Dirty Harry is a 1971 American action crime thriller film produced and
directed by Don Siegel, the first in the
Dirty Harry series. Clint
Eastwood plays the title role, in his first outing as San Francisco
Police Department (SFPD) Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. The film
drew upon the actual case of the
Zodiac Killer as the Callahan
character seeks out a similar vicious psychopath.
Dirty Harry was a critical and commercial success and set the style
for a whole genre of police films. It was followed by four sequels:
Magnum Force in 1973, The Enforcer in 1976,
Sudden Impact in 1983
(directed by Eastwood himself) and
The Dead Pool in 1988.
In 2012, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film
Registry by the
Library of Congress
Library of Congress for being "culturally,
historically, and aesthetically significant".
3.2 Principal photography
3.3 Filming locations
5.1 Critical reception
5.2 Box office performance
5.3 Home media
7 Real-life copycat crime and killers
9 See also
11 External links
A mysterious killer (Andy Robinson) uses a high precision rifle to
kill a girl in a hotel rooftop swimming pool.
Police arrive at the
crime scene, where SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood)
finds a blackmail note signed "Scorpio" ordering the city to pay
$100,000 or the culprit will continue to kill. The mayor (John Vernon)
asks police officers what is being done to track the killer.
During lunch, Inspector Callahan foils a bank robbery. He kills two of
the robbers and wounds a third. Confronting the wounded robber,
Callahan delivers the film's iconic line:
I know what you’re thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?'
Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost
track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful
handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got
to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do you, punk?
After the robber surrenders, he tells Callahan that he must know if
the gun was still loaded. Callahan pulls the trigger with the weapon
pointed directly at the robber, and laughs as it is revealed to be
Callahan is now wounded and spends brief time at the hospital, but
continues on the case. He is assigned a new police partner, Chico
Gonzalez (Reni Santoni), whom he believes to be an inexperienced
rookie. Scorpio is staking out potential victims near a public park,
but is seen from a police helicopter and runs away. Callahan and his
new partner believe they see him that night on the streets, but in the
course of tracing him to his home, Callahan looks into a window and
briefly watches a sexual encounter before being caught by neighbors
who try to beat him up as a peeping Tom, until Chico interferes.
Based on Scorpio's communications, the city decides he will next try
to kill a Catholic priest. They set up a stake-out, and set Callahan
and Gonzalez on another rooftop from which they can see the building
from which they believe Scorpio will strike. Callahan gets again
distracted watching a sexual encounter. Scorpio arrives and there is a
shootout, in which a policeman disguised as a priest is killed.
Scorpio delivers a second ransom demand to the police, stating he has
now kidnapped a teenage girl who he says will die if his demands are
not met. Callahan is assigned to deliver a case full of money. He
waits near a pier as directed by Scorpio who calls Callahan on a
nearby pay phone, giving him instructions to go to another location in
the city with another payphone, where he will call again. During his
trip through the city, Callahan is confronted by would-be robbers and
a young man seeking gay sex. He encounters Scorpio under the Mount
Davidson cross. Gonzalez has been following them and there is a
shootout between his partner and Scorpio, in which the former is
wounded. After being stabbed in the leg with a knife by Callahan,
Scorpio escapes without the money and reports to a hospital.
The police learn of Scorpio's hospital visit, and a doctor recalls
having met Scorpio previously and remembers he lives in a room at
Kezar Stadium where he also works. Callahan finds Scorpio there. In a
chase across the stadium field, Callahan first shoots Scorpio, and
then tortures him by standing on his wounded leg demanding to know
where the girl is being held. The girl is later found dead in this
The district attorney (Josef Sommer) tells Callahan that Scorpio's
rights have been violated, and they cannot hold him, but must let him
go. Callahan is outraged, but continues to shadow Scorpio on his own
time. Scorpio pays a man $200 to beat him severely, then reports to a
hospital claiming he is a victim of police brutality. Harry's new
partner decides to quit the police force.
Scorpio robs a liquor store and acquires a handgun. He then hijacks a
school bus and contacts the police with yet another ransom demand for
money and a flight out of the Santa Rosa airport. Callahan manages to
jump onto the roof of the hijacked bus from an overpass. After
Callahan forces Scorpio off the bus, the latter flees to a nearby
quarry and holds a boy at gunpoint. Having shot Scorpio through the
shoulder, Callahan reprises his line about losing count of his shots.
