Friday, February 03, 2012

Magnum Force

I purchased recently (for cheap!) "Magnum Force" [Wiki, IMDB, TCM] and I want to add it to the list of sequels that are better than their originals.

It's not only much more watchable (it has the awesome plane hijack scene) but the politics are better than the original. Most people didn't get Dirty Harry - most notably Pauline Kael, who I've learned since my youth to completely distrust - she was not only wrong most of the time, but disastrously so - I actually think I've lost friends because I recommended movies on her suggestion, I've definitely lost some sanity following her advice on such stinkers like "The Warriors," "Deliverance" and "The Killer Elite" - she had a tin ear for action films, and I suffered.

Kael labeled the film "fascist" but she did not understand the deconstruction of Harry in the film itself. He's meant to be an unlikable character, he's called "Dirty" because he'll do the things others are too ashamed to do. Kael's criticism could be against those who didn't understand that Harry was to be questioned not lauded, but alas she was in the benighted category herself.

In any case, the writer of Magnum Force - the cro-magnon John Milius - says explicitly that he wrote the sequel as a response to the critics. He wanted to explain what real fascism would look like. And as a result the full character of Harry comes out - instead of being a fascist response to the Miranda ruling of the early 70s, Harry was just another cowboy. Which interpretation would be more interesting? Well, the full fascist would be the Stallone characters of the 80s - really stupid expressions of a man being above the law. In Harry, as seen in Magnum Force, we have a person who believes in the Constitution, just not how it was being interpreted at that time. Fascism believes that liberty should be sacrificed for unity of the people, while the American cowboy ethic is libertarian - have as much liberty as possible. Both seem to agree that when a person violates the code, they should be killed. But libertarians believe the only things which violate the code are extreme crimes, while fascists reduce all action against the Polity as crimes.

Also, it had the best main theme - although nothing beats Lalo Schifrin's music for Dirty Harry's school bus scene.

P.S. The latter Dirty Harry films don't get put into the mix; while "Sudden Impact" was decent (it was a rehash of Magnum Force's anti-vigilantism) the "Enforcer" was absolutely ridiculous. And I can't even muster enough memory to recall "The Dead Pool."

No comments: