By Clint Morris
I have a confession to make : Though named after the Oscar Winning star of the series, the first â€œDirty Harryâ€ film I saw at a theatre was â€œThe Dead Poolâ€. Yep, I started at the end and made my way back.
It was 1988. I was I my mid-teens. The local theatre had a double feature : â€œHot to Trotâ€ starring Bobcat Goldthwait (remember the one? The guy-with-the-funny-voice had a Horse that talked?) and Clint Eastwoodâ€™s return as â€˜Dirtyâ€™ Harry Callahan. Not knowing any better, I was pretty much only there to see the silly comedy with the wisecracking horse and the â€œPolice Academyâ€ guy.
This would be the day that Iâ€™d meet Lt. Harry Callahan â€“ one of the coolest cats working in the cinematic crime field. And though Iâ€™d seen him in those crazy monkey-buddy comedies (â€œEvery Which Way But Looseâ€?) and in bits-and-pieces of films like â€œHeartbreak Ridgeâ€ and â€œPale Riderâ€ on video, it mightâ€™ve just been my introduction to Eastwood too. At least the first time Iâ€™d ever sat through, from start-to-end, one of his films.
Though I remember enjoying the heck out of it (Guy had a big gun! Whatâ€™s not to like!?), â€œThe Dead Poolâ€ got a real battering from the critics at the time. Having set such a high benchmark with the legendary â€œDirty Harryâ€, anything less â€“ especially something not quite as compelling, and just a little tacky â€“ was always going to be looked upon less than favourably, but people everywhere took a bat to this one. It got savaged. Which is kinda strangeâ€¦ because it ainâ€™t such a bad film.
Revisiting it all these years later â€“ actually, I pop it in the machine every two or three years â€“ I can see why fans (and the critics â€“ all of whom but Roger Ebert, who claimed it to be the best one since the first, loathed it) of the series didnâ€™t really go for this one. Itâ€™s definitely the cheesiest of the series.
In this one, Callahan is trying to find a killer â€“ someone whoâ€™s involved in the â€˜Hollywoodâ€™ game. After film director Peter Swan’s (Liam Neeson â€“ he was starting to do a lot of movies back then, I believe he was also in â€œHigh Spiritsâ€ and that Justine Bateman thing â€œSatisfactionâ€ the same year, but his name meant shit) producer is killed in a Chinatown restaurant robbery, Callahan discovers that he, together with Johnny Squares are part of a game in which participants try to predict the most celebrity deaths, presumably from natural causes or from those that work in dangerous professions, and in a turn of events, two more celebrities (one played by a then-unknown Jim Carrey) on the list are killed.
If thereâ€™s one thing we can all agree on itâ€™s that Eastwood still remembered how to play Harry Callahan â€“ despite the long break between movies. This is the same chap who emptied his chamber on the Scorpio Killer a decade before, no butts about it. Heâ€™s still as tough-as-nails, selfishly independent and markedly reckless.
And while the script itself is nowhere near as gritty, or as memorable, as â€œDirty Harryâ€ or â€œSudden Impactâ€, itâ€™s still fun â€“ though it does get a little hokey in parts (the whole â€˜Special appearance by Guns â€˜Nâ€™ Roses â€“ who provided some of their tunes to the soundtrack â€“ thing is a bit wanky) â€“ and thereâ€™s some great moments. A highlight would have to be the car chase â€“ where a remote controlled car, equipped with explosives, chases down Callahan in his car (sounds ridiculous, but itâ€™s actually well executed).
If the worst kind of sequel the 80s produced were the likes of â€œThe Dead Poolâ€, â€œJaws IV : The Revengeâ€, â€œFright Night Part IIâ€ or â€œA Nightmare on Elm Street 2 : Freddyâ€™s Revengeâ€ then sign me up for a Delorean joyride back to the Dukakis-era any day â€“ sure beats living in a world occupied with uber-expensive over-hyped junk like â€œPirates of the Caribbean : At Worldâ€™s Endâ€, â€œShrek the Thirdâ€, â€œX-Men : The Last Standâ€ and â€œBatman & Robinâ€.
Even if you remember being severely disappointed by â€œThe Dead Poolâ€ first time around, give it another look â€“ youâ€™ll probably find itâ€™s now no worse than the last â€œSpider-Manâ€ flick.
Extras on this new â€˜Deluxe Editionâ€™ DVD include a featurette on some of the musicians, production designers, cinematographers etc that have worked on the series, as well as a reasonably â€“ thereâ€™s a bit too much â€˜dead airâ€™ – Commentary by producer David Valdes and Cinematographer Jack N. Gree.