Given my Zodiac obsession, and my general fondness for chasing down books and movies referenced in books and movies that I love, it’s a little embarrassing that I haven’t seen Dirty Harry yet. I watched it over the weekend on my Netflix binge. Neither the embrace of vigilantism, nor the “Take that, hippie!” politics of the movie age particularly well. But it’s got a number of a great shots: the opening sequence with the murder in the swimming pool, Clint Eastwood standing on top of a train trestle in a sharp suit and dark sunglasses, looking like the incarnation of vengeance. It’s too bad he never played the Devil. He’d have been marvelous in it.
Really, I think Eastwood is the only reason to watch the movie, which seems to function as an uncomfortable bridge between an earlier era of action flicks and a later one. Watching him take a bite of a hot dog, shoot up a crew of bank robbers, and then finish chewing is a marvelous couple of moments of acting. As is him shucking off his pants to save $30 after getting shot. The guy just knew his range and lived in it better than almost anyone else I know. Someone like Meryl Streep can do more, for sure, but not always as deeply or intensely. And I couldn’t watch Eastwood all the time, but there’s something invigorating about that kind of intensity, like good coffee or really cold air.