Scenes That I Love: Harry Meets The Mayor From Dirty Harry


Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to the one and only Clint Eastwood!

At this point of his career (from which he says he is now semi-retired), Clint Eastwood has become an American icon.  In many ways, his persona epitomizes all of the contrasts and extremes of the American experience.  A political conservative who specializes in playing taciturn and rather grouchy men, he is also one of our most humanistic directors, specializing in films that often question the traditional view of history and morality.  He may have first become a star in Europe but Clint Eastwood is definitely an American original.

In honor of his birthday, I’m sharing a scene that I love from 1971’s Dirty Harry.  In this scene, Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) meets the Mayor of San Francisco (John Vernon).  The mayor is concerned that there’s a psycho on the loose, gunning people down and demanding money.  Callahan’s annoyed that he’s spent a lot of time sitting in a waiting room.  Things pretty much go downhill from there.

There’s so much that I love about this scene.  Both Eastwood and Vernon do a wonderful job playing off of each other.  The Mayor may be in charge of the city but Callahan probably didn’t vote for him.  One thing that I especially love about this scene is the look of annoyance that crosses Harry’s face whenever he’s interrupted.

And, of course, there’s that final line!  Eastwood does a great job explaining Harry’s “policy” but ultimately, it’s Vernon’s “I think he’s got a point,” that provides the perfect closing note.

Happy birthday, Mr. Eastwood!

6 Good Films That Were Not Nominated For Best Picture: The 1970s


David Niven at the 1974 Oscars

Continuing our look at good films that were not nominated for best picture, here are 6 films from the 1970s.

Dirty Harry (1971, dir by Don Siegel)

“Well, I’m all torn up about his rights….” Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) says after being informed that he’s not allow to torture suspects for information.  Unfortunately, in this case, the Academy agreed with all the critics who called Harry a menace and this classic and influential crime film was not nominated.  Not even Andy Robinson picked up a nomination for his memorably unhinged turn as Scorpio.

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian DePalma)

The Academy liked Carrie enough to nominate both Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.  The film itself, however, went unnominated.  It’s enough to make you want to burn down the prom.

Suspiria (1977, dir by Dario Argento)

In a perfect world, Goblin would have at least taken home an Oscar for the film’s score.  In the real world, unfortunately, Argento’s masterpiece was totally snubbed by the Academy.

Days of Heaven (1978, dir by Terence Malick)

If it were released today, Terence Malick’s dream-like mediation of life during the depression would definitely be nominated.  In 1978, perhaps, the Academy was still not quite sure what to make of Malick’s beautiful but often opaque cinematic poetry.

Halloween (1978, dir by John Carpenter)

“The night he came home!” should have been “The night he went to the Oscars!”  The film received no nominations and it’s a shame.  Just imagine Donald Pleasence winning for his performance as Loomis while John Carpenter racked up almost as many nominations as Alfonso Cuaron did this year for Roma.

Dawn of the Dead (1978, dir by George Romero)

If the Academy wasn’t willing to nominate Night of the Living Dead, there was no way that they would go for the film’s longer and bloodier sequel.  But perhaps they should have.  Few films are cited as an inspiration as regularly as Dawn of the Dead.

Up next, in about an hour, the 1980s!

 

Out of the Saddle: John Wayne in MCQ (Warner Bros, 1974)


mcq1

John Wayne didn’t get off his horse very often in the latter part of his career. The Duke hadn’t done a non-Western since 1969’s HELLFIGHTERS, but cop pictures were in style in the early 70s due to the success of movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION and DIRTY HARRY. Wayne was actually offered the part of Dirty Harry Callahan and turned it down. But in 1974, Big John traded in his horse for a Pontiac Firebird in the action packed MCQ, directed by veteran John Sturges (GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE GREAT ESCAPE).

mcq2

Wayne plays tough cop Lon McQ, who quits the force to investigate the murder of his former partner. He gets tangled up with drug dealers and corrupt officials, car chases and shootouts. Sound formulaic? It is, but the action scenes make up for a lame script. Duke basically plays the same character he did in most all his films, tough but tender, fair but firm. It’s kind of jarring to see Wayne in his (pretty bad) hairpiece instead of the usual cowboy hat, and tooling around the streets of Seattle in a muscle car rather than the dusty trail on his horse. He’s surrounded by a supporting cast full of familiar faces (Eddie Albert, Diana Muldaur, Colleen Dewhurst, Al Lettieri, David Huttleston, Clu Gulager), all of whom do their best with the clichéd script. MCQ plays like a TV movie of the week, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and fans of 70s action flicks will dig it.

