Rewatching *Dirty Harry* (no real spoilers)

Released in 1971, as usual with San Francisco movies one can see the reach of NIMBY — the city doesn’t look much larger or busier today.  The subtext of the film is that law and order is collapsing, yet San Francisco was far cleaner back then and street harassment never is presented as a risk.  Even the red light district of 1971 seemed better kept than many of the nicer parts circa 2020.

You can see how much the debate has shifted from “how the police treat the guilty” to “how the police treat the innocent.”

It is startling to see actual San Francisco children in the movie — they did not seem to be hired extras.

Yana was shocked that Clint Eastwood did not direct the movie, I was amazed when he started directing.

Overall it held up remarkably well I thought.  Virtually every scene is good, and its ability to offend both sides (and indeed other sides too) remains evident.



Dirty Harry is a problematic endorsement of fascism and racism. It also portrays, and revels in, toxic masculinity.

Boycott Netflix and boycott Spotify (for signing Joe Rogan).

Are you retarded or something? You wanna cry?

Pretty sure the previous post is joking, though you never know nowadays.

never respected 'triggered' as an empowering meme: seems to speak of attention-craving bluntness, knee-jerk over-reaction, uncontrolled emotional slippage, agenda over-simplification, and gun toting analogy-saturation (nice word play though)

Triggered means you can’t or don’t control yourself you let your subconscious or whatever organ control your thoughts. You absolve yourself of any and all responsibility- ie you are a 3 yo mentally- prone to tantrums.

This strikes me as very odd: "San Francisco was far cleaner back then and street harassment never is presented as a risk. Even the red light district of 1971 seemed better kept than many of the nicer parts circa 2020." I mean, it's a movie. What it depicts is not the same as reality. After all, judging by Woody Allen movies, New York City in the 70s and 80s was crime free!

Never mind Woody Allen's comedies. A gritty neo-noir film would try to depict a seedy setting, for the atmosphere. So any distortion of reality in the movie would tend to make the city look worse rather than better.

Compare a 1970s crime film set in New York, like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Does the city look better there than it does today?

Keep in mind the Annie Hall & Taxi Driver are the same city a year or two apart. Go a couple blocks in NYC and it's like a different world sometimes. I imagine it's always been like that.

New York City is much cleaner and safer now than it was in the 1970s, although De Blasio is trying to reverse that, with assistance from Tyler's libertarian academic friends.

It’s amazing how fast everyone has forgotten the incredible turn around in NYC during the 1st years of Giuliani’s administration. One was used to the blaring of car alarms at night b/c someone broke the window to steal the car stereo and no one paid attention to them b/c the sound was ubiquitous. Subway stairwells were open air urinals and aggressive panhandling the norm.

I think it was Dave Chappelle who once joked about wanting to see the mean streets of Compton and, when he got there, he saw people outside mowing relatively well-kept lawns.

East Coast cities always look gritty, even when crime is down. By contrast, even many of the high crime parts of LA and San Francisco look nice and filmmakers have to be a bit creative and selective to give visual cues of crime and danger.

Two Presidents of the United States have lived in Compton, CA.

San Francisco has always been a transient city and goes through ups and downs. The Bay Area as a whole is much nicer than it used to be, more interesting, cleaner and with far more dining and entertainment options than it had in the last millennium, when I was growing up in the 'burbs and then living in the City. Even the outer neighborhoods like Bernal Heights, Glen Park, West Portal, etc. are nicer than they used to be. Polarization means you can find true decline in a few places with homeless encampments under freeway exits everywhere but especially around downtown SF, which peaked with the dot com crowd in the very late nineties.

It's just like everything else today, you can find support for any opinion if you know how to use Google....

It makes great joint-viewing with David Fincher's Zodiac, based on the same case, which pairs well with Bullitt (where the main character is based on the real-life detective in Zodiac).

Eastwood started directing the same year Dirty Harry came out.

Yes, Play Misty For Me.

Why always talk about planes about to crash?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? In an Eastwood film, suspending disbelief is, well, the point.

If we're talking 1970s Agenda-Cinema, let me point out Corporate-overeach and Community-victimization, through Disaster flicks of the Time:
The Poseidon Adventure
Towering Inferno
Hold up very well and character actors of yesteryear very compelling (though before my time)

Don't forget Airport, Airport '75, Airport '77 and Airport '79!

what an era: Gray Lady Down, Skyjacked, Two-Minute Warning, Earthquake....

Disaster flicks then were what comic book movies are now.

