Dirty Harry Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct 2.35:1 1080p transfer that is VC-1 encoded. For a film nearly forty years old this print is astonishing, unfortunately it's not without its problems but most are forgivable. First up the detail level is both amazing and frustrating; amazing in that much of the picture is superbly detailed, frustrating in that some inconsistency softens some edges inexplicably. When it is good, it is outstanding, the opening pan over San Francisco as Callahan walks over the roof tops show brilliant depth and clarity for the background, then zoom in close as he picks up the shell, look how it gleams against the jagged gravel, the hairs on his fingers as he holds the pen; this is top stuff. Look also at the outside of the District Attorneys office as Callahan is ushered in, the writing on the secretary's notepad is almost readable! Skin defects and clothing weaves, the sheen of the Magnum, all are clear and sharp. However, it's not constant there are times when the image softens quite dramatically, nowhere near to SD levels, but because the good is so good it becomes noticeable; oddly its as if Eastwod manages to stay in the sharp scenes and once he levels there is a slight drop.
Colours are bright and solid the primaries coming off particularly well, look at the yellow of the cabs or the school bus or the reds of Callahan's jumper or Scorpio's balaclava and the blood which is almost luminous. Greens and blues also fair well. There was a little red bleed in places, on police siren lights or in the strip clubs, but its nothing too drastic.
Brightness is set to give some very black blacks, there is a decent depth to the frame, but when the picture becomes very dark, such as in the tunnels or the park during the abortive ransom drop, it does loose some shadow detail and become a tad murky. But on the whole it is very good. Contrast does show a little boosting in places; that opening pan I mentioned did loose a little detail against the horizon where the whites were slightly overblown, but it is rare.
Digitally I spotted only the tiniest amount of posterization, almost blink and you miss it, but other than that there are no compression problems to report, a slight whiff of edge enhancement but again nothing to get het up about. The original print did have a few specks of damage here and there, but this is to be expected such an aged film, and there were a few instances of grain, particularly against the blue of the sky, it's not too overly distracting and does, I think, add to the feel of the picture. On the whole this is an excellent picture considering the age of the film and as such I am scoring it a very solid 7 out of 10.
No less than seven sound tracks to choose from; English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, reviewed here is the English TrueHD. Considering the source material was a mono track this is a pretty good surround mix. Effects and separation are rather limited, spending most of the time towards the frontal array, helicopter, freeway traffic and some external ambiance notwithstanding. I particularly liked the water spraying around the room during the bank robbery scene, tacky, but effective. Schifrin's score fairs well, has decent tonal range and given substantial separation. Dialogue is natural sounding and Eastwood's gravely voice comes across with relish. Bass is a little light, and the LF effects are a bit limited too, but there is a decent enough grounding to the track and gun shots are given a light, but effective enough thump. Considering the source this is a pretty good track, is certainly not artificial sounding (Anchor Bay anyone?) and gives a decent enough expanse to the sound stage.
- Commentary by Richard Schickel
Richard Schickel is a film critic and an Eastwood biographer and he really knows his subject. His delivery is slow and deliberate and might be best tackled in two sittings; the information is vast though, switching between biographic titbits and production stories as easily as breathing, taking in music, camera style, casting, the furore that greeted the film upon its initial release and the cult status it has achieved. There are a few pauses, but they help to absorb the info that otherwise comes thick and fast.
- Dirty Harry: The Original - 0.29.45
An overview hosted by Robert Urich (Officer Grimes in Magnum Force) which has plenty of backslapping from all involved, padded with film clips galore this comes off as an entertainment channel special with any information given fairing better in the other features here.
- Dirty Harry's Way - 0.7.06
Hailing from 1971 this feature is in a woeful state and is nothing much more than an ad for the film; tries to soften the blow by trying to tie the film in with early gangster films, nice behind the scenes shots of Eastwood and Siegel just about rescue this one.
- The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry - 0.25.31
An up to date retrospective of the film with plenty of interviews from critics, film historians, the cast and crew. Delves into a little more detail than the above features and is well produced, but by now much of the information is being repeated. Does well at highlighting the mood of the 70's America and how and why Dirty Harry became such a hit.
- Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso - 0.58.08
Another (near) vintage documentary first screened in 1993 and was produced during Unforgiven (1992) and is an informative feature on the life and career of Eastwood up to that point. Contributors included but not limited to Michael Cimino, Gene Hackman, Forest Whitaker and Ted Post talk about the man, his career, his influences both on himself and their own careers. Somewhat dated now since it excludes Eastwood later body of work, but is nevertheless well produced and informative and best of all no longer Dirty Harry specific.
- Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows - 0.86.48
Slightly more up to date is this documentary from the BBC Arena, Rhapsody Films and American Masters and covers much the same ground as the above feature but up to 2000. Again features interviews with nearly everybody Eastwood has worked with over the years, another solid documentary on the man and his career. Delves very nicely into dissection of his early films and their influences and comes off less like hero worship and more like intellectual influence, very watchable.
- Interview Gallery - 0.27.25
Outtake interviews taken from the above features which can be watched individually or all together, contributors are Patricia Clarkson, Joel Cox, Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Evan Kim, John Milius, Ted Post, Andy Robinson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Robert Urich.
For all five of the Dirty Harry films
As you can see this is a very comprehensive set of extra material covering just about everything you want to know about Eastwood, his career and Dirty Harry. The extras are of varying picture quality but do receive all of the subtitle options.
Unashamedly cool, brutal and classic, Dirty Harry is all this and more. Making a icon out of its titular character and causing a stir upon its release the film has lost none of its power, in fact the only thing that dates it is Eastwood's age! A combination of elements combined to bring this force to the screen, each and everyone dripping with ice; Dirty Harry is a clear classic and will remain so forever more.
As a Blu-ray package Warner Bros. have out done themselves with a superb (considering age) picture and decent sound and all backed up by a mass of extras that really make this disc value. Top stuff indeed.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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- Commentary by Richard Schickel