Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

The Enforcer

Cinema Monolith: 8/10 The MonolithFilm Reel
IMDb: 6.8/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on December 22, 1976
Rated R
96 minutes

Directed by James Fargo

Written by Stirling Silliphant and Dean Reisner

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Tyne Daly, Harry Guardino, Bradford Dillman, John Mitchum, DeVeren Bookwalter, John Crawford, Samantha Doane, Bob Hoy, Michael Cavanaugh, Jocelyn Jones, Albert Popwell, George Cheung, Joe Spano

Being a die-hard Clint Eastwood fan as a kid in the early 1970s, it was a momentous occasion when I finally got to see my first Eastwood film on the big screen, his Western classic The Outlaw Josey Wales. Up to that point, I’d only watched Eastwood movies on television, chopped up and edited to my obvious dismay. Then half a year later, I saw my first Dirty Harry film at the theater, and of course that was The Enforcer, the second sequel to the original Dirty Harry and the third time Eastwood played the now-iconic character of SFPD homicide inspector ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan.

In this installment, Callahan must stop a militant group who have not only stolen a cache of weapons from a warehouse, a stash which includes several crates of portable anti-tank missiles, but has killed yet another one of his partners, an act that doesn’t sit well with Harry. When their threats and ransom demands aren’t met, the group—known as the People’s Revolutionary Strike Force—then kidnap the mayor of San Francisco, holding him hostage with a new and much higher ransom amount. With a rookie female partner in tow, Callahan goes after the kidnappers, both to prevent their potential terrorist threat to the city and to avenge his partner’s death.

Needless to say, I had a blast with this one when I was thirteen, and I still had a blast with it a few nights ago, when I watched it for the umpteenth since its release over forty years ago. After some checking on-line, I was shocked to find that The Enforcer wasn’t nearly as appreciated as I thought it would be; in fact, some reviewers ranked it last on their lists of favorite Dirty Harry titles, which baffled me to no end. Lower than Sudden Impact, for chrissake? No way! To me, this was definitely an improvement over Magnum Force, and infinitely more watchable than its two follow-ups.

And as far as the direction, story, and overall look and tone of the film went, all were a major improvement over anything that Magnum Force had to offer, and I thought first-time director James Fargo did a top-notch job staging and composing his scenes; he obviously took some time and effort to create many imaginative shots and angles, which in turn made for some nice cinematic visuals. And the screenplay not only returned to a story concept that focused on a clear-cut definition of good guys and bad guys, but it also supplied Eastwood with smart and believable dialogue and one-liners, and a storyline chock-full of superb—and best of all, fun—Callahan moments.

Even Eastwood seemed more in-tune with the story this time around, returning to his Dirty Harry form that again saw his character display a tough, no-nonsense demeanor, a dry sense of humor, and after his partner is murdered, a vengeful hostility centered squarely on the film’s unlucky antagonists (and at times, the SFPD brass). And I liked his interactions with his new partner, played by Tyne Daly, who was hired on as part of a department-wide affirmative action program, and at first was treated with contempt by Callahan. Soon, however, he grew to respect her skills and tenacity as a fellow homicide inspector, and appreciate her as a partner as well as a friend.

And then there were the many small touches and instances of continuity that I love to see in movies and their sequels, and which The Enforcer was just loaded with. John Mitchum co-starred for a third time as Harry’s part-time inspector partner DiGiorgio, and Harry Guardino made a welcome return as Lieutenant Bressler…but I wish they’d somehow secured John Vernon for a second term as the Mayor. At one point, Kate mentions the names Fanducci and Smith, both ex-partners of Callahan’s and both killed on the job; the former had also been referenced in the first film, while Smith appeared as Harry’s partner in the second. And how about that scene at Candlestick Park, shot during an actual game between the Reds and Giants, where I can plainly see Reds catcher Johnny Bench behind the plate?

So why am I such a fan of The Enforcer, when apparently no one else is? Maybe it’s the memory of that first trip to see it at the theater, and the paperback tie-in and awesome movie poster (a version of which hangs on my wall today) that I picked up after that first screening. Or maybe it’s the visit I made to Alcatraz during a school trip to San Francisco the following summer, where I asked the tour guide where “the guard tower Clint Eastwood blew up in The Enforcer” was. Or perhaps it’s something as simple as this: I think The Enforcer is a pretty damn cool movie, that maybe doesn’t match Dirty Harry for greatness, but closely follows its stellar blueprint, and finishes a strong second.  (8/10)


27 comments on “The Enforcer

  1. Always liked this one and that’s cause I saw it multiple times on TV and VHS as a kid. I believe my first Clint movie was Every Which Way But Loose in a theater. The sequel for sure. Got the poster for this one as well. Best line in this movie that I use frequently….. Actually 2 lines. “You’re a legend in your own mind.” And if I happen to hear someone say they work in personnel I look to my sons if they are around and we all smile cause “personnel is for a_______s”


    • Todd B

      Personnel is for aardvarks? 🙂 Glad to hear someone else enjoyed this one as well, and I did love how Eastwood delivered that personnel line…he seemed so sure about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dracula

    You were 13 to see a R rated movie. Did you sneak in through the back door of the theater?


    • Todd B

      I can’t even remember if the Vineyard had back doors in their theaters…I guess they must have, for fire escapes. But no, my Dad went with me for that one.


  3. Todd I too LOVE The Enforcer. The introduction to “Lacey” was superb, loved his disdain to being partnered up with her and the eventual respect he has. The looks and quips he drops are pure Dirty Harry. It still has a such an emotional punch to it. I haven’t seen it for a few years but your post as ignited a fondness to revisit it very soon.