@gdanning: "I mean, it's a movie. What it depicts is not the same as reality. "

...always suprising how many intelligent people somehow take the loose imaginings of Hollywood screenwriters as a factual reality

It is also surprising how many commentors think they are making intelligent post, when they have missed the point. Tyler is talking about scenes filmed outdoors in San Francisco in 1970. it does seem fair to assume that the relative lack of litter and the upkeep of the buildings probably does reflect reality. Unless you think the production crew went out and actually cleaned up streets and alley ways all over the city before filming. Which, I grant, is not impossible since a lot of litter might look distracting on film. But the aerial shots? Come on.

Great movie, of course, but I don’t need it to compare San Francisco over the years. While I have never lived there, I have visited it many times, the first time in 1981 and the last time two years ago. The last time was the worst.

Odd that if a snap shot of The City in a particular era is the subject no one has mentioned "The Laughing Policeman", a very good movie with Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern from 1973.

That's a good 70s cop movie all around. doesn't look to be streaming anywhere i can find.

I know what your thinking punk. Are you aware of your ,imitations

Tyler's usual NIMBY comment completely out of touch with reality. Compare skylines from then to now Tyler. What are all those newer towers downtown? Units and of course our massive new temple to capitalism, the Salesforce tower. Drive Market street, Soma, Third Street and see the city has put in new apartments everywhere. Tyler, it's America's second most densest city but while adding units the goal should not build another Manhattan nor let corrupt officials like Muhammad Nuru push through crone projects. I respect a lot of your thinking, but NIMBY is a pedestrian concept promoted by developers.

Found the guy with the crappy 2 bedroom worth 1.5million. Go kneel down before regulatory capture elsewhere.

Those new downtown towers are walled gardens. Park your car outside one and it watch it get destroyed. The DA's (Chesa Boudin's) solution to this is to use city funds to repair the cars.

COVID may make high office towers unattractive. Who wants to be cooped up in long elevator rides to an office where you can't open the windows? San Francisco's lack of density will position it well for the post pandemic era.

If the pandemic doesn't end quickly it's hard to think of any city in the world that will fall farther and harder than San Francisco.

On the one hand, Bay Area tech companies like Twitter and Facebook have already said that remote work will become a permanent option.

On the other hand, big city amenities will be much diminished. For example, many high-end restaurants will probably not open until there's a vaccine, which could take years. After all, restaurants have no first-mover advantage, they have high upfront startup costs (equipment, decor), and it's impossible to social distance in small dining areas or in cramped kitchens. No sense jumping the gun and then there's a second wave and you have to let go staff and throw out a bunch of food all over again.

On the third hand, anyone who's unemployed even for a few months will leave. Hunkering down and waiting out the recession is impossible with sky-high rents. UBI, even if it happens, won't cover your expenses in San Francisco.

And of course the "poor street conditions".

If the pandemic is still happening in 2021, the flight of revenue-generating residents and businesses will cause a vicious cycle of further deterioration and more exodus. Remember that Detroit too was once a prosperous hub for a key domestic industry.

San Francisco has a beautiful natural setting, a pleasant climate and great architecture. It faces no problems that won't also be greater problems for Boston, New York, Miami or Seattle. I would be fairly bullish on San Francisco longer term, this pandemic may be just what the city needs to restore some balance.

San Francisco has terrible climate. Los Angeles has great climate.

LA has great climate, SF has very good climate, and every other big city in the US (except San Diego) has worse climate than both, in some (or all) dimensions.

You and me both know San Francisco would be much, much denser if it wasn’t for NIMBYism. The amount of economic value that NIMBYs destroy in SF is astounding and completely unacceptable.

+1. The NIMBYism is actually more destructive precisely because of how economically dense the area is.

Nimbyism is more pandemic than Covid-19, as can be seen here.

Tom Wolfe's 1970 mini-book "Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers" is a hilarious portrait of San Francisco's black slums, which barely exist anymore.

"Radical Chic" is the one that gets talked about more, because we're more interested in the upper class. That one was already online, but I transcribed Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers introduced to American literature, in passing, the topic of just how big Samoans are.

Radical chic gets mentioned more because it’s a better term-Wolfe’s overly fey sensibility got the best of him which is a shame because flack-catcher is a good term. But more importantly because radical chic still exists. No one is really that intimidated by the bruthas anymore. Guiliani showed a bunch of Italian and Irish dudes could do plenty of Mau mauing of their own so the entire dynamic the essay depicts is gone.

Bullit with Steve McQueen was a far better movie. It came out when I was in college and my friends and I had the car chase scene perfectly timed. We would go to the drive in five minutes before it started and climb on the fence to watch it. Even after two weeks we still found it thrilling. San Francisco was better portrayed

The underrated Lalo Schiffrin did the sound track for both films!

