Clint Eastwood is ‘Dirty Harry’ on Netflix

“I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots, or only five?”

Western icon Clint Eastwood and lean, terse director Don Siegel brought frontier justice to the American cop picture with the angry, violent maverick cop Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry (1971).

Striding the streets of San Francisco with a .44 Magnum (“the most powerful handgun in the world”), he breaks all the rules tracking a psychotic serial killer named Scorpio (Andy Robinson), a not-so-veiled reference to the Zodiac killer.

Harry was made to order for a white, middle class audience nervous about escalating urban violence in the seventies, the go-it-alone John Wayne cowboy for the modern era. For me, Siegel turns Harry into the vivid kind of moral conundrum that makes movies interesting: sexist, blithely bigoted, unconcerned with such details as civil rights, impatient with those pesky bureaucrats that hinder his efforts with laws and orders, but resolute in his mission. In real life he would be up on charges. In the movies he’s just the kind of cowboy these mean streets call for.

Harry Guardino plays Harry’s exasperated boss, Reni Santoni his reluctant new partner, and John Vernon is the Mayor faced with a public relations nightmare every time Harry practices his kind of street justice.

Harry finally turns his back on it all in disgust but Eastwood returned as Harry Callahan in four sequels: Magnum Force (1973), scripted by John Milius and Michael Cimino; The Enforcer (1976) with Tyne Daly, Sudden Impact (1983), directed by Eastwood himself, and The Dead Pool (1988) with Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey.

Rated R

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Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Fandango, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Dirty Harry [Blu-ray Book Packaging]
Dirty Harry Collection (5 films) [Blu-ray]
Dirty Harry: Deluxe Edition (DVD)
Dirty Harry Collection (5 films) [DVD]

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The Blu-ray and DVD releases from Warner Bros. Home Video feature commentary by Eastwood biographer Richard Schickel, the 1993 documentary “The Man From Malpaso,” a sociological/cultural overview of the character, and additional featurettes and interviews. Also available in a box set with the four sequels.

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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