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Dirty Harry: made in 1971 by Don Siegel, this is a cold-hearted masterpiece. There is little heroism in Harry Callahan, the cynical cop with plenty of back story, none of which he seems willing to reveal. We follow him doing his job (hunting a serial killer who already killed some random people sniper-style, and now holds a girl ransom), being disappointed by the policy and justice system (whose rules he seems unable to follow), being set up for the kind of thing you can imagine him doing (beating up a suspect), and ending the whole thing according to his own rules. I did actually remember the film vaguely from decades ago, but was profoundly surprised that Callahan was no vigilante, but just a cop trying to do his work. The film has a great villain with all the eeriness of a very very unpleasant person, and a hero who could not be any cooler and on top of what he is doing. Fantastic sceneries, the location scouts did a great job in finding special places for showdown situations between the two main characters, such as a football stadium at night, dimly lit in the midst of the city, with crane shots providing very unsettlingly distant perspectives. And some cement factory for the finale, which provides in particular for an unnerving tapestry of industrial sound breaking through which even the large-caliber gun of Harry Callahan has a hard time. “Do you feel lucky, punk?”

Magnum Force: The second Dirty Harry movie was directed by Ted Post in 1973 (not by Clint Eastwood, who was originally scheduled to do it, it seems), was astonishingly enough written by John Milius and Michael Cimino! How’s that for a trainee center of the great! The scheme is the same, the villain is different. There is somebody killing off people, only that now the victims are notorious criminals that slipped through the web of justice, at least according to the assassin, it seems. This allows for some nice morale (thou shalt not kill, even if the victim is a murderer… ok, noted), but does not really affect the film. Instead we have strange set pieces that are nice to look at, but (only from today’s perspective) look a bit surrealistic: especially a shooting contest between Callahan and another police office in some form of combat training ground. Also here, not too subtle, but a little: Harry shoots the puppet depicting the good guy in the end, but was it by accident or did he tell us (or rather, the visitors) something? The Dirty Harry movies suffer a bit from the habit of time of using synthesizer music generously to fill any silent second of a film, but luckily a lot of this one is not filled with silence, but either with heavy gunshots or with the roaring of car and motorbike engines. Only when this suddenly stops in the finale did I realize that this has been the only sound for quite a while, and it creates a great (very “noisy”) silence. Hal Holbrook is quite young and very great in the film, but made me realize that apart from Clint Eastwood himself, it seems that these films have not been too good for the careers of those involved… “Man’s got to know his limitations”

The third movie (“The Enforcer”) lacks a decent villain, to be honest. There is a group of rather pathetic “people’s liberation front” kind of hippie terrorists who want to achieve something that I did not really understand by stealing weapons and explosives and blowing up stuff. Harry Callahan is sidelined when he seeks the cooperation of a black church community, and gets crossed by the city government that would rather arrest them instead of work with them. So it all comes down again to the showdown man against man, Callahan against the leader of the terror group. As you would expect, Dirty Harry disposes of them, in this case with a rocket-propelled missile. Had this been the first Dirt Harry movie, I guess I would have enjoyed it more, but the mechanisms of the films turn out to be repetitive, and no chase or fight in this one has too many optical values or surprises. Interesting is the effort to bring in a female inspector and give the film a sexual revolution / emancipation spin – that does not really work. The girl looks cute enough, but spends most of the time trying to catch up with her partner Callahan on her high heels and in a costume clearly not tailored for foot chases. She does, however achieve to involve Harry into a lengthy conversation, the first I believe in the whole trilogy. Also a first is the effort at humour, mostly in the dialogues involving the new girl cop, but also e.g. in falling through a rood into the midst of a porn production set (the series has never been shy about violence or nudity, preferably both somehow combines).No memorable quote that I could remember, though…

All in all, the trilogy on the downward spiral… and I read that the rottentomatoes ratings for the remaining films are getting worse. So I guess a good time to call it quits… to me, it will remain a trilogy. Just for the fun of it, the others are Sudden Impact (Clint Eastwood 1983) and The Dead Pool (Buddy van Horn 1988)

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