Lalo Schiffrin is not underrated. He is highly rated and deservedly so.

Films and newsreels from the 1940s through the 1960s appear to show a West Coast cleaner and with higher living standards, and with more ordinary children, than presently.

I grew up in the Los Angeles of the 1950s, and that is my memory also.

Sure, some things cannot be compared such as the ubiquitous mobile tablet or higher technology as applied in medical care. But I doubt that any fresh-faced couples are moving to the West Coast to raise a family anymore, particularly with one spouse staying home.

"more ordinary children": can you elaborate?

Families had children, not pets only and one spouse would work.

I grew up in the Los Angeles of the 1950

So you remember this:

When LA looked like a modern day Chinese industrial city choked with pollution? Do you recall when LA canceled school for the entire month of October back in the 50s due to smog?

"In 1947, more than 300,000 backyard trash incinerators puffed out white plumes -- and black soot -- across the city."

"People would complain -- especially women hanging up their washing outside -- that the ashes and soot from the incinerators would soil their freshly laundered clothing before it got dry," Brunelle said.


in Altadena California in the 1960s, the air quality in summer was so bad it hurt to take a deep breath. Eyes watered.

But still, housing was cheap and people raised families.

Wow! Is it our generation's Sputnik moment? Brazil's Army has produced over two million chloroquine pills? Meanwhile, COVID-19 has put America's Navy out of commission! Has it come to it?!

It has, indeed, come to this.

That's not what Thiago asked. He asked "Has it come to it."

Might mean something if chloroquine actually works- and if it does HCQ would probably be better. Hopefully we will soon know if HCQ works-several large studies in progress.

Although true that Dirty Harry is a movie, there are so many scenes of the city itself, that I think the general condition of San Francisco is accurately portrayed. And I also spent much time in San Francisco circa 1971. It appears to me that much of the city was in fact cleaner in 1971 than today

Given the proliferation of fast food, soft drinks and plastic packaging over the intervening 50 years, you would expect cities to have a lot more litter today, all else being equal. You would expect a lot fewer scattered newspaper fragments and cigarette butts today though.

You may expect, but it doesn't seem to be true. People in most cities seem to be more careful about litter.

...look exactly like the bad parts of all the other cities. And most of SF, like the other cities, is fine to great.

Pair up Dirty Harry with Straw Dogs (1971) for a good 'fascist' double feature.

Quentin Tarantino has some interesting things to say about Eastwood (and others) in his review of Escape for Alcatraz. He's become my favourite writer on movies.

That's only half of it. You need to add "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Cowboys".

Dirty Harry was originally written as a vehicle for John Wayne. The movie may have had quite a different feel with him as the protagonist:

"I know what you're thinking -- did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. Sometimes I fire eight or nine shots from a six shot revolver. But you've got to ask yourself one question -- do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, pilgrim?"

People would read it fash-ier with john wayne, though who knows if it would be a classic for just have the status Wayne's post-Dirty harry cop movies do.

Well, we got John Wayne as a supposedly hard bitten detective a few years later in "Brannigan". Unfortunately, instead of doing a Clint Eastwood impersonation, which would have at least been interesting, John Wayne decided to do a John Wayne impersonation.

Not too many people likely to even admit they saw Brannigan once, much less rewatched it.

John Wayne played in a nice gritty police movie around the same time and it portrays Seattle in all its seedy 1974 splendor. McQ. Worth a watch.

McQ has a 6.3 rating on IMDB when I generally consider a score of 7 to mean something may be worth watching. But if it's not actually boring and is an interesting period piece, maybe I could watch it. But I can't see myself getting around to it. After all, it has to compete with Japanese Anime.

And yet compare just 8 years later with the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake of 1978. Law and order was completely restored. A cleaner city, by the end credits, could not be found. All is well. Just a few dead-enders left.


If I remember correctly, Clint Eastwood's character sees a suspect wanted for kidnapping, and pursues him to his room where there is evidence of his crimes. As the evidence was found in the pursuit, why was it inadmissible in court? I presume this was movie logic to support the theme that the only way to stop people breaking the law is to break the law?

Okay, I'll do "Eiger Sanction", which I saw a few years ago. Definitely did not hold up. The first 45 minutes or so is extremely self-indulgent. Clint wanted to hang out in Arizona, I guess, so the movie you think is set in the Alps has an interminable "getting back into shape" sequence, including the most boring pursuit ever filmed, Clint desultorily jogging through the national forest, chasing the surly, mute, but apparently irresistible Indian girl so he can force himself on her, which it turns out is what she needed or something.