Unlike the earlier encounter, Callahan does have one remaining bullet,
with which he kills Scorpio when the latter goes for his gun. Callahan
takes out his inspector's badge and throws it into the water before
Clint Eastwood as SFPD Homicide Inspector Harry Callahan
Andy Robinson as Charles "Scorpio" Davis
Harry Guardino as SFPD Homicide Lt. Al Bressler
Reni Santoni as SFPD Homicide Inspector Chico Gonzalez
John Vernon as The Mayor of San Francisco
John Larch as Chief of Police
John Mitchum as SFPD Homicide Inspector Frank "Fatso" DiGiorgio
Woodrow Parfrey as Jaffe
Josef Sommer as District Attorney William T. Rothko
Mae Mercer as Mrs. Russell
Albert Popwell as Bank robber
Lyn Edgington as Norma Gonzalez
Ruth Kobart as Marcella Platt (school bus driver)
Lois Foraker as Hot Mary
William Paterson as Judge Bannerman
The script, titled Dead Right, by the husband-and-wife team of Harry
Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink, was originally about a hard-edged New
York City police inspector, Harry Callahan, who is determined to stop
Travis, a serial killer, even if he has to skirt the law and accepted
standards of policing, blurring the distinction between criminal and
cop, to address the question as to how far a free, democratic society
can go to protect itself. The original draft ended with a police
sniper, instead of Callahan, shooting Scorpio. Another earlier version
of the story was set in Seattle, Washington. Four more drafts of the
script were written.
Dirty Harry is arguably Clint Eastwood's signature role, he
was not a top contender for the part. The role of Harry Callahan was
John Wayne and Frank Sinatra, and later to Robert
Mitchum, Steve McQueen, and Burt Lancaster. In his 1980 interview
with Playboy, George C. Scott claimed that he was initially offered
the role, but the script's violent nature led him to turn it down.
Jennings Lang initially could not find an actor to take
the role of Callahan, he sold the film rights to ABC Television.
Although ABC wanted to turn it into a television film, the amount of
violence in the script was deemed excessive for television, so the
rights were sold to Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. purchased the script with a view to casting Frank Sinatra
in the lead. Sinatra was 55 at the time and since the character of
Harry Callahan was originally written as a man in his mid-to-late 50s
(and Eastwood was then only 41), Sinatra fit the character profile.
Warner Bros. wanted either
Sydney Pollack or Irvin Kershner
to direct. Kershner was eventually hired when Sinatra was attached
to the title role, but when Sinatra eventually left the film, so did
John Milius was asked to work on the script when Sinatra was attached,
along with Kershner as director. Milius claimed he was requested to
write the screenplay for Sinatra in three weeks. Terrence Malick
wrote a draft of the film dated November 1970 (
John Milius and Harry
Julian Fink are also named as co-writers) in which the shooter (also
named Travis) was a vigilante who killed wealthy criminals who had
escaped justice.[page needed] Malick's ideas formed the basis
for the sequel, Magnum Force, though with a group of vigilante
motorcycle cops instead of a single shooter.
Details about the film were first released in film industry trade
papers in April, September and November 1970, with Frank Sinatra
attached as Harry Callahan and
Irvin Kershner listed as director and
producer, with Arthur Jacobson acting as associate producer.
After Sinatra left the project, the producers started to consider
younger actors for the role.
Burt Lancaster turned down the lead role
because he strongly disagreed with the violent,
end-justifies-the-means moral of the story. He believed the role and
plot contradicted his belief in collective responsibility for criminal
and social justice and the protection of individual
Marlon Brando was considered for the
role, but was never formally approached. Both
Steve McQueen and Paul
Newman turned down the role. McQueen refused to make another "cop
Bullitt (1968). He would also turn down the lead in The
French Connection the same year, giving the same reason. Believing the
character was too "right-wing" for him, Newman suggested that the film
would be a good vehicle for Eastwood.
The screenplay was initially brought to Eastwood’s attention around
1969 by Jennings Lang. Warner Bros offered him the part while still in
post-production for his directorial debut film Play Misty for Me. By
December 17, 1970, a Warner Brothers studio press release announced
Clint Eastwood would star in as well as produce the film through
his company, Malpaso.
