Kid, a film which was so utterly corruptnand cynical as to present a pair ofnvicious highwaymen as just a couple ofnhappy-go-lucky pranksters out for angood time.nWhat is even more surprising is thenway the critics of the time fawned overnthis trash. Pauline Kael called Bonnienand Clyde “the most excitingly AmericannAmerican movie since The ManchuriannCandidate.” In fact, Kael wasnso stunned that she couldn’t understandnhow anybody could dislike it;n”To ask why people react so angrily tonthe best movies [i.e., ones Kael likes]nand have so littie negative reaction tonpoor ones [ones Kael dislikes] is tonimply that [Bonnie and Clyde’s detractors]nare so unused to the experience ofnart in movies that they fight it.” Shenexplicitly sympathized with the leadncharacters: “[S]ome part of us wants tonbelieve in the tiny possibility that theyncan get away with it. Is that really sonterrible?”nIn a similar vein, John Simon wrotenthat Cool Hand Luke “may have beennthe best American film of 1967,” andnin a generally unfavorable review ofnEasy Rider, wrote, “I would willinglynsympathize with these kids if their casenwere better argued.” Judith Christncalled Bonnie and Clyde “superb” andnnoted appreciatively that the film wasnnot just “another bit of lip service tonmorality.” These, mind you, are thensame people now decrying the violencenof the vigilante films.nAudiences, for their part, flocked tonthese hateful, nihilistic films, and criticsnand fellow filmmakers showerednthem with awards. What the critics ofnthe time failed to understand, however,nwas that a spate of such cynical farenwas bound to produce some sort ofnbacklash. And indeed it did, a backlashnin fact far more extensive andnpopular than the group of films tonwhich it was a reaction.nPeter Yates’s Bullitt (1968), starringnSteve McQueen, took some tentativensteps toward vigilantism, but the genrenreally begins, for all practical purposes,nin 1971, with the release oi DirtynHarry, starring Clint Eastwood. Bynnow, just about everybody has seen ornheard of Dirty Harry, in which Eastwoodnplays rogue cop Harry Callahan,nout to get justice whether society wantsnit or not.nDirected by Donald Siegel with un-ncredited screenplay rewrites by JohnnMilius, Dirty Harry solved the problemnthat had plagued crime films sincentheir inception: it found a way to makenthe cop the True hero by presentingnthe cop as the rebel against the system.nThis was truly a revolutionary idea.nHarry Callahan is continually plaguednnot only by criminals but also by hisnweak-kneed superiors within the department.nHis courageous, principlednrebellion against the bureaucrats in thenSan Francisco Police Departmentnmade him an instant hero with Americannmoviegoers, especially college-agenmales.nDirty Harry presented almost all ofnthe vigilante film’s characteristic elementsnin their first complete incarnation.nClint Eastwood, as Harry Callahan,nportrays a man obsessed with anparticular criminal, a serial-murdererncalled the Scorpio Killer, played bynAndy Robinson. There is the hero’snattachment to his gun, in this casenHarry’s famous .44 Magnum. Therenare the scenes where the killer tauntsnthe police with their inability to catchnand hold him. There are the cowardly,nby-the-books superiors in the SFPD,neffectively exemplified by LieutenantnBressler (Harry Guardino), Harry’snboss. There is the fact that the killer isnapprehended by the hero but releasednon a legal technicality. There are thenviolence, vertiginous pace, and grittynvisual details now inevitable in films ofnthis type.nAnd most memorable—and controversial^—nis the stunning confrontationnat the end between cop and criminal.nWhile the Scorpio Killer, wounded,nlies on the ground, his hand onlyninches from a gun, Harry points hisnsidearm at the killer and dares him tontry to pick up the other gun. Harry:nUh-uh. I know what you’renthinking, punk. You’renthinking, did he fire six shotsnor only five? Now, to tell younthe truth, I’ve forgotten myselfnin all this excitement. Butnbeing as this is a .44 Magnum,nthe most powerful handgun innthe world, and will blow yournhead clean off, you’ve got tonask yourself a question: “Do Infeel lucky?” Well, do you,npunk?nDirty Harry was a seminal film, annnturning point for the crime-film genre,nand, incidentally, a box-office blockbuster.nCritics, on the other hand,nhated the film. Kael, for example,ncalled it “greedy, opportunistic, fascist”nand “a remarkably single-mindednattack on liberal values, with eachnprejudicial detail in place.” She sawnthe film’s ideas as not only wrong butndownright indecent and dangerous:nDirty Harry is obviously just angenre movie, but this actionngenre has always had a fascistnpotential, and it has finallynsurfaced. If crime were causednby super-evil dragons, therenwould be no Miranda, nonEscobedo; we could all benlicensed to kill, like DirtynHarry. But since crime isncaused by deprivation, misery,npsychopathology, and socialninjustice. Dirty Harry is andeeply immoral movie.nDiVfy Harry, for all its success at thenbox office, did not inspire a largennumber of imitators. Eastwood producedna sequel, Magnum Force, inn1973, but few other filmmakersnseemed to have much interest in followingnhis lead. The French Connectionnwas also released in 1971, butnalthough Gene Hackman’s PopeyenDoyle is a likable and hard-nosednhero, the film doesn’t really get intonvigilantism very deeply. Walking Talln(1973), directed by action-film veterannPhil Karlson, was one of the few thatndid.nThen, in 1974, came Death Wish, anharrowing revenge fantasy starringnCharles Bronson and directed by MichaelnWinner. Bronson plays PaulnKersey, a mild-mannered, politicallynliberal engineer who lives in New YorknCity. His wife and daughter are savagelynraped, and his wife dies as anresult. Bronson then takes to the streetsnand makes a hobby of inviting attacknby appearing vulnerable, then turningnon his attackers and killing them. Criticsnwere appalled, but Death Wish wasna popular hit.nAgain, however, there were few imitators.nRoman Polanski’s Chinatownn(1974) and Eastwood’s Magnum Forcen(written by John Milius and MichaelnCimino) contributed an important elementnof this type of film by tracingnmuch of the corruption to the policenAPRIL 1987/4Sn