Dirty In the 1970s, Outdated By the 80s

Police-themed action movies issued forth like a flood in the 1980s, and it’s hard to find any of them that don’t owe at least a little something to Dirty Harry. Essentially an attempt to transfer Clint Eastwood’s steely persona honed via his work in Westerns into a modern-day San Francisco context, at their best the movies were controversial for all the right reasons – raising questions about police brutality and the rule of law which, despite knee-jerk reactions in some quarters, the movies were handling with more nuance and less simplistically than they were given credit for. At worst, they replicated the worst excesses of their imitators. How did they lose their way? Let’s see if we can find out.

Dirty Harry

Give the original Dirty Harry this much: it’s not at all coy about where it’s coming from, displaying its colours on its sleeve when at the beginning it shows a memorial to San Francisco police department officers killed in the line of duty, effectively dedicating the film to them.

From that opening shot we fade in to our antagonist – Scorpio (Andy Robinson), a character inspired by the Zodiac Killer’s apparently random murders and his taunting of police. Scorpio uses a silenced sniper rifle to observe a random woman in a rooftop pool; after leching over her through the scope, he shoots her dead for the sheer fun of it. Cut to “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) arriving on the crims scene, sussing out where the sniper’s nest must have been, and getting down to some hard-edged police work with a funk soundtrack…

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What Is Worst In Film?

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

So recently I invited Dan and Kyra to come watch the new Conan the Barbarian movie with me, and they agreed because friends don’t let friends go into that sort of situation alone. It gave us a lot to think about and process, and you can rest assured our post-match analysis was pretty animated, but it’s only now that I think I’ve got my thoughts about the film in some sort of logical order.

Spoiler-free summary: it’s so bad that after it was over I went out and immediately bought the blu-ray of the original film so that Arnold Schwarzenegger could take the pain away in glorious high-definition.

But to understand just how much of a failure it is, we need to go right back to the beginning – to the original Dino DeLaurentiis-produced series of Robert E. Howard-themed movies, which spawned a horrifying tidal wave of second-rate imitators. Now, to be fair I’m not averse to 80s barbarian B-movies, but it’s a “so bad it’s good” sort of deal – they’re bizarre, badly acted and bizarrely-costumed cultural wreckage from a particular era and fun to watch when you’re in the mood for something completely fucking laughable, though they’re sufficiently offensive that I wouldn’t blame anyone for reviling them. The new movie is horrendous not just because it fails to replicate the success of the original, but it fails to be entertaining even on the lowest common denominator level of the imitators. Before I get to reviewing the remake, though, I want to give mad love to the original, and give its two sequels a kicking along the way too. Partially because there’s something comforting about shooting fish in a barrel, and partially to put this new failure in context.

In case you didn’t know, by the way, Red Sonja‘s premise and script are based largely on rape. So, Fantasy Rape Watch tag gets ticked, those as are likely to be triggered be warned.

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