Eastwood was given a number of scripts, but he ultimately reverted to
the original as the best vehicle for him. In a 2009
Eastwood said "So I said, 'I'll do it,' but since they had initially
talked to me, there had been all these rewrites. I said, 'I'm only
interested in the original script'." Looking back on the 1971 Don
Siegel film, he remembered "[The rewrites had changed] everything.
They had Marine snipers coming on in the end. And I said, 'No. This is
losing the point of the whole story, of the guy chasing the killer
down. It's becoming an extravaganza that's losing its character.' They
said, 'OK, do what you want.' So, we went and made it."
Eastwood also agreed to star in the film only on condition that Don
Siegel direct. Siegel was under contract to Universal at the time, and
Eastwood personally went to the studio heads to ask them to "loan"
Siegel to Warner. The two had just completed the movie The Beguiled
Scorpio was loosely based on the real-life Zodiac Killer, an
unidentified serial killer who had committed five murders in the San
Francisco Bay Area several years earlier. Elements of Gary Stephen
Krist were also worked into the characterization, as Scorpio, like
Krist, kidnaps a young girl and buries her alive while demanding
ransom. In a later novelization of the film, Scorpio was referred to
as "Charles Davis", a former mental patient from Springfield,
Massachusetts who murdered his grandparents as a teenager. There
are significant differences between the book and the film. Among the
differences are: Scorpio's point of view — in the book he uses
astrology to make decisions (including being inspired to abduct Ann
Mary Deacon); Harry working on a murder case involving a mugger before
he is assigned to Scorpio; the omission of the suicide jumper; and
Harry throwing away his badge at the end.
Audie Murphy was initially
considered to play Scorpio, but he died in a plane crash before his
decision on the offer could be made. When Kershner and Sinatra
were still attached to the project,
James Caan was under consideration
for the role of Scorpio. The part eventually went to a relatively
unknown actor, Andy Robinson. Eastwood had seen Robinson in a play
called Subject to Fits and recommended him for the role of Scorpio;
his unkempt appearance fit the bill for a psychologically unbalanced
hippie. Siegel told Robinson that he cast him in the role of the
Scorpio killer because he wanted someone "with a face like a
choirboy". Robinson's portrayal was so memorable that after the film
was released he was reported to have received several death threats
and was forced to get an unlisted telephone number. In real life,
Robinson is a pacifist who deplores the use of firearms. Early in
principal photography on the film, Robinson would reportedly flinch in
discomfort every time he was required to use a gun. As a result,
Siegel was forced to halt production briefly and sent Robinson for
brief training in order to learn how to fire a gun convincingly.
Milius says his main contribution to the film was "a lot of guns. And
the attitude of Dirty Harry, being a cop who was ruthless. I think
it's fairly obvious if you look at the rest of my work what parts are
mine. The cop being the same as the killer except he has a badge. And
being lonely... I wanted it to be like Stray Dog; I was thinking in
terms of Kurosawa's detective films." He added:
In my script version, there's just more outrageous Milius crap where I
had the killer in the bus with a flamethrower. I tried to make the guy
as outrageous as possible. I had him get a police photographer to take
a picture of him with all the kids lined up at the school – he
kidnaps them at the school, actually – and they showed the picture
to the other police after he's made his demands; he wants a 747 to
take him away to a country where he'll be free of police harassment
[Milius laughs uproariously], terrible things like this. And the
children all end up like a graduation picture, and the teacher is
saying, "What is that object under Andy Robinson?" and a cop says,
"That's a claymore mine." Teacher asks, "What's a claymore mine?" And
we hear the voice of Harry say, "If he sets it off, they're all
spaghetti." Chief says, "That's enough, Harry." Everybody said,
"That's too much, John; we can't have Milius doing this kind of
stuff." I wanted the guy to be just totally outrageous all the time,
and he is. I think Siegel restrained it enough.
John Milius owns one of the actual Model 29s used in
principal photography in
Dirty Harry and Magnum Force. As of March
2012 it is on loan to the
National Firearms Museum
National Firearms Museum in Fairfax,
Virginia, and is in the Hollywood Guns display in the William B. Ruger
Glenn Wright, Eastwood's costume designer since Rawhide, was
responsible for creating Callahan's distinctive old-fashioned brown
and yellow checked jacket to emphasize his strong values in pursuing
crime. Filming for
Dirty Harry began in April 1971 and involved
some risky stunts, with much footage shot at night and filming the
San Francisco aerially, a technique for which the film series
is renowned. Eastwood performed the stunt in which he jumps onto
the roof of the hijacked school bus from a bridge, without a stunt
double. His face is clearly visible throughout the shot. Eastwood also
directed the suicide-jumper scene.
