Leone reimagined Yojimbo as A Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood reworks Lady Snowblood for his Dirty Harry installment, an excoriating analysis of the series' mythic-vigilante ethos. Effortless helicopter shots locate a couple necking inside a car by the cliffside, the woman aims the gun's barrel at the man's crotch and Eastwood cuts from an extreme closeup to a high-angled long shot. Elsewhere, Eastwood's Harry Callahan wanders through a moribund legal system -- told to cool it by superiors, he crashes a Mafia wedding to induce a coronary on the apoplectic capo (an unbilled bit of shtick by Michael V. Gazzo), then foils a diner robbery by dropping by to complain about the sugar in his coffee (the "Make my day" line is delivered, and carved in stone). Harry is "the one constant in an ever-changing universe," but a "dinosaur" per police captain Bradford Dillman, sent to investigate a series of killings in San Paulo, where Sondra Locke, an artist traumatized by a decade-old gang rape, seeks castrating vengeance. Locke produces anguished expressionistic canvases, tracks down the assailants, and confesses her revenge plan to her catatonic sister at the clinic, her rage chilled yet heightened in a starkly poetic two-shot; the rape under the boardwalk is recalled in bruising flashback, bracketed by tracks towards and away from Locke's eyes. Handling the character that made his career, Eastwood clarifies Harry's thirst for justice while nudging him near lampoon -- no sooner has he pulled into his latest beat than he finds himself rushing a retirement-home bus after a criminal (the elderly folks savoring the ride is a gag from Hitchcock, the same film also lending the ominous merry-go-round that figures in Eastwood's baroque finale). Audrie J. Neenan's dyke burlesque is gunned down by Locke, who shatters her own image in a mirror, like Peckinpah's Pat Garrett, while slimy Paul Drake goes from a .44 auto mag to impalement on an unicorn's phallic horn -- at the center is a study of the Dirty Harry macho drive, worked out lucidly by the filmmaker and his avenging muse through doppelgangers, imagery carved out of pitch-black darkness. With Pat Hingle, Jack Thibeau, Michael Currie, and Albert Popwell.
--- Fernando F. Croce