I guess the climbing footage was good but I fortunately the story is too ridiculous to remember. And I'm somebody who really liked "Where Eagles Dare" and didn't find it ridiculous in the least. That's what Tarantino needs, an Alistair MacLean.

Pretty Southwest scenery, though; most old movies serve NIMBY in that way.

The book Broadsword Calling Danny Boy by Geoff Dyer is a funny riff on Where Eagles Dare, which in it's way may be the ultimate "dad movie"

I've spent a lot of time in San Fransisco. It looked like any other 70's city in the 70's. It gentrified and got cleaner and more upscale during the 80's and 90's. It was really nice (and expensive) when I visited there in '99. The Embarcadero and the area south of Market Street became much nicer during the 80's and 90's. The area south of Market Street was rundown and unsafe during the 70's and early 80's. It had gentrified by the oughts.

I think the city peaked around 2000.

It had become slightly run down by '07, which is the last time I visited there. It had one hell of a homeless problem at the time with aggressive panhandlers on Market Street. I'm sure its a lot worse today.

Yes, you'd be right about that. The whole homeless situation is a whole lot worse today, and there is no light at the end of that tunnel.

I stayed at a hostel not far off of Market Street in the early 2010s and they were quite strict about security and locking up at night. That area didn't feel dangerous but it was a bit sketchy. More so than any neighorhood I've ever visited in Manhattan.

I haven't been to SF in a while but downtown definitely was not nice when you visited. The mistake is in comparing it to midtown Manhattan -- for whatever reason, the city doesn't seem to be able to improve Market Street and the tenderloin district of which it forms the southeast border. This area is a notorious area for petty crime and aggressive drug addicts.

Large parts of the rest of the city were nice 10 years ago, though, and I imagine these neighborhoods have become only more posh since.

I remember at the beginning of Oliver Stone's "Salvador" (1986) when James Woods and Jim Belushi's characters are driving through San Francisco they were yelling that it had turned into "Yuppie Town"

I see what you're saying, but I imagine perspective is a powerful force here. I've watched "The Last Waltz" multiple times and am always shocked by the ugly squalor of 1976 San Francisco as the Band drives in to the city. It looks like 2020 Detroit.

Now review Death Wish (1974). Here's what Roger Ebert said about the film: "Death Wish is a quasifascist advertisement for urban vigilantes, done up in a slick and exciting action movie; we like it even while we’re turned off by the message."

That movie is almost shocking to watch nowadays given today's sentiments. It's amazing to me that it was remade in 2018 (although I never saw it so have no idea if it was toned-down.)

I think we forget how much it seemed like cities were on the verge of being completely out of control even by today's standards.

For example, nobody remembers the 1973 death of Evelyn Wagler in Boston when 6 African American youths forced her to pour gasoline over herself and then set her aflame. Things like that were just happening.

Harold and Maude is another great peek at early 70’s Bay Area. On its own merits a much more serious film.

Eastwood didn't look so tough in that one. Even Justin Bieber could kick his ass.

At least when you change one word in this quote - But being this is a. 44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Does Justin feel lucky?'

Thank you so much for this post! Was just thinking about Dirty Harry, how great a movie it is, and how it seems to be forgotten about these days. You rarely see it on lists of great films, lookback essays, etc. One of the most entertaining movies of all time. The Fugitive with Harrison Ford is another great one that has fallen out of the cultural conversation.

You know I think I've only ever seen it once. It would be great to re-watch, no question.

I had friends in school who were paid to be extras for that movie.

This puts into question what else you might incorrectly judge by appearances.

The San Francisco of "Vertigo" makes it seem like a normal American city.

I can’t see Tyler seating down to watch this movie of his own accord. His tastes are way more sophisticated, like watching the black and white director’s cut of Parasite.
If you wanted another very underrated early Eastwood directed movie, watch The Outlaw Josey Wales

This might be the least perceptive perception of Tyler I’ve ever seen.

I was very disappointed with The Outlaw Josey Whales on account of how he doesn't.

Dirty Harry will be available to stream on HBO Max when it launches tomorrow, May 27.

Tyler writes: "You can see how much the debate has shifted from 'how the police treat the guilty' to 'how the police treat the innocent.'" Maybe because we've finally remembered that all suspects have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

"Yana was shocked that Clint Eastwood did not direct the movie, I was amazed when he started directing.Yana was shocked that Clint Eastwood did not direct the movie, I was amazed when he started directing."

Clint's first two scenes as a director are in Dirty Harry, most notably this one:

Killer: "You tried to kill me!"
Harry: "If I tried that your head would be splattered all over this field. Now, where's the girl"

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