Next week AMC is showing the complete Dirty Harry series, five films starring Clint Eastwood as the man who gets things done. To prepare for the week-long series, we talked to James Reeves, a Harry Callahan fan, who says he grew up “knowing there was a sun, a moon and a Clint Eastwood.” He’s also the creator of The-Dirtiest.com, a website all about the renegade cop.
Q: Why is Dirty Harry still so popular?
A: Eastwood used to describe it as a type of wish-fulfillment, where the audience could sit back and say, “Yeah, I’d really like to be able to handle things that confidently in my own life.” It’s also a classic example of an actor and role matching up perfectly. For a great deal of moviegoers, Harry Callahan still represents everything they love most about Eastwood as an actor.
Q: When and why did you create the site?
A: I wanted it to be the kind of website you might stumble across
late at night, and that’s more or less when and how I got the idea for
it way back in 1999. It went online in 2000. My philosophy was that it
should look like a place Dirty Harry would call home — keeping it
relatively simple and centered on the facts. I’m not sure Harry would
have the patience for a bunch of flashy bells and whistles.
Q: Is there anything about the character that’s not on your website?
The great thing about building the site was that I got to immerse
myself in vintage materials, while justifying it as “research.” I
wasted a ridiculous amount of time creating detailed synopsis for each
Dirty Harry book, then ultimately decided not to use them. Of course,
now I’m far too lazy to ever attempt such a geeky stunt again.
Q: Who’s the better vigilante – Harry Callahan or Paul Kersey?
A: Harry was able to maintain a certain level of quality in his
films, while Kersey generally had to be content with B-movie
filmmaking. He also lacked Harry’s ability to keep a girlfriend alive
long enough to see the credits roll. But the Death Wish films
are still wildly entertaining — especially if you can get on board
with their dark humor. Both manage to work on a very satisfying level
of politically-incorrect audience manipulation.
Q: What cinematic moment says everything there is to say about Dirty Harry?
Most people associate the character with one of two scenes: The original film’s “Do I Feel Lucky?” speech or Sudden Impact‘s
“Make my day” moment. Of the two, the former may be the purest example
of why Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry was such a huge hit. Eastwood
walks into the scene as just another Hollywood actor, but you can
almost see him transforming into a superstar during the course of it.
When he delivers the payoff “Well, do ya punk?” line and gives that
cocky grin, it’s just one of those little moments that audiences love.