The line, "My, that's a big one," spoken by Scorpio when Callahan
removes his gun, was an ad-lib by Robinson. The crew broke into
laughter as a result of the double entendre and the scene had to be
re-shot, but the line stayed.
The final scene, in which Callahan throws his badge into the water, is
a homage to a similar scene from 1952's High Noon. Eastwood
initially did not want to toss the badge, believing it indicated that
Callahan was quitting the police department. Siegel argued that
tossing the badge was instead Callahan's indication of casting away
the inefficiency of the police force's rules and bureaucracy.
Although Eastwood was able to convince Siegel not to have Callahan
toss the badge, when the scene was filmed, Eastwood changed his mind
and went with Siegel's preferred ending.
One evening Eastwood and Siegel had been watching the San Francisco
Kezar Stadium in the last game of the season and thought the
eerie Greek amphitheater-like setting would be an excellent location
for shooting one of the scenes where Callahan encounters Scorpio.
In San Francisco, California
555 California Street, The Bank of America Building
California Hall, 625
Polk Street (formerly the California Culinary
San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
Hall of Justice
Hall of Justice – 850 Bryant Street
Forest Hill Station
Holiday Inn Chinatown, 750 Kearny Street – rooftop swimming pool
37°47′42.7″N 122°24′15.7″W / 37.795194°N
122.404361°W / 37.795194; -122.404361 in the opening scenes. It is
now the Hilton – Chinatown.
Kezar Stadium – Frederick Street, Golden Gate Park
Sts. Peter and Paul Church, north of Washington Square, 666 Filbert
Washington Square, North Beach
Krausgrill Place, northeast of Washington Square
Medau Place, northeast of Washington Square
Jasper Alley, east of Washington Square
Big Al's strip club, 556 Broadway
Roaring 20's strip club, 552 Broadway
North Beach, San Francisco
Lombard Street, San Francisco
In Marin County, California
Hutchinson's Rock Quarry — scene of Callahan and
Scorpio's showdown, later filled in and redeveloped as Larkspur
Landing Shopping Center and Larkspur Shores Apartments, north of
the Larkspur Ferry Terminal
Mill Valley, California
In Los Angeles County, California
Universal Studios Hollywood —
San Francisco Street (diner /
bank robbery sequence)
The soundtrack for
Dirty Harry was created by composer Lalo Schifrin,
who created the iconic music for both the theme of Mission: Impossible
Bullitt soundtrack, and who had previously collaborated with
Don Siegel in the production of Coogan's Bluff and The
Beguiled, both also starring Clint Eastwood. Schifrin fused a wide
variety of influences, including classical music, jazz and psychedelic
rock, along with Edda Dell'Orso-style vocals, into a score that "could
best be described as acid jazz some 25 years before that genre began".
According to one reviewer, the
Dirty Harry soundtrack's influence "is
paramount, heard daily in movies, on television, and in modern jazz
and rock music".
The film caused controversy when it was released, sparking debate over
issues ranging from police brutality to victims' rights and the nature
of law enforcement. Feminists in particular were outraged by the film
and at the
44th Academy Awards
44th Academy Awards protested outside the Dorothy Chandler
Pavilion, holding up banners which read messages such as "Dirty Harry
is a Rotten Pig".
Jay Cocks of Time praised Eastwood's performance as Dirty Harry,
describing him as "giving his best performance so far, tense, tough,
full of implicit identification with his character". Neal Gabler
also praised Eastwood's performance in the film: "There's an
incredible pleasure in watching
Clint Eastwood do what he does, and he
does it so well." Film critic Roger Ebert, while praising the
film's technical merits, denounced its "fascist moral position". A
section of the Philippine police force ordered a print of the film for
use as a training film.
Since its release, the film's critical reputation has grown in
Dirty Harry was selected in 2008 by Empire magazine as one of
The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. It was placed similarly on
The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made list by The New York Times. In
Total Film included the film on its list of The 100
Greatest Movies of All Time.
TV Guide and Vanity Fair also
included the film on their lists of the 50 best movies.
