Feeling Lucky: 'Dirty Harry Collection'

February 17, 2010

THERE ARE A few undeniable badasses in film. Samuel L. Jackson as Jules in “Pulp Fiction,” during his speech about righteous men and evil men, is certainly one of them. Russell Crowe as Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius, facing off against the emperor and declaring that he will have his vengeance, in this life or the next, is another one. And Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry … well, that just goes without saying.

If you need proof, though, look no further than the “Dirty Harry” Collection, a new DVD set from Warner Home Video that groups together some of Eastwood’s most definitive roles. (Warner Brothers also just released the huge “35 Films 35 Years” DVD collection of Eastwood’s work with the studio.)

The fivesome of films, from the first “Dirty Harry” to the final “The Dead Pool,” not only introduced viewers to Eastwood’s take-no-crap detective but also popularized his weapon of choice — the .44 Magnum — and his specific brand of vigilante justice. If you need something to get done or someone to get killed, Harry’s the right guy for the job.

So what are the three best moments from this collection that show Dirty Harry’s skill as a proper ass-kicker? They’re as obvious as they are legendary.

WHO CARES ABOUT THE LAW?
Law and Order” might be taking over TV as we know it, but Harry Callahan spits in the face of the law. Why be bothered to do things by the rules when it’s so much more efficient to ignore them?

In “Dirty Harry,” the main character simply refuses to stop his investigation of the serial killer Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) for a little thing like the legal system: He searches Scorpio’s home without a warrant; seizes his weapon without following the proper protocol; and ignores his boss’s order to drop off Scorpio’s ransom payment without any back-up, instead using a wire system that allows his partner Chico (Reni Santoni) to follow him when Scorpio moves him around San Francisco.

The best moment of all, though, is when Harry decides to kick things up a notch by torturing information out of Scorpio, crushing his injured leg and waiting for the killer to spill information instead of granting him access to a lawyer. That probably wouldn’t fly with District Attorney Jack McCoy, but hey, it’s effective.

NO WOLFPACK NECESSARY
Based on Harry’s wavering commitment to doing things by the book, you may think he’d be willing to just go Robin Hood on people’s asses and start killing people willy-nilly. But the man has more morals than that, and more independence: Although he doesn’t think there’s anything “wrong with shooting, as long as the right people get shot,” he’s not trying to get sucked into your murderous crew.

Instead, in “Magnum Force,” when his new superior and a few rookie officers start teaming up to murder mobsters and other criminals vigilante-style, Harry’s not having it — that kind of violence, which can push a man to insanity, isn’t his cup of tea. So while they’re begging him to join their ranks, Harry’s calmly rejecting them — “I’m afraid you’ve misjudged me,” he says when they come to his apartment building and try to get him to join up — and figuring out a way to end their massacre — by massacring them, of course!

And the best scene comes when Harry uses their own weapon against them, detonating the pipe-bomb that the renegades had planted in his mailbox in their own car. Pretty sure that’s some sweet irony — Alanis Morisette-style, at least.

YOU’VE PROBABLY SAID IT
The Terminator had “I’ll be back,” the Godfather had “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” and Dirty Harry had the smirking sarcasm of “Go ahead, make my day.” From “Sudden Impact,” the series’ fourth — and certainly bloodiest — film, it one-upped Harry’s previous best quotable (“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” from the original film) and cemented him as an epic badass. Yes, he had to change guns from his .44 revolver to a .44 pistol, but evolution is good.

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

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Stephen M. Deusner | February 17, 2010