John Wayne only made three more films after MCQ, including another cop movie, BRANNIGAN, and his swan song, 1976’s THE SHOOTIST, before succumbing to cancer in 1979. The Duke made much better movies then MCQ, but for a look at the star without his spurs and six-gun,  it’s definitely worth watching.

(This post originally appeared, in slightly altered form, on the 2015 TCM Summer of the Stars Blogathon, hosted by Journeys in Classic Film)

27 Days of Old School: #5 “Welcome to the Jungle” (by Guns N’ Roses)


gunsnroses1

“Welcome to the jungle. We’ve got fun n’ games.”

Quite the extreme reversal from #4 to #5 but then my taste in music between junior high and high school was pretty much all over the place. I could be listening to the latest teeny bopper, LAtin-freestyle dance track one month then I’m picking up that hard rock or metal song that I knew my parents would never approve of (especially my mom).

Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” was one such song though I was surprised that my Dad actually liked it as much as I did. My first memory of ever hearing “Welcome to the Jungle” was watching the latest and last Dirty Harry film with my dad. It was The Dead Pool and this song was used as a sort of soundtrack in the fake horror film in the film. I’m not sure if my dad liked the song because it was in a Dirty Harry flick or he just liked it because he grew up in the 60’s and 70’s listening to hard rock.

I don’t think my dad was too keen on the Guns N’ Roses look though. Even then he knew the hair metal, glam look was no bueno.

So, “Welcome to the Jungle” was my initial introduction to Guns N’ Roses and pretty much opened up my ears to a whole new spectrum of music. I never abandoned the R&B, dance pop and freestyle songs from junior high and even years later, but hard rock and metal soon joined the LP (and later CD) rotation.

Film Review: The Dead Pool (directed by Buddy Van Horn)


Hi there!  Today, I will be concluding my look at the Dirty Harry series with the final film in the franchise, 1988’s The Dead Pool.

Harry’s back and he’s still carrying a gun.  He’s also older, wrinklier, grouchier, and suddenly famous because he’s just given testimony in a mob boss’s trial.  You would think that Harry would already be famous seeing as how he not only killed the Scorpio Killer but he also rescured the Mayor from all those communists.  But, I guess that’s what Harry gets for living in the same city that’s been sending Nancy Pelosi to Congress for the last 100 years.

Harry and his new partner (Evan C. Kim) are assigned to investigate the death of rock star Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey).  Harry immediately suspects that the murderer was pretentious film director Peter Swan (Liam Neeson).  This is largely because Swan makes the type of horror films that inspire Harry to snarl with disdain.  It also turns out that Swan has been playing a “dead pool” game and that the various celebrities on his list have been getting killed.  And guess what?  Harry’s name is also on that list…

The Dead Pool was the final Dirty Harry film and, in many ways, it also feels like the most generic.  Whereas Dirty Harry actually had quite a lot on its mind and the first three sequels at least pretended to be concerned about something more than just mayhem, The Dead Pool is often content to be a rather cartoonish action film.  With the exception of a rather witty car chase involving a remote-controlled toy car that’s been strapped with an explosive, the action scenes are predictable and Eastwood’s character could just as easily have been named Spinner Mason or Eli Goldworthy.  There’s simply no huge reason for this film to be a Dirty Harry film, beyond the fact that it wouldn’t show up on AMC every few weeks if it wasn’t.

And yet, it’s impossible for me not to like The Dead Pool.  Though the film might feel generic overall, there’s still the occasional moments that hint that the movie is actually a bit smarter than it might first appear to be.  Considering that the film largely takes place on a movie set and features a film critic among its victims, it’s tempting to see The Dead Pool as being almost a spoof on both the Dirty Harry films themselves and the controversy that’s been generated by their violent content.  It makes sense that Harry Callahan’s name would appear on Swan’s dead pool list because, after spending four films battling serial killers, fascists, communists, gangsters, white trash, and a countless amount of bank robbers, the only opponent left for Harry to face is his own reputation.

