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WJEC AS Film Studies FM2 US Cinema Comparative Study: Dirty Harry and Gran Torino

Rob Miller | Wednesday September 09, 2015

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS AS, FM2, Section C: US Film Comparative Study, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, American, Directors, Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel, Hollywood Films, Dirty Harry, Gran Torino, Genres & Case Studies, Action, Action Thriller, Drama, Thriller, Western, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Genre, Narrative, Representation

  • Dirty Harry (1971, Don Siegel)
  • Gran Torino (2008, Clint Eastwood)

Centres can choose from a range of different American film texts: the three main areas of study are Messages, Themes and Values, Narrative and Genre, Representation of Time and Place (often linked to messages and values) and Representation of Character. You can compare in Section B but in Section C you must. The above choice of texts reflects films belonging to the same genre but it is very possible to explore two films that encode similar messages and themes from different genres and time periods. Both films need to be contextualised with evidence in the exam drawn from key scenes via close textual analysis.

This is a resource not an exemplar response.

Institutional Context

Both films are all about Clint Eastwood but it would be too simplistic to base the comparative analysis there. 37 years span the two productions with 1971, the year Dirty Harry was released, marking his debut as Director but not on this specific project. Play Misty for Me (1971) was the first film directed by Eastwood who went on to direct 34 more films with the most recent being American Sniper (2014). Dirty Harry was the first of five films over 17 years centred around the character of Police Inspector Harry Callaghan played by Eastwood only one of which, the fourth film, Sudden Impact (1983), was directed by him. None were officially narrative sequels but all followed a similar format exploring similar themes and narrative arcs. The second Dirty Harry film was Magnum Force (1973), followed by The Enforcer (1976) with the fifth and final film being The Dead Pool (1988).

Dirty Harry was directed and produced by Don Siegel who is best known for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the science fiction film from 1956, but also the five films he made starring Eastwood. The film was a critical and commercial success distributed by Warner Bros as one of the big six mainstream Hollywood studios. Dirty Harry...

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