Dirty Harry: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Box Set - Blu-ray Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

 
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post #1 of 4 Old 07-13-08, 05:12 PM Thread Starter
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Dirty Harry: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Box Set - Blu-ray Review

The Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a six-disc Blu-ray set that contains all Dirty Harry movies including: Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.

The Dirty Harry box set has been an obsession. It’s not enough that I have all five Dirty Harry movies lovingly remastered in breathtaking VC-1, 1080P with razor sharp Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtracks. The set came with a small box filled with little goodies like several pages of production notes, a full color Dirty Harry hard-bound book providing details of all the films, perfect coffee table literature. I even have a cheesy looking replica of Dirty Harry’s Wallet complete with SF Police badge and Harry’s ID card – just what I need if ever get carded going into a bar. Unfortunately my days of being carded are way behind me.

For now the box set is the only way to get all the Dirty Harry films on Blu-ray. Only the original is available as a separate disc for now. Any fan of the modern day action film genre would agree … you can’t just watch one Dirty Harry movie. You’re going to have to watch all of them. Each film is contained on a single disc with all relevant special features for each film.

Simple logic…it’s my belief you’ll save money by simply buying box set first rather than buying the original film on Blu-ray. Inevitably you’ll re-buy the first film with the box set down the road because you can’t just see one Dirty Harry movie.

A quick re-cap of all the films.

The modern day action hero owes this film a great debt. Without Harry Callahan there would be no Paul Kersey no John MacLean, Martin Riggs or Roger Murtaugh. There’d be no John Rambo, Casey Ryback and a long list of characters played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Chow Yun Fat.

Dirty Harry wasn’t the first action film but it’s the first action film franchise. It set the tone for a formula that would be used over and over again.

Those under the age of 40 might benefit from a quick background check before viewing the original 1971 Dirty Harry. Since your mind is all askew with the last thirty five or so years of action cinema it helps to understand where this film is coming from.

Background

In 1960s there were hippies - no, real hippies, not the patchouli oil and dreadlock variety that haunt your local college town. It was a tumultuous time where the liberalization of American values appeared in tandem with the very reactionary efforts to squelch it. Dubious assassinations took place in that decade and a divisive war with significant casualties that touched every American household. Clearly the 1960s were a time of growing pains for America.

San Francisco, particularly its famed Haight-Ashbury district, was seen as ground zero for much of this liberalization. It’s more than a bit ironic that is the very place where Eastwood’s fictional cop, Harry Callahan should emerge.

New, humanitarian rights were given prisoners in the 1960s along with a new Supreme Court decree of Miranda Warnings to be given by police prior to custodial interrogations. It was quickly discovered that failure to use these warnings by police could result in criminals walking free.

Dirty Harry (1971):

Director: Don Siegel
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Reni Santoni

This film was directed by Don Siegel who Eastwood would cite as a major influence on him in his own work as a director. The renegade cop with no regard for the rules with themes of vengeance may seem like stereotypes today. But it was Siegel and Eastwood that would brilliantly re-invent these stereotypes for the modern world in Dirty Harry.

Consider an early scene where we’re introduced to Harry’s brand of work ethic. Callahan is trying to enjoy a hot dog at a local greasy spoon when a robbery suddenly erupts across the street. Harry is annoyed at the inconvenience to his lunch and the robbers find him in no patient mood. Harry attempts to stop the robbery while still eating his hotdog! Eventually the scene leads to one of Harry’s most memorable lines:

I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself…

The climax of this dialogue would be printed on T-Shirts and recited by the testosterone inclined for decades to come. But the film is no tongue-in-cheek farce, it also has very powerful, thoughtful scenes.

The movie is centered on a cat-and-mouse chase between Harry and a cookie cutter psycho named Scorpio. Scorpio is your run-of-the-mill scumbag with no regard for human life. This fact is established early in the movie assuring us the film won’t muddy itself with sentiment for the perpetrator. But it’s a sign of the modern times when Harry collars the creep and he ends up walking due to having his civil rights violated by the arresting officer, Callahan. Scorpio is let free to continue his criminal behavior and again Callahan will be required to stop him.

