Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry - Clint Eastwood

There is a comedy slot on BBC Radio 4 at 6:30 p.m. weekdays. One of the programmes is called “I’ve Never Seen Star Wars”. In it the comedian, Marcus Brigstocke, talks to well-known people and encourages them to do something they’ve never done before, especially if every other Tom, Dick and Harry on the planet seems to have done it, loved it and tweeted incessantly about it.

“You’ve never … seen Star Wars/tasted sushi/flown a kite?”, Marcus asks incredulously. “Why not?”. The answers are varied but mostly amount to “I wouldn’t like it”. Ignoring their protests Marcus invites his guests to have a go at several things they have never tried and interviews them again afterwards to see whether they enjoyed their new experiences.

Now, I must confess I’ve never seen Dirty Harry, the famous film starring Clint Eastwood as the tough cop Harry Callahan. If I was a celebrity and Marcus Brigstocke wanted to talk to me for his radio show I’d be glad to watch it – it’s certainly a gap in my education – but, for now, it remains on the growing list of things I missed. Someday, perhaps, I’ll watch it.

Dirty Harry - Demon Days (wide)

There is another Dirty Harry: a track from the Gorillaz album Demon Days. This Harry I know much better. He sits rather awkwardly, though, in the Crotchety Man collection. The album is the only one roosting in the Electronica/Dance pigeonhole tucked away at the back of the dovecote. It’s one of those CDs that only ventures out on high days and holidays but, when it does, it sparkles like the flash of a white dove’s wings in the sunlight.

Demon Days is one of the most original albums I own and originality is the first thing I look for. Well, the first thing I look for after a beat. And a tune. Dirty Harry has all of that. [rap mode ON] There’s a hip hop beat that propels the feet [rap mode OFF] but over the jaunty keyboard rhythm a choir of children sings a simple melody.

I need a gun
to keep myself from harm

What’s this? Cheery kids extolling the virtues of carrying a gun? It would be frightening if it wasn’t so surreal.

The beat plunges on through an instrumental break.

Then some Bootie Brown rapper unleashes a stream of lines that barely scan, words that hardly rhyme and phrases that make little sense. Dirty Harry himself is speaking but he is contradictory or just plain incoherent.

You can’t conceal the hate that consumes ya.
I’m the reason that you fill up your Isuzu.

The rap stutters and splutters over the dulcet tones of viola, cello and double bass, as if classical instruments can give the words some meaning, or perhaps even some genuine profundity. It’s a delightful trick.

When Harry’s gibbering subsides the children return with their message of hope and reassurance. We need guns. Guns protect. Weapons are only for our defence. It stands to reason.

I need a gun
to keep myself from harm

Crotchety Man doesn’t buy that argument. But the music is a work of art, a juxtaposition of utterly contrasting styles that together create something new, stimulating and exciting. A dancing white dove among a flock of cooing grey pigeons.

Dirty Harry - Dove

To wrap up this post, here’s a Wikipedia nugget: In 2008 20th Century Fox conducted a poll of 2000 film fans asking for their favourite weapon from the silver screen. The .44 Magnum, as used (contrary to regulations) by Dirty Harry, came second. Marcus Brigstocke would, I’m sure, be delighted to know that the most popular weapon of all among filmgoers was the lightsaber from the Star Wars movies.

3 thoughts on “Dirty Harry

  1. I’ve heard good things about Damon Albarn’s side project, but never heard it.
    Your review makes me want to add it to the CD bargain bin list – an excellent source of popular albums no longer top of the pops.

    The gun thing is scary. Issue everyone with a toy lightsaber I say. Whoever makes the best sounds as they wave it around, wins the battle.


  2. Toy lightsaber wars… What a great idea! I can’t help feeling, though, it would be like that movie in which Indiana Jones is confronted by a sabre-wielding Turk. With a shrug Harrison Ford would just pull out his handgun and shoot the swordsman dead. Only this time the gunman is the bad guy.


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