The Dead Pool has one of the more interesting casts of the Dirty Harry films.  After dominating the previous films in the series,Clint Eastwood steps to the side and instead, allows his supporting cast to run off with the movie.  It’s a little bit bizarre to see Jim Carrey playing  a rock star (and even more bizarre to see him lip-synching to Welcome to Jungle) but that odd touch seems strangely appropriate for a film that doesn’t seem to be too concerned with much more than being entertaining.  Evan C. Kim is one of Harry’s more likable partners and Liam Neeson, complete with pony tail and superior attitude, is a lot of fun to watch as he spoofs every single pretentious filmmaker that you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have taken a film class with. 

For a lot of reasons, The Dead Pool was the last of the Dirty Harry films.  It was a box office disappointment and, even way back in 1988, Eastwood looked a just little bit old for an action hero.  Eastwood has said that he has no interest in playing the character again and that’s probably for the best because, after five films, you have to wonder just what exactly was left for Harry to deal with.  (That said, I’ve always thought of Gran Torino as being the unofficial sixth Dirty Harry film.)

Well, that concludes my look at the Dirty Harry film series and, not coincidentally, it also concludes the month of September as well!  Starting tomorrow, along with all the other usual great stuff that you expect from us at the Shattered Lens, we’re going to be starting horror month!

Enjoy!

Film Review: Sudden Impact (dir. by Clint Eastwood)


Today, we continue our look at the Dirty Harry film series by considering the fourth installment in the franchise, 1983’s Sudden Impact.

“Go ahead.  Make my day…”

Yes, this is the film where Police Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan (played, as always, by Clint Eastwood) delivers that classic one liner.  In this case, he says it to a man holding a gun to a waitress’ head.  The implication, I guess, is that the gunman would make Harry’s day by killing the innocent woman that he’s holding hostage and therefore, giving Harry an excuse to shoot him in the head.  That line really does get to the heart of one of the main themes that runs through all of the Dirty Harry movies in general and Sudden Impact in specific.  Harry’s life would be a lot of easier if people would simply stop getting in the way and just let him shoot anyone that he wants to.

At the start of Sudden Impact ,we discover that Harry Callahan is still on the San Francisco police force and Captain McKay (Bradford Dillman) is still his antagonistic boss.  Eight years have passed since the end of the Enforcer and Harry is a bit grayer and definitely grumpier.  Whereas the previous three films in the franchise made a (minimal) effort to humanize him, the Harry of Sudden Impact is a snarling, forehead vein-throbbing killing machine.  After years of dealing with sleazy criminals and weak-willed liberals, Harry now appears to wake up each morning and ask himself, “How many people can I find an excuse to kill today?”

Not surprisingly, all those years of shooting people have apparently made Harry the most targeted man in San Francisco.  Within the first 20 minutes of the film, three separate and unconnected groups of criminals attempt to kill Harry.  His superiors demand that Harry take a vacation before the entire city of San Francisco is destroyed.  Harry snarls in response so his bosses do the next best thing and order him to go to the coastal town of San Paulo to help with an unsolved murder.

San Paulo has a problem.  Local lowlifes are turning up dead, shot once in the head and once in the genitals.  Along with the gruesome way that they die, all of them seem to be acquainted with a frightening woman named Rae (played by Audrey J. Neenan).  The chief of police (Pat Hingle) doesn’t seem to be trying too hard to solve the crimes and he openly resents Harry’s attempts to help.  (He’s even less happy about the fact that the mobsters who were trying to kill Harry in San Francisco have followed him out to  San Paulo.)  Harry, however, is determined to solve the crime even while dealing with the unwanted gift of a rather ugly bulldog (given to him by his latest partner, who is played by series regular Albert Poppwell) and romancing an artist (a rather unconvincing Sondra Locke) who has some very strong thoughts of her own on both the sorry state of the criminal justice system and what should be done to improve it.

Sudden Impact was the only one of the Dirty Harry films to officially be directed by Clint Eastwood.  Even if his name wasn’t listed in the opening credits, you would probably be able to guess that Eastwood directed this. From the film’s opening  nighttime scene, during which time the screen is almost totally black except for the occasional flash of a gun being aimed, the film features Eastwood’s signature noir-influenced visual style but it doesn’t contain any of the thematic ambiguity that typifies Eastwood’s better films.

