Starring: Clint Eastwood and Andy Robinson
Director: Don Seigel
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars
When a madman who calls himself Scorpio (Robinson) sets about to terrorize and extort the city of San Francisco with sniper attacks and kidnappings, only the unorthodox methods of homicide inspector Harry Callahan (Eastwood) can stop him.
"Dirty Harry" stands as one of the greatest police dramas ever made, and the bad guy--the monstrous, utterly insane Scorpio--is so extreme that it even has elements that appeal to lovers of horror films. From the opening shots, the tension in the film keeps building and it doesn't let up until Harry and Scorpio have their final confrontation. Everything in this movie works perfectly, from the casting, to the camera and Foley work, to the great score by Lalo Shafrin (with the eerie "Scorpio Theme" adding a lot to the film).
Eastwood is also great as Harry, a cop who dislikes bureaucracy and who always puts the well-being and rights of crime victims ahead of the criminals that prey on them. And he does it within the boundaries of the law, with no consideration for politics. He's the sort of cop who can only get away with what he does in the fantasy land of movies.
Robinson also makes a fantastic bad guy. Between the actions of the character and the way the actor plays him, even the most hardcore member of the "violence in movies is bad" and "every criminal has rights" has got to be cheering for Harry to give the justice he has earned.
This film lays the foundation for the Dirty Harry sequels that followed, and I think it was just as much the fantasy of a cop who can buck the system and bag in a bad guy who knows how to play it, as it was Eastwood's portrayal of Harry that made the character so popular. (If you watch the movie carefully, you can see the depth that Eastwood brings to Harry's character.)
"Dirty Harry" is well-deserving of its reputation of being a classic. It is a great movie, and while it has been imitated over and over, it's never been matched... even by its own sequels.