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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Franchise Fallout - Dirty Harry Part Two

After the success of 1971's Dirty Harry it was inevitable that Eastwood would return to the role that had been proven to be even more popular than the lone cowboy he played in the Leone movies - Indeed Harry Callaghan is still considered Eastwood's signature role.

Right away, before the film properly starts,  we get a version of the famous line -

"This is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"

This time the line plays out over the opening of the film with a deep red screen and a close up of the real star of the movie - The Magnum 44 - held in Clint's hand. Least we assume it's Clint's hand and this is the only movie in the franchise that does not open with the credits playing over shots of San Fransisco. The particular model of Magnum had become incredibly popular since the first movie and gun shops all over the country repeatedly sold out of 44's. Writer, John Milius reveals in the DVD commentary that most of the crew ended up with the weapons that were used in the movie.

Eastwood was stung by the criticism of the first movie and he was determined to show that there were worse cops than Harry. One of the story-lines rejected for the first movie concerned a group of cops who had formed a death squad. This idea was dusted off  developed because it  allowed for Harry to be depicted in an almost liberal light but still remain true to his origins. David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and Kip Niven were cast as the young vigilante cops who come up against Eastwood's character. Though by the time of the final shoot out they have wiped out a good deal of the major criminals in the city.

The film opens with a traffic cop pulling over a mobster who has been acquitted of a murder charge on a technicality, and then shooting him and the men with him. And then we cut to Eastwood and his new partner, Early Smith -  a black actor was cast as Harry's wingman because the first film was criticized for using black actors in criminal roles - and we learn that Harry is now working stakeout rather than homicide which immediately sets him up for conflict with Lt. Briggs (Hal Holbrook). Immediately following this Harry fancies a burger and decides they should visit the burger joint at the airport. Useful that Harry know of the burger joint at the airport because there are terrorists on a plane.

In the Dirty Harry universe every time Harry gets  a hamburger we are in for a shootout. This time he ends up getting on a plane, dressed as a pilot, because a couple of terrorists have hijacked the plane, demanding to be flown to safety. In another attempt to soften up the tone of the first movie there is much more comedy brought into the otherwise grim scenes.  Here  the co-pilot, thinking Harry is an actual pilot asks:

'Excuse me, Captain. This may seem like a silly question but can you fly?'

To which Harry replies, 'Nope never had a lesson.'

Needless to say it ends up in a shoot out on the plane in which Harry takes out the two terrorists. As the movie moves on much is made of the rights and wrongs of the vigilante killers, and there are moments when the audience feels that Harry may join the rogue cops, but in the end Harry knows that although the system sometimes fails to serve justice there is no real alternative. The system may be flawed but it's all we have, Harry remarks in one key scene.

Lalo Schifrin again provided the score and this time it was heavily influenced by the Morricone scores from the Leon/Eastwood movies, and the score perfectly compliments the movie.  Once again the cinematography is stunning with the city of San Francisco looking wonderful and used to great effect - it was a nice touch placing Harry in the city, the original script for the first movie was New York set, because the city was, and remains,one of the most liberal cities in the world which meant that Harry's right wing cop stood out in stark contrast.

The film was once again a massive success ensuring that we would get more Dirty Harry movies. The film grossed $58.1 million in the United States alone, a new record for Eastwood, but it received a mixed critical response -  Pauline Kael, a harsh critic of Eastwood for many years mocked his performance as Dirty Harry, commenting that, "He isn't an actor, so one could hardly call him a bad actor. He'd have to do something before we could consider him bad at it. And acting isn't required of him in Magnum Force. In fact Kael would constantly remain a thorn in Eastwood's side and it is no coincidence that the female film critic who is slaughtered in The Dead Pool, the fifth and final Harry movie, closely resembles Kael.

The film also received much criticism after  a scene in which a prostitute was killed by having drain cleaner down her throat influenced the infamous Hi-fi murders. The Hi-Fi murders were the brutal killings of three people during an armed robbery at a home audio store called the Hi-Fi Shop in Ogden, Utah, on April 22, 1974. Five people had been held hostage and tortured, but two survived with severe injuries. All were bound and forced to drink Drano (a corrosive drain cleaner). One victim had a pen stomped into his ear, and a teenage girl was repeatedly raped before being flung face-down on the floor and shot in the head. The crime became notorious for the violence inflicted against the victims and accusations of racial bias in the Utah judiciary.

Police believed that six men were involved in the crime but only had enough evidence to convict three enlisted United States Air Force airmen, named Dale Selby Pierre, William Andrews, and Keith Roberts. During the trial, it was revealed that Pierre and Andrews, two of the men guilty of the robbery,  had robbed the store with the intention of killing anyone they came across, and in the months prior to the robbery had been looking for a way to commit the murders quietly and cleanly. The two then repeatedly watched the film Magnum Force, in which a prostitute (played by Margaret Avery) is forced to drink Drano and is then shown immediately dropping dead. Pierre and Andrews decided that this would be an efficient method of murder and decided to use it in their crime.

Magnum Force was however  the seventh highest grossing film of 1973,and although not quite as good as Dirty Harry was a worthy follow up.

Next the Enforcer- check out the trailer below and be here for part three of our Dirty Harry franchise fallout.

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