Magnum Force (1973)
Director: Ted Post
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, David Soul, Robert Urich

After 1971 Dirty Harry, Magnum Force hits a faster stride. The foundations have already been laid and like a sort of philosophical origin story, we already know Harry’s motives. In Magnum Force the action and violence seem to come unglued. It’s the bloodiest of the Dirty Harry films with the body count at 30.

The film includes some prominent co-stars like Hal Holbrook and a super-team of 70s cop show heroes. David Soul (Starskey and Hutch) and Robert Urich (Vegas) play unformed San Francisco police offers who become vigilantes of flavor even more radical than Dirty Harry himself.

I enjoyed the faster pacing of this movie. It’ll appeal even more than the original to the short attention span of modern film goers. I also enjoyed the 70s cultural fest that was on display. From classic cars and timeless mobsters to the pink Cadillac driving pimp, you get a visual treat with this film.

The Enforcer (1976)

Director: James Fargo
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly

This is the most introspective of the Dirty Harry movies because it alludes to a possible romance between Callahan and its co-star Tyne Daly. The closest Harry will come to a personal life. Much to Harry’s surprise and certainly disgust, this film’s obligatory partner reveal turns out to be a woman. Oh boy! Harry must now deal with another aspect of social liberalism.

Partners tend to be minorities to prove that Harry really isn’t an expression of some fascist fantasy. Sadly they fare about as well in the films as red-shirted crewmen in Star Trek, necessitating yet another partner.

The film opens with a memorable liquor store robbery. It results in Harry getting into trouble with the bosses up in the SF Police force, again. But it won’t be long before Harry is out on the trail of a pseudo-political terrorist group with his female partner Tyne Daly (Cagney and Lacy). This film seems to lighten-up the Harry character a bit, this is possibly why it’s also the last Dirty Harry movie destined to hit theaters for another seven years.

Sudden Impact (1983)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring:Clint Eastwood, Sondra Lock

The opening theme music quickly reminds you that this is the 1980s. As the opening credits roll we get a look at the San Francisco skyline at night and the music of (ironically) The Enforcers with 80s dance beats and turntable scratches.

The film would lay down one of Harry’s most memorable lines that would also become one of Ronald Regan’s most memorable lines… “Make my day.”

Sudden Impact is Eastwood’s own as director. By 1983 Eastwood was already a veteran film director and had made better movies. Not that this isn’t good but it doesn’t simply re-tread the themes of revenge and violence. This one has the formula already distilled, bottled and ready to serve on ice. But like all the Dirty Harry movies it’s a classic drink, we may know what to expect but it never disappoints.

Sondra Lock would appear with Eastwood in a number of films and this one comes during that era. Lock plays a tragic rape victim out for revenge of her own. When she begins taking the law into her own hands Eastwood is on her trail.

The Dead Pool (1988)
Director: Buddy Van Horn
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Liam Neeson

The frequency of Dirty Harry films has slowed down considerably. Dirty Harry himself should also be slowing down at his age by 1988 but shows no sign of it in this film.

The Dead Pool took five years to arrive and it’s the final installment. Even after all these years Dirty Harry is still one peed-off cop who always seems ready to blow a valve in his temples. True to the Dirty Harry formula we see Harry frustrated with legal bureaucracy and a police department that seems more concerned with PR than catching bad-guys.

This might be considered the surreal Dirty Harry film. It deals with a variation of that game people often play where they try to guess which celebrity is going to die next. Dead Pool co-stars Liam Neeson as Peter Swan, a British horror film director who happens to be directing a rock video for a doomed drug addicted musician who was picked by Swan to die in the infamous Dead Pool.

The film seems to try and touch on themes of fame and TV violence but limits its moralistic commentary to good old fashioned movie violence.

Video:


1080P, VC-1.
Aspect Ratio
2.40:1
The Dead Pool 1.85:1

The video quality on Warner Blu-ray releases has been beyond reproach. Even though these movies are at least twenty years old they look very well restored in 1080P. Only seldom do you notice grain and that’s usually a result of the lenses focus, especially in darker scenes.

