I know what you’re thinking. ”Did he see all five films in this box set or only four?” Truthfully, in all the excitement, I kind of lost track. After all, the Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector’s Edition features multitudinous scenes of mayhem as Clint Eastwood’s .44 Magnum-wielding San Francisco homicide inspector Harry Callahan tracks down serial killers, terrorist groups, and rogue policemen. It also boasts commentaries, documentaries, postcards, and a wallet containing a replica of a Callahan ID card. So you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ”Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
It’s easy to make fun of this franchise’s iconic quotes — a clutch of memorable lines that also includes the President Reagan-co-opted ”Go ahead, make my day.” But this seven-disc set proves that the films, at least early on, were far more than the sum of Callahan’s bons mots. The first one, Dirty Harry (1971) — which, like all the movies, is also sold separately on DVD — finds Eastwood battling both Andy Robinson’s cherub-faced killer and a justice system more interested in the rights of perps than victims. Tautly directed by Don Siegel, it’s a terrific, politically polarizing thriller. Even today — particularly today — the scene in which Eastwood grinds his foot into Robinson’s bullet-shredded leg to extract information is startling. The tough, funny Magnum Force (1973) reverses the vigilante equation as Callahan faces down a baddie-assassinating gang of motorcycle cops. From that point, the series’ quality becomes less reliable. The Enforcer (1976) often looks like a TV movie, but the Eastwood-directed Sudden Impact (1983) is grittier fare and features a fine, blank-faced turn by Sondra Locke as a vengeance-seeking rape victim. Finally, The Dead Pool (1988) is preposterous in the way that only movies starring Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, Guns N’ Roses, and an exploding toy car can be.
With Pool, Harry was beginning to look long in the gun barrel and tooth, thanks partly to the many cop franchises he inspired, like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. (”The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry,” one of the set’s several new docs, considers that influence and features such talking heads as Weapon scribe Shane Black, Enforcer costar Tyne Daly, and Eastwood himself.) The actor-director appears in the excellent 2000 doc Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows. He does not, however, contribute to any of the new commentaries; those are handled by, among others, his biographer Richard Schickel and Force coscreenwriter John Milius. Memorable anecdotes are in short supply, which likely reflects the famously trouble-free nature of Eastwood projects. But with some 24 hours’ worth of bonus material, there’s enough good stuff to make at least half of your day. B