and actors discuss violence in general and how it figures into the Dirty Harry pictures. Another interesting aspect brought up by these pictures is explored in depth. Since the late sixties and early seventies were a revolutionary time for violence in the cinema this is the perfect set of movies to explore this theme of our changing society.
Harry Callahan/ Clint Eastwood: Something Special in Films (6:00): a vintage doc piece on the making of The Enforcer with behind the scenes footage and interviews.
Disc Four - Sudden Impact:
Commentary by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel: Shickel livens up on this commentary, and his enthusiasm matches Eastwood’s jump start of the franchise. While there are still gaps in the dialogue, Shickel goes into more depth than the previous commentary spending more time on Eastwood at that point in his career.
The Evolution of Clint Eastwood (25:43): yet another retrospective on Eastwood that follows up more on his more recent pictures, from Unforgiven through Million Dollar Baby.
Disc Five - The Dead Pool:
Commentary by cinematographer Jack N. Green and Producer David Valdes: the two contributors turn in a pretty good commentary, discussing the production, the characters and the greater plots of this and other Dirty Harry pictures.
The Craft of Dirty Harry (21:39): as a final doc we get some background on the cinematographers, editors, and finally, composer Lalo Schifrin and others who contribute to these pictures success. I’m a geek for cinematographers and composers, so I was well pleased with this doc. This is a fine way to round out the set.
Special thanks should go to Gary Leva who wrote and produced many of the documentary segments featured on these discs.
I had the extreme pleasure of watching part of this set with my father-in-law (who is a big Eastwood fan) on Father’s Day. This being my first such day, it was great to have such a bonding moment with him over such classic “guy” pictures. While the set does an excellent job of presenting the Dirty Harry pictures in the best possible presentation, we are also given a ton of information on Clint Eastwood the actor and director. As such, this box set makes for a double treat of cinematic history. Warner Home Video has given us spectacular new transfers of the movies allowing them to shine with their modern day counterparts.
This review dedicated to my father-in-law, Kurt Schoening.