Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Magnum Force (1973) ***

R, 124 min.
Director: Ted Post
Writers: John Milius, Michael Cimino, Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitch Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven, Robert Urich, Felton Perry, Maurice Argent

Today was the first day of school. That meant an early morning for everyone. Our youngest took the bus for the first time this morning. Everyone was up for it, including myself. I’d planned on getting off to bed early last night. I had written an obituary entry for this blog about the great Elmore Leonard. I already had a review in the bag for today’s entry, and then I learned of the news that Leonard was not the only cinematic influence who passed away yesterday.

Television and film director Ted Post died Tuesday August 20, 2013 at the age of 95. Although not known as one of the directing greats, Post was a prolific director. Although he did direct films, he was most prolific in television where he directed for such shows as “The Peacemaker”, “Danger”, “Rawhide”, “Gunsmoke”, “Combat!”, “Perry Mason”, “The Rifleman”, “Peyton Place”, “The Twilight Zone”, “The Defenders”, and “Cagney & Lacey” among many others. I don’t know an incredible amount about his body of work, but he did direct three films in my large film collection. So, I just couldn’t help myself. I had to watch one despite the busy day I had planned.

He directed Clint Eastwood in “Hang ‘Em High” and “Magnum Force”, the first “Dirty Harry” sequel. I went with the Dirty Harry.

“Magnum Force” is a natural extension of the themes explored in the first movie centering on San Francisco detective Harry Callahan, a cop who works within the system put pushes its bounds with a brand of justice that boarders upon brutality. The second film in the five-film series focuses on a vigilante traffic cop, who seems to have snapped and crosses that line upon which Callahan teeters. It’s a study on just where that line that some fear Harry crosses himself lies.

The movie isn’t as rich as the first Dirty Harry, but it’s still something more than just an action-laced police procedural. Harry’s moral code seems to be very well defined for himself; the rest of law enforcement in general, along with the public’s sense of justice, seems to be in flux, however. Where is the line?

How does Callahan’s justice come across as so simple to the audience, I wonder? That’s something that still escapes me as a writer? To take a character that everyone in the world around them questions, yet the audience doesn’t. When Harry blows away a perp it seems just. But what this other police officer does in the film is so obviously wrong, even though he is only killing the worst criminal elements at first. I guess it lies within the intent. Harry always intends to bring the guy in. Well, no, that’s not true. He doesn’t in the final scenes in both of the first two films. He doesn’t in the others films either, yet we don’t really question his choices. I think he exhausts the righteous way first. Only when that doesn’t work does he move on to extreme measures.

Anyway, Ted Post had a hand in one of my favorite crime hero’s exploits. For that I thank him.

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