I held off on Murder, She Wrote reviews for a while, mainly because I wanted more variety in my posts rather than post up nothing but MSW .
Here in season seven, we lose the vast amount of "guest detective" episodes and are instead given a load of Dennis Stanton episodes. Although these are better than most of the "bookend" episodes from the last season, there is, of course, the lack of Jessica Fletcher that somewhat persists until the next season.
Some significant events in Jessica's life unfold this season. Firstly, Preston Giles (Arthur Hill) is released on parole and rehired by his old publishing firm, but soon after his colleague is murdered, Jessica is unsure whether the first murderer she put behind bars is guilty or innocent. In "Who Killed J.B. Fletcher?", she teams up with a J.B. Fletcher fanclub to solve the murder of one of their members (Jane Withers), who was posing as Jessica. In "Thursday's Child", one of the more hard-hitting episodes of the season (and possibly the series), Jessica helps a woman (Vera Miles) who claims her son (who's suspected of murder) was fathered by Jessica's late husband Frank.
Disc 1 of the set includes a featurette entitled "The Perils of Success" that mainly details the events during seasons six and seven, as well as the infamous "bookend" episodes.
Like pretty much any other season, guest stars provide much entertainment. These include: Jerry Orbach (reprising his role as Harry McGraw), Kevin McCarthy, David Birney, Florence Henderson, Jimmy Dean, Hallie Todd, Ken Swofford, Brenda Vaccaro, Lois Chiles, Max Baer Jr., Michael McKean, David Lansbury (Angela's nephew), Susan Clark, Susan Blakely, Betty Garrett, Lyman Ward, Ricardo Montalban, Patricia Neal, Margaret O'Brien, Kim Hunter, Van Johnson, Sally Struthers, Julie Adams, Ruta Lee, Diane Baker, Brynn Thayer, Dee Wallace Stone, Nina Foch, Monte Markham, Harry Guardino (reprising his role from season three's "Deadline for Murder"), Phyllis Newman, Max Wright, Maxwell Caulfield, Donnelly Rhodes, Hunt Block, and Bradford Dillman.
The fourth entry in the groundbreaking Dirty Harry series is one that for me takes us back to basics. By that, I mean that this film's probably the closest to being as dark, disturbing, and about the same issues as the original. Think of it as Dirty Harry's older, wiser, just-as-moody cousin from out of town.
When a series of murders around San Francisco occur (with each victim getting a bullet in the head and one in the genitals), Harry Callahan is, to put it in a cliched manner, "on the case". Just doing so isn't an easy task, however, since his manner of investigating an unrelated case forces his superiors to force him into a vacation. And even in San Paulo, he gets trouble from the local police (led by Pat Hingle) about being the big-shot city cop.
Sondra Locke is Jennifer Spencer, an artist who is revealed early on to be the murderer of the dead men, enacting revenge on them for the gang rape of her and her sister, who is now in a catatonic state. As she kills each of the men (and a woman) one by one, in San Francisco and later San Paulo, Harry gets closer and closer to discovering the truth behind the murders as well as the rapes that led to them.
Criticism associated with this film mainly centers around Harry's principles when it came to vigilantism. In the first film, he's shown to have lost faith in the justice system he's worked so hard to help enforce. In the second, he refuses to join the group of motorcycle cops who have been murdering criminals who have escaped justice, stating that "until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I'll stick with [the system]" . While I don't have a definite opinion on this, it could look like Harry's view on this has changed between films.
Why did I think this film's probably the closest to the original in more than a few ways? Firstly, Lalo Schifrin's return to scoring the Dirty Harry movies. Though the score's updated and brought into the 80's, there are some bits of the music from the first film showing up here and there. Secondly, the issue of the justice system protecting potential suspects' rights more than enforcing the rights of victims. It's mentioned that Spencer's rape occurred ten years prior to the film, putting it sometime during 1972 or 1973, around the same time Harry was clashing with the police force over the very same problem in the first film. Finally, the scenes of the killer preparing from his/her perspective to carry out the killings are common to pretty much all the films in the series, but the amount of time spent on seeing the process is only as long as Scorpio's preparation to make his killings. And there is, of course, the immortal line "Go ahead, make my day."
Considered one of the darkest and "dirtiest" of the series, Sudden Impact scores a definite recommendation from this blogger.