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Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Paul Drake, Audrie J. Neenan, Jack Thibeau, Michael Currie
Writing Credits:
Harry Julian Fink (characters), Rita M. Fink (characters), Charles B. Pierce (story), Earl E. Smith (story), Joseph Stinson

Two killers are at large. One of them is Dirty Harry.

Sensitive to outcries of police brutality, the superiors of San Francisco Detective Harry Callahan have sent him on an out-of-town assignment until things cool down. But wherever Harry goes, things just get hotter.

Clint Eastwood hits the mark again in Sudden Impact. Callahan's older, dirtier and the world hasn't gotten better. Which means this fourth Dirty Harry movie (which Eastwood also directs) is explosively exciting, as Callahan tracks a traumatized rape victim (Sondra Locke) coldly gunning down her bygone attackers. Through the five Callahan films, the lawman always struck a powerful chord. But Sudden Impact is particularly potent, fueled by the line that became a national catchphrase: "Go ahead. Make my day."

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$9.688 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$67.642 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Monaural
Spanish Monaural
Japanese Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 6/3/08

• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Richard Schickel
• “The Evolution of Clint Eastwood” Featurette
• “Dirty Harry Trailer Gallery”


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Sudden Impact: Deluxe Edition (1983)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 29, 2008)

Gritty cop Harry Callahan returns after a seven-year absence in 1983’s Sudden Impact. A mysterious blonde (Sondra Locke) offs her partner in a car make-out session. We soon learn her identity: artist Jennifer Spencer. A few years earlier, some goons raped her and her sister, so she sets out to get revenge on them. This initial slaying was her first step along that path.

When Inspector Callahan’s (Clint Eastwood) methods inspire public relations turmoil for the police department, his superiors encourage him to take off a little time. He still can’t stay out of trouble, however, so when his bosses get the chance to send him to the small coastal town of San Paulo to investigate the victim, they go for it. The flick follows Harry’s adventures in San Paulo and his interactions with Jennifer, as he gets to know her without any insights into her murderous ways.

When I wrote about 1971’s original Dirty Harry, I noted that the film’s fascistic lead felt like he’d fit better in the button-down Reagan era than in the more free-spirited early 1970s. Harry’s first three adventures took place with either Nixon or Ford in the White House, but 1983’s Sudden Impact finally connects our anti-hero with the Gipper.

Impact is the first “Dirty Harry” movie I actually remember. I was only nine when its immediate predecessor – 1976’s The Enforcer - hit the screens, so I was obviously too young for such adult fare. However, I can clearly recall Impact and the impression it made on audiences.

When I discussed the ways in which the first three flicks matched with their social climates, some of that was based more on my historical impressions rather than my own experiences. Sure, I was around when they appeared, but it’s not like I was all that in-tune with the times. At the ripe old age of 16, however, I had a better feel for the period when Impact hit, and “Dirty Harry” definitely seemed like a good fit for the national atmosphere.

Which is what makes it ironic that Impact offers the most sympathetic and three-dimensional “villain” of the first four movies. Dirty Harry went with a basic psychopath, while Enforcer featured a strident radical terrorist group. Both flicks boasted cartoony baddies without much nuance to them.

The culprits in Magnum Force have more in common with the vigilante Jennifer, as they were renegade cops out to rid the realm of criminals without bothering to go through the legal system. However, they didn’t have the victim element present in Jennifer. We may or may not condone her methods, but we do understand them. Impact turns its murders into more than the simplistic crimes of the prior flicks. Although I expected Impact to be the most ham-fisted of the “Dirty Harry” films, this element of sympathy for Jennifer makes it arguably the most three-dimensional of the bunch.

However, this doesn’t necessarily make it the best of the series. Indeed, a number of flaws make it less than scintillating. For one, I’m not wild about the casting of Locke. She offers an awfully bland presence, and we never really connect with her. With feel for Jennifer in theory, but via Locke’s dull performance, we don’t care a lot about her in reality. She gives the role an anonymous air.

Some aspects of Impact feel rather contrived as well. The early “Harry on vacation” theme goes nowhere and really seems to have little to do with the story. I could also live without the cutesy gimmicks like the introduction of Harry’s dog and the silly chase in which Harry drives a retirement home bus. These dumb down Impact to an unfortunate degree.

