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June 01, 2008


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Also, if you recall, the fact pattern of the movie gave Harry all kinds of exigent circumstances: he was trying to rescue a kidnapped girl whom his arrestee had buried with a limited oxygen supply (a variation of the ticking bomb scenario). Harry had every reason to believe he could get to her in time to save her life, if he could just torture her location out of the bad guy quick enough. In fact, she was dead when the police dug her up, and the perpetrator goes free until he challenges Harry on the draw (the pond scene, at the end of which Harry resigns by skipping his badge into the water).

As I recall, however, this indictment of the establishment did not lead popular opinion but trailed it. That is why some of these lines were cheered in the theatre, which I remember clearly. Harry goes on in the next movie, Magnum Force, to balance his image by tackling a right-wing death squad. Then, in the third movie, The Enforcer, he takes out a cell of left-wing revolutionaries. In Sudden Impact, his black and white world gets confused, when the evil serial killer he hunts turns out to be female rape victim exacting punishment from the rapists. Through them all, his impatience with the police and legal establishments -- and the suppression rules -- appears time and again. Dirty Harry was not originally intended to be a cheap action flick like so many movies since then. They had substance, and I am not surprised that Eastwood is proud of this work.


WCS--thanks for this history.


As a side note about Dirty Harry, supposedly the role was originally supposed to be played by Frank Sinatra. Sinatra hurt himself some how and so couldn't do it. It was offered to John Wayne who said he wasn't going to take Sinatra's "sloppy seconds" and suggested Clint Eastwood, who had done the westerns but wasn't doing that much else. It's hard to imagine either of the first two doing the role right, I think. It's also funny now to look back on some of the criticism of the character- it seems fairly quaint now, though maybe that says more about us. Also, the fact that this very tough guy wore a sweater vest through most of the movie is more than a little funny.

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