Sudden Impact is an entertaining and well-made action film but it’s also my least favorite of the Dirty Harry series.  Whereas the first three installments at least tried to play around with figuring out what made Harry tick (and, occasionally, even allowing Harry’s methods to be questioned by sympathetic characters like Chico in Dirty Harry or Kate Moore in The Enforcer), Sudden Impact is content to just to let Harry kill some of the most cardboard villains in the franchise’s history.  The end results are crudely effective but ultimately rather forgettable, with none of the eccentric touches that occasionally distinguished the next film in the series, The Dead Pool.  There’s a reason why Sudden Impact is best remembered for a one-liner that’s uttered during the film’s first 10 minutes and which doesn’t really have anything to do with anything else that happens in the movie.

Speaking of The Dead Pool, that’s the film we will be looking at tomorrow as we conclude this series on the Dirty Harry franchise.

Film Review: The Enforcer (dir. by James Fargo)


Today, we continue our look at the Dirty Harry film series by reviewing the third film in the series, 1976’s The Enforcer.

There’s a moment, towards the end of this film, where Harry (played as always by Clint Eastwood) is preparing to blow away one of the bad guys.  Before firing, Harry mutters something under his breath.  The first time I watched the film, I couldn’t make out what Harry was saying so I turned on the captioning and watched the scene again to discover just what exactly Harry had said before dispensing justice.

The line: “You fucking fruit.”

Yes, The Enforcer finds Harry at his most reactionary and it’s a good thing too.  Whereas Magnum Force found Harry fighting his fellow cops, The Enforcer could have just as easily been called Harry Vs. Occupy San Francisco.  This time around, the bad guys are members of something called The People’s Revolutionary Strike Force.  They’re led by a psychotic ex-pimp named Bobby Maxwell (played by an actor with the wonderful name of Deveren Bookwalter) and they’re fond of saying things like, “For the people!” before striking.  To be honest, The Enforcer’s villains are some of the most forgettable in the history of the franchise but that’s appropriate.  As opposed to the original Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, The Enforcer is less concerned with being a struggle between equals and more about Harry killing people.

The Enforcer opens with Harry preventing yet another armed robbery.  This time, he manages to destroy the entire store while doing so and ends up costing the city of San Francisco several million dollars.  Harry’s new superior, Capt. McKay (played by Bradford Dillman) isn’t amused and, as a punishment, temporarily transfers Harry over to the Personnel Department.  I have to say that McKay is a very brave man since Harry blew up the last superior who attempted to reprimand him.

Working Personnel, Harry has to sit in on interviews for promotions.  While doing so, he is informed that the Mayor has ordered them to find three women to promote to inspector.  “Women!?” Harry growls in shocked response.

While Harry is busy attempting to impede the march of progress, his old partner DiGiorgio (John Mitchum) stumbles upon Bobby and the revolutionaries stealing weapons.  As often happens with Harry’s partners, DiGiorgio is killed by the bad guys and Harry is transferred back to Homicide so he can investigate the death.  Helping Harry out is his new partner — Kate Moore (Tyne Daly), one of the three women who have recently been promoted to inspector.

While Harry and his new partner are busy tracking down Bobby, Capt. McKay tries to pin the crime on yet another revolutionary force, a group of black militants led by Big Ed Mustapha.

Big Ed is played by Albert Poppwell, who previously appeared in Dirty Harry as the “I’s got to know” robber.  When Harry first meets him, Harry says, “Haven’t I met you before?”  Though the film never explicitly says so, I like to think that the two characters are one in the same.

As for Bobby and the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force, they’re busy kidnapping the mayor and demanding $5,000,000 for his release.  Of course, it’s up to Harry and Moore to rescue the mayor and put all the “fucking fruits” back in their place….

Looking over other reviews of the Dirty Harry franchise, The Enforcer often seems to be dismissed as almost an afterthought.  Daly’s performance is usually praised (and quite rightfully so because she does give the film’s best performance) but the rest of the film is usually dismissed.  To a certain extent, that’s understandable.  As I mentioned before, Bobby Maxwell is not that interesting of a villain and Harry is at his most one dimensional here.

That said, I think The Enforcer is actually underrated.  There might not be much nuance to Eastwood’s performance here but he gets by on charisma alone and he has a likable chemistry with Daly.  As opposed to what we’ve been conditioned to expect from most other films, Harry and Moore’s relationship never turns romantic.  Instead, by the end of the film, they truly are equals.

The Enforcer was followed, nearly a decade later, by Sudden Impact.  We’ll take a look at that film tomorrow.