Extreme Cinema! “Go Ahead, Make My Day!”

Clinton “Clint” Eastwood Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American actor, filmmaker, musician, and political figure. After earning success in the Western TV series Rawhide, he rose to international fame with his role as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy of spaghetti Westerns during the 1960s, and as antihero cop Harry Callahan in the five Dirty Harry films throughout the 1970s and 1980s, which is what we’re going to talk about tonight.

I was thinking about how fortunate we are, and how lazy we are because of Blu Ray, because of 1080p or more, we have ultra 4k or higher, I’m told. This is why we don’t go to the movies anymore. We don’t rush out to see a movie anymore, because we’ve turned our living rooms into little movie theaters where we don’t have to be disturbed; that’s incredible to me. Remember how we were talking about the Gladiator transfer? About how it probably looked superior to when the movie came out? This Dirty Harry transfer – it’s not that I don’t think it was superior, I wouldn’t know, but I told you it looked “faithful” to the original movie, I suspect. I like that they didn’t try to bring up the brightness. Cinema was dark back in the day, it was dark and detailed, and I was hoping they didn’t have like a millenial do the transfer, screaming, “It’s too dark! Bring it up!” They stayed faithful to the original release. Good transfer.

This is where we introduce “Dirty” Harry Callahan; December 23rd (a Christmas movie), 1971 – directed by Don Siegel. Harry and Rita Fink created the character with John Milius, Dean Riesner, Terrence Malick, Clint Eastwood, and Joe Heims, and all of those writers contributed to the script.

Magnum Force was released two years later, Christmas Day of 1973, the first sequel to Dirty Harry. This is the first Dirty Harry movie I saw. I saw it a few weeks before Sudden Impact, which was about to premiere on cable television. I remember thinking it was one of the coolest movies I had ever seen up to that point. I really liked it. It was really well-made and I think superior to Dirty Harry, although I asked Bronwyn, and she said she preferred Dirty Harry of the first two movies. This is about a group of rookie motorcycle cops who serve as a vigilante death squad serving under Hal Holbrook.

The Enforcer, directed by James Fargo, written by Stirling Silliphant and Dean Riesner, came out December 22, 1976 – another Christmas movie, that’s threee movies in a row released around Christmas – does the Dirty Harry franchise strike as something festive? “Kids! Another Dirty Harry movies, let’s put a .44 Magnum on the tree this year!” So here we have an SLA-Patty Hearst-type group of revolutionaries. I messed up when I was watching the movie with Bronwyn, because I got it into my head Patty Duke was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army – Patty and her twin, can you imagine that? A hot dog makes her lose control. So, you have this psycho in the group, just a crazy-ass killing machine guy in the group, and they kill Harry’s partner, played by John Mitchum, who was in the first two movies. He dies, so Harry gets a new partner, played by Tyne Daly.

1983’s Sudden Impact, released on December 9th, was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood; the only Dirty Harry entry officially directed by Eastwood, though it’s rumored he helped direct Magnum Force because he had creative differences with Ted Post, and he might’ve assisted Buddy Van Horn directing The Dead Pool, but Van Horn was Clint’s good friend and works on every film Clint makes. This is still my personal favorite of the five. Mostly because we’re looking at the movie, the plot unfolding from the eyes of our heroine, who is really the bad guy when you think about it, right?

The Dead Pool came out in 1988, July 13th. I think there must’ve been issues with the production because I remember seeing trailers for the movie when I still living in Philadelphia, we moved up to New York City in February of 1988; perhaps they were gearing up for a Christmas, 1987 release (all of these Dirty Harry movies are Christmas movies) and they had issues in post-production, or it could’ve been related to issues with Eastwood’s former lover, Sondra Locke. Maybe Ratboy bankrupted Malpaso, who knows? The running time is 91 minutes, so I think some re-editing was done as well.

Written by David Lawler and Andrew La Ganke.
“Love Theme from Extreme Cinema” composed and performed by Alex Saltz.
Introduction written by Bronwyn Knox.
Narrator, “The Voice”: Valerie Sachs.
Artwork by Bronwyn Knox.
Head Title Washer: Ben Lauter.

Running Time: 1:35:13

Here’s a good overview of the Blu-Ray box set.

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Vintage Cable Box: “The Survivors”

New VCB Logo

“There’ll be peace without end, every neighbor a friend, and every man a king!”


“The Survivors”, 1983 (Robin Williams), Columbia Pictures

There’s a hint of desperation in Donald Quinelle (Robin Williams) as he attempts to reach out for the American Dream, or as much of that dream that his middle-class existence will allow. He loses his job and begins to lose his mind. Walter Matthau’s Sonny is a gas station owner who loses his livelihood when Williams inadvertently blows it up. He can’t get unemployment benefits because as the owner of the gas station, he wasn’t an employee, or something along those lines. The two men meet in a diner before a thief named Jack (Jerry Reed) holds up the joint. In the ensuing revolt, Donald is shot.

In the hospital, he becomes demoralized when his heroic actions are decried on the news as being juvenile and mindlessly retaliatory. After Donald appears on the news to rebut the commentary and reveals Sonny’s name on live television, Jack breaks into Sonny’s house to kill him before he can identify his likeness to the cops. Reed claims to have assisted in Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. Donald arrives in the nick of time and rescues Sonny and his teenaged daughter. Reed is arrested and booked.

Donald develops an interest in guns, knives, and survivalism. He invests his savings in a survivalist retreat up north, headed by con-man Wes Huntley (James Wainwright), who is exploiting people’s fears about the rotting big city cess-pool and the failing economy of a once grand nation. Jack tracks Donald to the retreat and Sonny follows in an effort to save Donald from himself and from Jack. While initially adept at weaponry, Donald proves incapable of protecting himself.

“The Survivors” is a wonderful satire, and perhaps my favorite of Robin Williams’ performances, because while the broad comedy palette is more than sufficient for Williams and his antics, the undercurrent of drama and social commentary create an ultimately tragic figure in Donald Quinelle. While Matthau’s Sonny is a pragmatist who tries to keep Donald grounded and safe, he realizes he must surrender to the absurdity of his predicament. The film embraces the fears we all share, and indicts the parasites who seek to take advantage of those fears.

“Hi, Jack. Want some pancakes?”

Director Michael Ritchie had an unusual up-and-down career, making brilliant comedies like “The Bad News Bears” and “Fletch”, and horrible flops like “The Island” and “Student Bodies” as well as marginally successful movies like “The Survivors” and “Semi Tough”. He died in 2001. Walter Matthau appeared, most famously as Oscar Madison in the film version of “The Odd Couple”, as well as the “Grumpy Old Men” movies with Jack Lemmon. Matthau died in 2000. I remember Jerry Reed first for his music. One of my favorite songs ever was a ditty he wrote and recorded titled “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot”. He is most famous for his appearances in the Smokey and the Bandit series, as well as another favorite movie of mine, “Hot Stuff”, directed by Dom DeLuise in 1979. Reed died in 2008.

At the end of the movie, as Donald realizes he has been duped and living a lie in the snow-covered woods, he gets out of the car on the ride home. Sonny follows him and tries to get him back into the car. Donald disrobes and starts shivering in the cold. Sonny gives him his coat. Donald tells him he’ll freeze. Sonny says, “that’s okay, we’ll freeze together”. I was deeply devastated by Williams’ death in August of 2014, and I screened three of his movies that are among my favorites. “The Survivors” was one of them.

“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Douglas MacArthur

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties. You can hear my podcast at Misadventures In BlissVille and you can visit my Facebook group page.