    I did a post of a Clint Eastwood Funk Attack mix I did last year, featuring the music of Dirty and others. Gives a little insight to my love for the great man too. Plus there’s a picture of the lesser spotted Wolfman out of the moonlight 🙂


    • Todd B

      Cool, yet another fan of The Enforcer! And you’re so right about Eastwood’s way about him was so ‘Dirty Harry’…it’s one big reason why I liked The Enforcer more than Magnum Force. And I checked out your ‘Eastwood Funk Attack’ a few nights ago…very cool indeed, and it helped inspire me while I wrote my Dead Pool review. And to cap it off, a photo of the Wolfman in Talbot mode!

      Liked by 1 person

      • “In Talbot mode” oh very good I like that very much. …. Thanks for checking the music mix, certainly gets you in the mood for action. Plus big kudos for your “Dirty Harry” articles. I just watched the interview scene with Tyne Daly on YT, I really need to watch The Enforcer again, such a brilliant film.


      • Todd B

        You DO need to watch The Enforcer again, AND review it, of course. And thanks for checking out my ‘6 Days of Dirty’ marathon!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Julie Dunning

    Good one!! 🙂


    • Todd B

      My movie or the review? Okay, I’ll play it safe: Yes and Thanks! 😮


  5. I watched Clint and Tyne on Sunday night, what a brilliant re-watch that was. Much shorter than I remembered and got right on into the action straight out the gate. Clint was superb and it was so good watching his mannerisms again. Tyne was young and sweet as I remembered. Secretly hoped the ending was a little different to what I recalled! BTW that has to be one of the first times a “Taser” has appeared on screen? Don’t believe I had seen it used so early! Thanks for inspiring me to watch it again dude


    • Todd B

      Hey, glad you had fun with it…I’ll have my eyes peeled for that review! And I was surprised at its length, too, but there were a lot of cool things packed into those 96 minutes. And you may be right about the Taser fact…offhand I can’t think of any earlier films that used it, except for Mary Poppins.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Except for Mary Poppins LOL hehe. I’ve searched around for ref to early used Tasers in movies but can’t find anything. TBH I never knew they existed that far back until seeing this film again.


      • Todd B

        It looks like Tasers were available in 1974, so that means Mary Poppins and The Barefoot Executive are both out. But The Enforcer was released in 1976, so it has a very good chance of being the first. Maybe Dog Day Afternoon, French Connection II, and McQ are possibilities as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh good choice for contenders of Taser action. 🙂 BTW man I need to see McQ again. Now that has been so long I really can’t remember anything.


      • Todd B

        Good lord, Wolf, I just now found your comment, over a month later! Sorry about that! Anyway…I haven’t seen McQ in ages. That’s the one with the Space Needle scene, right? I seem to remember kinda liking that one, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brannigan, so I can’t say which I prefer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No worries at all Todd. I’m all over the place on replies myself at the moment. Work and stuff gets in the way of fun time! I’m sure you will love Brannigan if you haven’t seen it. He comes over to my side of the pond and swaggers around London, breaking faces. I keep meaning to rewatch as it’s been a long time and it happens to be on Netflix. Where as I need to watch McQ, as I’m 99% sure I haven’t seen it. Looks like a double bill of the Duke is in order 🙂


      • Todd B

        I’m eager to give Brannigan a look, if only to see if John tries a British accent, but it seems it’s only available on UK Netflix, so for now I’m out of luck. Unless I move to Croydon or Watford sometime soon. And be careful when you order that double dose of Duke; you’ll want to make sure it’s Duke Wayne, and not Duke Snider.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh that’s a shame it’s not up on the your region Netflix, hopefully it will appear one days soon. It’s been a while but I don’t think he tries a Brit accent but I sure he gives one or two of his looks to some pompous Brit somewhere the long way as he smashes up the place hehe…

        Croydon and Watford are quite specific random names to pick out your hat? 🙂

        I was worried searching up Duke Snider with your warning lol was pleased to see he smashes balls of a different kind phew! hahaha


      • Todd B

        Who knows, I may have to just buy the Brannigan disc at some point…hopefully it comes as a double feature with McQ. And no, those two UK spots were picked after checking out a map of the London area, and searching for places that had cool classically-British-sounding names!

        And I was hoping you’d look up Snider to see who the hell he was…it’s funny to picture him in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, waving a gun out the window of a car as he drives pell-mell down a crowded Chelmsford street, chasing after a bunch of yobs who insulted him. Now THAT’S a movie I’d like to see!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Snider looks way too cool in his get up. Haha yes I wanna see that film too. Speeding the wrong way down a one way street in 50’s Chelmsford firing off shots. That’s brilliant Todd LOL. Good luck with Brannigan and fingers crossed for that double feature.


      • Todd B

        If I find it I’ll let you know! And look for the complete Duke Snider: Man of Action! series, coming to Blu-ray and HD-DVD in 2019!

        Liked by 1 person

      • LMAO hehe 🙂


  6. Eric Binford

    I can relate. My very first Eastwood movie on the big screen was Escape from Alcatraz, and that’s why it has a very a special place in my heart.


    • Todd B

      Very cool, Eric! Saw that one for the first time at a drive-in near Seattle.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Eric Binford

        Seattle? I lived for many years in WA (Vancouver, Olympia and Spokane). Many wonderful memories! 🙂


      • Todd B

        I lived in Bellevue for a year, in the late ’70s, after my parents moved us up there from San Diego. Not SO wonderful for me, but I did get to see a few Mariners games at the Kingdome!

        Liked by 1 person

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