Shots of San Francisco’s skyline and bay are post-card quality. Historic buildings of SF are likewise stunning. If you haven’t seen these films in a very long time, you’ve never seen them like this.

In some ways it’s almost too good, probably better than the film-makers intended. Especially in the first two movies the blood is actually a bit too bright and looks obviously fake. That’s probably the result of special effect for the time period and not video editing.

Audio:4Stars:

Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1

The 5.1 mix in TrueHD is not overly aggressive but does well with surround channels. The purity of the sound is good for an older film soundtrack. The movies are generally very musical with theme music that sets the tone for the time period they were made. A lot of funky beats and guitar oriented rhythm in the first few and more synthesizer beats in the last two. All the music sounds good and makes your system come alive with music between dialogue and gunshots.

The gunshots are of course plentiful and will make your sub rumble. But most of the gunplay will be well contained in your center speaker with ambient effects hitting your rear channels. Of course, Callahan’s signature .44 makes a distinctive shot that often echoes through your home theater.

Overall

This is simply a must have for any action film fan. These are the kinds of movies you’ll want to watch over again with friends. Some movies are good to rent, even very high quality films deserve to be seen once in your life. But these are historic and the only way to see them all in consistent Blu-ray quality is to own the box set.

Wayde
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post #2 of 4 Old 07-13-08, 11:42 PM
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Re: Dirty Harry: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Box Set (Blu-ray)

Excellent review...

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post #3 of 4 Old 07-14-08, 07:59 AM
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Re: Dirty Harry: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Box Set (Blu-ray)

Good review Wayde.

Does anyone other than me find Sondra Locke a creepy and disturbing actress? The only reason she was starring in films at the time is because of her relationship with Eastwood which ended in a really nasty Palimony suit. (First famous suit in this category involved Lee Marvin, Eastwood's co-star in "Paint Your Wagon" so the two
actors shared this ordeal). Locke got a huge cash settlement from the
star but it ended her career. What's curious is that in her first role in "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter", she's very sensitive and appealing. In her Eastwood films she comes off rather looney and emotionally unstable. She's weird in "Sudden Impact"
and even weirder in the two "Every Which Way" pictures with him.


Eastwood owed his directing career to Don Siegal ("Dirty Harry") who taught him the ropes of the business and pretty much sponsored this aspect of his career. Eastwood is a good director and fiscally responsible with his productions. He always brings his pictures in on budget and most are very profitable. He acquired this technique after experiencing the indulgence and cost over-runs during the disastrous production of "Paint Your Wagon" in 1969 which his Malpalso
company was involved with. Josh Logan was so un-prepared for the shoot and weather conditions the movie went way over budget and was a box-office bomb. (I saw it in 70mm at the Warner's Cinerama theater and am probably one of the few people who enjoyed the picture's wretched excess). Eastwood determined that for his productions, he wouldn't make the same mistakes. One of the ironies is that Michael Cimino directed one of his films, "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot" and Eastwood taught him how to prepare for the shoot and stay within the budget. The
movie did well financially. Eastwood's sponsorship of Cimino didn't take since
he later made the biggest box-office disaster in film history with "Heaven's Gate" in 1980 which forced the producer/distributor, United Artists, out of business. The book, "Final Cut", is a template of how NOT to make a movie and is fun to read.


It took many years before Eastwood was taken seriously as an artist (both director and actor) by film critics. You can now track his progression from mid-range TV
Star ("Rawhide") to international film star (Leone Westerns) to American movie
star (Dirty Harry series) to top notch mainstream director ("The Unforgiven")
on DVD. I'm glad they're releasing some of his pictures in high definition.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 07-14-08 at 09:50 AM.
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post #4 of 4 Old 07-25-08, 09:48 PM
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Re: Dirty Harry: Ultimate Collector’s Edition Box Set (Blu-ray)

YEA!!!!! BABY!!!!
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