Despite the greater depth accorded its main perpetrator, Impact does give us the violent nastiness expected of a “Dirty Harry” movie. Jennifer may be a full-blooded character, but the mix of other baddies are not; they’re the usual crude, cruel douchebags we expect from the series. Harry gets plenty of opportunities to shoot baddies, and the film provides arguably its most famous line via “go ahead – make my day”.

All of this results in a good but not great “Dirty Harry” adventure. I like the dimensionality involved with its main characters and story, but some bad choices trip it up on occasion. Still, it becomes a reasonably effective work.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C-

Sudden Impact appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. 1980s movies often offered muddy visuals, and that held true for Impact, at least to a moderate degree.

Actually, I sometimes found it tough to discern which problems came from the film stock and which concerns stemmed from cinematic choices. Take sharpness, for instance. There’s a slight gauziness to much of the movie. I thought some of that occurred due to the generally flat look of the era’s stock, but I also wondered if the movie went with a somewhat soft look to melt a few years off an aging Eastwood. Most of the flick showed decent to good delineation, but it could also be less defined than I’d like.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, at least, and edge enhancement remained minimal. Source flaws also failed to create too many concerns. I noticed the occasional speck or piece of debris, but those instances were infrequent. The majority of the flick seemed clean.

I suppose it’s ironic that the 1980s were known for bright, dynamic colors but so many of the era’s movies suffered from bland tones. That trend cropped up during Impact, as it displayed consistently dull hues. Though I didn’t think these looked bad, they tended to appear a bit drab and lifeless. Blacks were inky, and shadows could be too dense, though those varied; some low-light shots were fine, while others were a little thick. All of this added up to a watchable but unmemorable image.

At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Sudden Impact impressed. All four movies to date have offered terrific audio, and Impact continued that trend. The soundfield opened up matters to a satisfying degree. Vehicles moved around the spectrum in a satisfying way, and action scenes used gunfire and other elements to immerse the viewer in the material. Music boasted good stereo imaging, and the surrounds contributed a solid layer of information.

Audio quality held up well over the years. Speech was natural and concise, with no edginess or other problems. Music sounded lively and full, and effects seemed the same. Those elements came across as crisp and accurate throughout the movie, and we heard good bass response. This was a consistently solid soundtrack.

With that, we move to the set’s extras and an audio commentary with film critic Richard Schickel. He presents a running, screen-specific look at cast and crew, story and characters, the impact of the movie’s big catchphrase, reviving the “Dirty Harry” franchise, and some interpretation.

As I mentioned when I reviewed the first Dirty Harry, Schickel’s commentaries tend to be blah, and this one is no exception. Oh, the critic touches on a smattering of interesting subjects, but he just doesn’t tell us enough of significance to sustain our attention through a two-hour movie. This becomes especially true in the slow-paced second hour of his chat; that portion gets really tedious. The overall result is a snoozer of a commentary.

The Evolution of Clint Eastwood runs 25 minutes, 37 seconds as it provides notes from actor/director Eastwood, Schickel, former WB executive John Calley, cinematographer Jack N. Green, authors Neal King, Emanuel Levy and William Beard, editor Joel Cox, filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes, Jay Cocks, Paul Haggis, Peter Hyams, John Lee Hancock, Tom Fontana, John Milius, James Fargo, Steven E. de Souza, Joe Carnahan, and Michael Butler, and actors Michael Madsen, Hal Holbrook, and Tyne Daly. The show takes a look at Eastwood’s directorial work over the years. That means you should expect a lot of praise for Eastwood here. A smattering of decent insights emerge, but not enough to create a particularly involving piece.

The set finishes with a Trailer Gallery. It includes ads for Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool.

One of the most successful “Dirty Harry” movies, Sudden Impact also stands as possibly the most three-dimensional of the bunch. It seems inconsistent and often comes across like two barely connected movies combined into one, but I admire it for trying something ambitious. The DVD provides very good audio along with decent picture and bland extras. This is a mediocre release for a generally positive flick.

A purse-strings note: you can buy Sudden Impact on its own or as part of a seven-DVD “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” boxed set. That package includes Impact along with Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, The Dead Pool, and the documentary Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows. In addition, the set gives fans a small book and some other non-disc-based materials that I’ll cover in the review of the package as a whole.

Purchased separately, the five movies would cost $80.90 MSRP, while the “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” goes for $74.98. If you want all the films, it’s obviously the way to go.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1818 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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