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"Dirty Harry Collection Box Set - 2008"
Taylor Carlson
Studio: Warner Bros.
Genre: Action
Special Features: Various featurettes, commentaries, book, and bonus items

Dirty Harry is a classic franchise, no doubt about it. Clint Eastwood had proven time and time again he was a genius when it came to acting in Westerns, and this is the movie that showed the world he could fare equally well in a latter-day action setting. In many ways this is the role that defined his career - so much so that it spawned four sequels spanning a decade and a half. With political themes of the film that are still relevant and hotly debated today, along with some great, classic scenes, it's a series that stands the test of time. This box set combines all 5 films in the series. ***

Dirty Harry (1971): The first film in the series pits the widowed police inspector up against a killer calling himself "Scorpio", who commits countless murders and essentially holds the city hostage. Callahan sets out to bring the killer to justice by any means necessary, even with newly-passed laws that seem to favor the villain despite his crimes. ***

Magnum Force (1973): Harry Callahan returns, but he's been reassigned to stakeout duty due to the police department's disapproval of how he handled the previous film's Scorpio killings case. But he and his new partner are put right back into the line of fire when numerous individuals around the city end up dead. ***

The Enforcer (1976): Terrorists based at Alcatraz prison hold San Francisco hostage for a hefty ransom. Callahan is assigned to this new case, along with a new female partner. The twosome must learn to work together as they investigate the newfound threat. ***

Sudden Impact (1983): Callahan is shipped off to Sao Paulo to investigate a murder that has recently occurred. Upon his arrival he falls in with a woman who tells him her troubles and about the hardships of her life - and all the while, Callahan doesn't suspect that this seemingly sweet and innocent woman is the very killer he has been searching for. ***

The Dead Pool (1988): Callahan returns yet again, on what could be his strangest investigation yet - celebrities are winding up dead. Coincidentally a film director has begun a game with his crew for each crewman to make a list of the 10 celebrities they think will die. But when Callahan investigates the case, he discovers an all-too-familiar name on the lists - his own. ---

Image & Sound:

As far as image and sound go, Warner Bros. has "gone ahead and made my day" with these new transfers for the series. This is it - the best the Dirty Harry series has EVER looked on home video. Warner has given the film the mastering it has so desperately needed for so long, and the results show through and through. It's been nearly four decades since the first film hit theaters, so I'm amazed at how much they were able to do with the image. These transfers have to be seen in action to be appreciated. The sound quality for each film holds up just as well as the image. Be it dialogue, the unique musical scoring from the always-brilliant Lalo Schifrin, or the gunshots from Harry's 44, everything just sounds great. Like the visual transfer, the audio also needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

Special Features:

And now for the reason you're probably reading this review in the first place. If you're one of those people who already bought the films when they first came out on DVD, you're asking yourself "Do I feel lucky?", and if you should buy these new versions of the moves. ***

Well, you ought to feel lucky, punk. The sheer amount of bonus material here is worth the price of admission alone (as if beautifully remastered picture and audio weren't reason enough!) It's reason alone to buy this set, even if you own earlier issues of the movies. The first film gets 2 discs, the subsequent ones get 1 each - and each movie has a trailer gallery on it, so I won't mention it for each individual film. Here's a list of what each film has for bonus material: **

Dirty Harry: The first film includes a highly-enlightening audio commentary with Richard Schickel, a biographer of Eastwood. This commentary is every bit as insightful as it is entertaining, so by all means watch it if you're a fan. The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry is a featurette examining the series' inspirations - as well as those it has been an inspiration too. Dirty Harry - The Original looks back at the making of the series through cast and crew interviews, at the birth of the character and the everlasting Legacy. Dirty Harry's way is a vintage featurette from the era in which the movie was made, with Eastwood and director Don Siegel - it's highly entertaining despite the brevity. Rounding out the set is a compilation of interview footage, and an early 90s TV special on Eastwood's life. Great stuff that puts the old DVD releases of the first film to shame. ***

Magnum Force: Each film in this set gets a commentary, and in this set you get it from longtime screenwriter John Milius, who also worked on the series. Two featurettes, are also included on the disc. A Moral Right examines the political themes explored throughout the Dirty Harry series, while The Hero Cop takes a look at the way police heroes of films have changed over the years. Again, excellent featurettes that are informative and entertaining alike. ***

The Enforcer: James Fargo, the director, serves up the commentary track for the third film's DVD remaster. It's another entertaining commentary, with Fargo relating a number of experiences he had while working alongside Eastwood. Again accompanying the commentary is a pair of featurettes. The Business End: Violence In Cinema lives up to its title, exploring this ongoing debate, while Harry Callahan/Clint Eastwood: Something Special is another look at the character and the actor who so brilliantly brought him to life. ***

Sudden Impact: Once again, we get a commentary from Richard Schickel, the same Eastwood biographer who contributed the track to the first film. It's all the more interesting to listen to, when you consider this was the only movie in the series that Eastwood himself served as director on. There's only a single featurette on this disc, entitled The Evolution of Clint Eastwood. This particular featurette examines the film itself, as well as Eastwood's gradual involvement in the world of directing films. There's a lot of interesting material explored here, considering how much work Eastwood did on both sides of the camera. ***

The Dead Pool: For the final film in the series, the commentary track is provided by David Valdes and Jack N. Green, the producer and cinematographer, respectively, on this particular installment of the series. The duo discusses their involvement with the franchise and all that went into what is (presumably) its final installment. Again there's just a single featurette, but it's entertaining. The Craft of Dirty Harry focuses not on Eastwood's role in the series, but everyone else - production designers, cinematographers, editors - the list goes on. It's a nice look at individuals largely responsible for this series whose roles all too often get overlooked. ***

Exclusive content in the box set: The box set contains a number of extras you don't get if you bought the films separately - all the more reason to invest in the set. There's a seventh disc included only in this set, which includes a lengthy Eastwood documentary, which goes into even more detail than the one included as a bonus feature with the first film. There's even some never-before-seen production correspondence included exclusively in the set, a must-see for any fan of the franchise. As far as other bonus items go, the set includes a hardbound book that runs for over 40 pages, a wallet with replica police badge that has a removable identification card (which has conveniently been laminated to avoid damage), 5 lobby cards, plus an exclusive bonus one, and to top it all off, a poster-sized map of the San Francisco area, meant to replicate Harry's hunting ground for the Scorpio killer in the original movie. The extra content in the box set alone makes it a better investment than buying these individual reissues separately.

Final Words:

It's great to see the Dirty Harry series has finally got the home video treatment it deserves. With gorgeous remastering both of audio and visual elements, a ton of bonus featurettes including many never featured on a DVD before, and material exclusive to the box set, it's well worth investing in. Even if you own earlier DVD releases of the series, it's worth upgrading. This set gets my highest recommendation.


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