A generation later,
Dirty Harry is now regarded as one of the best
films of 1971. Based mainly on reviews from the 2000s, the
film holds a 95% approval rating on the review aggregate website
Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated at the Edgar Allan Poe Awards
for Best Motion Picture.
In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and
stunt actors to list their top action films.
Dirty Harry was
listed at 78th place in this list.
John Milius later said he loved the film. "I think it's a great film,
one of the few recent great films, more important than The Godfather.
It's larger than the sum of its parts; I don't think it's so
brilliantly written or so brilliantly acted. Siegel can take more
credit than anyone for it."
Box office performance
The benefit world premiere of
Dirty Harry was held at Loews' Market
Street Cinema, 1077 Market Street (San Francisco), on December 22,
1971. The film was the fourth-highest-grossing film of 1971,
earning an approximate total of $36 million in its U.S. theatrical
release, making it a major financial success in comparison with its
modest $4 million budget.
Warner Home Video owns rights to the
Dirty Harry series. The studio
first released the film to VHS and Betamax in 1979.
Dirty Harry (1971)
has been remastered for DVD three times — in 1998, 2001 and
2008. It has been repurposed for several DVD box sets. Dirty Harry
made its high-definition debut with the 2008
Blu-ray Disc. The
commentator on the 2008 DVD is
Clint Eastwood biographer Richard
Schickel. The film, along with its sequels, has been released in
high definition, on various
Digital distribution services, including
the iTunes Store.
Dirty Harry received recognition from the American Film Institute. The
film was ranked #41 on 100 Years...100 Thrills, a list of America's
most heart-pounding movies. Harry Callahan was selected as the
17th greatest movie hero on 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains.
The movie's famous quote "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do
I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" was ranked 51st on 100 Years...100
Dirty Harry was also on the ballot for several other
AFI's 100 series lists including 100 Years...100 Movies, 100
Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition), and 100 Years of
Real-life copycat crime and killers
The film supposedly inspired a real-life crime, the Faraday School
kidnapping. In October 1972, soon after the release of the movie
in Australia, two armed men (one of whom coincidentally had the last
name 'Eastwood') kidnapped a teacher and six school children in
Victoria. They demanded a $1 million ransom. The state government
agreed to pay, but the children managed to escape and the kidnappers
were subsequently jailed.
In September 1981 a case occurred in Germany, under circumstances
quite similar to the
Barbara Jane Mackle case: A ten-year-old girl,
Ursula Hermann, was buried alive in a box fitted with ventilation,
lighting and sanitary systems to be held for ransom. The girl
suffocated in her prison within 48 hours of her abduction because
autumn leaves had clogged up the ventilation duct. Twenty-seven years
later, a couple was arrested and tried for kidnapping and murder on
circumstantial evidence. According to the Daily Mail, the couple were
inspired by the film Dirty Harry, in which Scorpio kidnaps a girl and
places her in an underground box. This case was also dealt with in
the German TV series Aktenzeichen XY ... ungelöst.
Harry Callahan pointing his S&W Model 29
Eastwood's iconic portrayal of the blunt, cynical, unorthodox
detective, who is seemingly in perpetual trouble with his incompetent
bosses, set the style for a number of his later roles and, indeed, a
whole genre of "loose-cannon" cop films. The film resonated with an
American public that had become weary and frustrated with the
increasing violent urban crime that was characteristic of the
time. The film was released at a time when there were frequent
reports of local and federal police committing offences and
overstepping their authority by entrapment and obstruction of
justice. Author McGilligan, argued that America needed a hero, a
winner at a time when the authorities were losing the battle against
crime. The box-office success of
Dirty Harry led to the production
of four sequels.
In the 2007 film Zodiac, also set in
San Francisco and inspired by the
Zodiac Killer, cartoonist
Robert Graysmith approaches police detective
Dave Toschi at the cinema, where he is watching
Dirty Harry with his
wife. When Graysmith tells Toschi he is going to catch the Zodiac
killer, Toschi replies, "Pal? They're already making movies about
Dirty Harry helped popularize the Smith & Wesson Model 29
revolver, chambered for the powerful
.44 Magnum cartridge, and
initiated an increase in sales of the handgun. In 2010, artist
James Georgopoulos included the screen-used guns from
Dirty Harry in
his Guns of Cinema series.
List of American films of 1971
Zodiac Killer in popular culture
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