Genre: Action and Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.
Release Date: December 22nd, 1976 MPAA Rating: R
Director: James Fargo Actors: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Mitchum, DeVeren Bookwalter, John Crawford, Samantha Doane, Jocelyn Jones, Nick Pellegrino, Robert Hoy
he opening scene, in which a skinny blonde (Jocelyn Jones) hitches a ride with two Western Gas and Electric employees, features some of the worst dialogue ever written. It’s a terrible way to start any movie, let alone this third chapter in the “Dirty Harry” saga, which took a rapid, significant downturn in quality with the previous entry. And this beginning doesn’t help redeem things one bit.
Fortunately, Clint Eastwood is his typical one-man-army of a screen presence, and Jerry Fielding is able to produce a jazzy score that is nicely in line with the sensational music formerly done by Lalo Schifrin. And Harry still knows how to throw around racist insults (there are plenty of other extremely racist/stereotypical notions in this unmistakable product of the ’70s). The plot is familiarly constructed by piecing together various unrelated crimes (from the silly theft of a pricey meal to a hostage scenario at a liquor store to a bomb planted in a bathroom) to supplement the main criminals and their over-the-top schemes.
Conducting his usual Wild-West-show routines, San Francisco Police detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) quickly accrues $14,000 in damages when he drives a car into a building to foil a holdup. Laughably unorthodox yet entirely effective, Callahan is understandably removed from the streets by his captain (Bradford Dillman) and reassigned to personnel, where he takes things even less seriously. Since the mayor intends to make the force conform to mainstream ideas, the reluctant homicide investigator sits in on evaluations for potential fellow inspectors, leading to some hysterically un-politically correct assessments, particularly when it comes to female candidates, such as Kate Moore (Tyne Daly).
Also standard with Harry’s adventures, partners (Frank DiGeorgio, played by John Mitchum) don’t last long, while replacements are always the one character Callahan antagonizes the most (“Oh, shit,” he mutters when he’s inevitably partnered with Moore). Plus, he refuses to treat any superior with phony respect (“Besides being wrong, they’re stupid”) – and yet it rarely lands him in permanent trouble. And rampant sexism is apparent at every turn (to be fair, it’s specifically part of the storyline, with Kate struggling to prove gender equality in a male-dominated profession), with a classic humor-tinged autopsy scene included just to unnerve the pretty lady; the younger, more physically fit newcomer standing by or arriving late, while Harry engages on a taxing chase across rooftops, up stairs, and through buildings; and the crashing of a porno shoot just to show some gratuitous nudity.
By the time the film gets around to tracking and nailing the terrorist group at the heart of the plot – the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force, armed with portable bazookas – it almost feels like another movie altogether. Pacing is a problem, as is realism, but the level of seriousness has waned considerably from “Magnum Force,” which makes the attention to one-liners and levity slightly more manageable. Overall, it’s a bit of an improvement (ever so slight) from the previous episode, though the tone and direction are altered just enough that Eastwood could almost be a different (but nonetheless recognizable) character in a different series. It’s not as if any of his roles lack a certain smug disregard for propriety.
– Mike Massie