I finally got around to completing my re-watch of the 4 disc Dirty Harry Blu Ray. Tonight I saw Sudden Impact.
This is the first Dirty Harry movie I ever saw, and I saw it in the theater.
It's hard to convey how much this film, and Harry, permeated the culture in 1983. For a whole generation, "Dirty Harry" means this film, and more particularly, "Go ahead, make my day" as the ultimate badass line of dialogue (and that was even before Reagan appropriated it).
So how does it hold up?
Dirty Harry in this film is now a Movie Monster, not too much different than Jason and Freddy Kruger (but a hell of a lot better looking!). The movie plays Harry like a Slasher, and crooks are the "horny teens", except here they're horny for crime!
Sudden Impact opens with an aerial panorama of 1980's San Francisco, like The Enforcer, and it's some beautiful photography.
As in previous entries in the series, we first see the Big Bad commit her first crime: in this case, Sandra Locke shoots a man in the dick, then the head.
Other than that scene establishing the main arc and criminal in the movie, the first quarter of the film is focused on Harry being a Proto-Punisher, or as I wrote above, the Jason Voorhees scourge of crime.
First he wipes out a Black Gang that's taken over his favorite diner (this is where he tells a crook holding his waitress, a women he's known for 10 years, hostage, to "Go ahead, make my day". The crook wisely decides not to. The Waitresses reaction to this is not shown).
Next, Harry crashes the West Coast's top Mafia don's daughter's wedding. The Don, played by none other than Godfather Part II's Michael Gazzo, looks 10 years younger than he did in Coppola's movie, even though he's at least 10 years older. Harry tells the Don, in front of his wife and daughter, that the hooker he had murdered wrote up a long list of info before she died, and mailed it to Harry.
As Harry speculates on all the pillow talk she may have shared with the Don before he had her whacked, he has a heart attack and drops dead!
This of course means War! The Mob sends a 4 man hit team after Harry, who leads them into some sort of Nautical structure ( I can't tell if it's a boat, part of a pier or the port).
An ongoing theme in this film is that criminals are border line Retarded: 3 of the hit men go after Harry, assume (for some reason ) that he's hiding in a wooden locker, and proceed to shoot 10,486 rounds of bullets and shotgun shells into the locker without even trying to open it.
Harry of course is hiding in a steel barrel behind them, and pops up and blows them all away.
The way this scene is shot, scored, lit and edited like a Slasher movie, with Harry as the Slasher and the Hit Men as the scared teens. They even bunch together and look apprehensively around them before they find that locker.
Oh and there's a "gang" of three white guys, headed by Kevin Major Howard ("Rafterman" from Full Metal Jacket) who look like they escaped from the set of Happy Days. They get released from jail since Harry didn't bother to follow even the most basic police procedure. Later on, they decide to get some payback, driving up beside Harry on the road, knocking out his windows with crowbars, then throwing two Molotov Cocktails in his car. Harry stops the car as they drive up, then throws one of the Molotov Cocktails at their car, causing it to crash in the San Francisco Bay.
Harry's body count at this point, maybe 30 minutes into the movie, is 7.
Harry is told to go on vacation, and also while doing so to check the rap sheet of the guy who got his dick blown off in the first scene.
He goes to "San Paulo" which is really Santa Cruz, where a second man gets his dick shot off, then gets capped in the head.
I won't spoil the movie's main plot, except to say from this point on the film is a weird kind of prelude to Unforgiven, with Sandra Locke acting to get revenge for a horrible crime committed against her and her sister in the past, and Pat Hingle as the Corrupt Local Sheriff covering up for some bad people.
This is an amazingly un-politically correct movie. In the past crooks in these movies were white, or an inter-racial gang.
Not here: we have the Black Gang mentioned above, Sandra Locke's character at one point is harassed by a bunch of Latino teenagers, and there's a stereotypical "Dyke", who is called a Dyke, but who oddly only comes on to men (I think she was just a crude vulgar woman who was lonely).
The real "Big Bad" appears late in the movie, and you can tell he's a Psycho because he cackles incessantly and rolls his eyes a lot. And is impotent and quite sensitive on the topic. And shoots people.
Harry also acquires a pet mini Bulldog in this film. The dog pisses and farts a lot, but also helps Harry meet Sandra Locke and foil another Mob Assassination attempt (hilarious line of dialogue happens when Harry questions Pat Hingle about the second murder, and Hingle counters by asking "just what happened in your hotel this morning?" What happened is Harry shot a Mob enforcer like half a dozen times!).
By now the San Francisco Police Dept know better than to assign Harry a partner. He does have a friend on the force; do you want to guess what happens to him?
People today don't recall how violent street crime dominated American society from the 1970's when the first Dirty Harry film came out, through the 90's when Clinton signed a major crime bill into law.
For people watching Sudden Impact in 1983, this was a call to arms (literally), more importantly a call to law and order, and Harry was a huge cultural icon at the time.
Which is interesting, because the text of the film, despite the obvious "Rah rah" moments and dialogue for Harry, also has some pretty dark meditations on revenge and justice and how the two can get blurred.
One last note; Eastwood does a lot with minor characters in his films. The crook who gets told "Go ahead, make my day" is played by a really good actor: you see him look desperate, think it through, weigh his chances, and decide to surrender, all with no dialogue.
When Harry's in an elevator with Rafterman and the later mocks him, Harry grabs him by the throat and tells him he's Dog shit, and recounts various unpleasant things that happen to dogshit. Behind Harry there's a woman extra who's just seeing and hearing this and processing all this, and the camera briefly lingers on her as the other people leave the elevator.
It's little touches like that that make Eastwood really shine and make the audience suspend disbelief while watching his movies.
I'd rate Sudden Impact third best in the series, after Dirty Harry and #1 Magnum Force.
Edited by Cylon Baby - 10/30/16 at 5:24pm