Dirty Harry
Dirty Harry.jpg
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by Don Siegel

Robert Daley

Screenplay Harry Julian Fink
R.M. Fink
Dean Riesner
John Milius (uncredited)
Story by Harry Julian Fink
R.M. Fink
John Heims (uncredited)
Starring Clint Eastwood
Andy Robinson
Harry Guardino
Reni Santoni
John Vernon
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Bruce Surtees
Editing by Carl Pingitore
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) December 22, 1971
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4,000,000
Gross revenue $35,976,000 (domestic)
Followed by Magnum Force

Dirty Harry is a 1971 American crime 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 Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan.

Dirty Harry was a critical and commercial success and set the style for a whole genre of police films. The film 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 2008, Dirty Harry was selected by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.

Plot[edit | edit source]

A sadistic serial killer who calls himself "Scorpio" (Andy Robinson) murders a young woman in a San Francisco swimming pool, using a high-powered .30-06 hunting rifle from the top of 555 California Street. SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) finds a ransom message promising his next victims will be "a Catholic priest or a nigger" if the city does not pay $100,000. The chief of police and the Mayor (John Vernon) assign the inspector to the case.

Callahan interrupts a bank robbery in progress. The inspector—alone with his .44 Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver—challenges one of the robbers, who lies wounded near a loaded 12 gauge Winchester Model 1912 shotgun: 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 as 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 ya, punk?The robber surrenders; Callahan's gun was, in fact, empty.

Callahan is assigned a rookie partner, Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni). The veteran officer notes that his partners always get injured or worse so he needs someone experienced, but has no choice.

Scorpio kills a young black boy from another rooftop, and the police believes the killer will next pursue a Catholic priest. Callahan and Gonzalez wait for Scorpio near the Sts. Peter and Paul Church. A shootout ensues but Scorpio escapes, killing an officer.

Scorpio kidnaps, rapes, and buries alive a teenage girl (Debralee Scott), then demands twice his previous ransom before the girl's air runs out. The mayor decides to pay, and tells Callahan to deliver the money with no tricks, but the inspector wears a wire and brings a knife. Scorpio sends Callahan to various payphones throughout the city to separate the inspector from any backup, but his partner follows him.

The chase ends at the enormous cross at Mount Davidson. Scorpio brutally beats Callahan; Gonzalez arrives and saves his partner, but is wounded. Callahan stabs Scorpio in the leg, but the killer escapes without the money. Gonzalez survives his wound, but decides to resign from the force.

The doctor who treated Scorpio tells Callahan and his new partner, Frank DiGiorgio, that he has seen Scorpio in Kezar Stadium. Running out of time, the officers search the killer's room without a warrant and Callahan shoots Scorpio in his wounded leg. When Scorpio refuses to reveal the location of the girl and instead asks for a lawyer, Callahan tortures the killer by standing on the leg. Scorpio confesses and the police exhumes the dead girl.

Because Callahan broke into Scorpio's home illegally and improperly seized his rifle, the District Attorney decides that the killer cannot be charged. An outraged Callahan follows Scorpio on his own time. Scorpio pays a thug to give him a severe, but controlled beating, then claims that the inspector is responsible. Callahan is ordered to stop following Scorpio, despite his protest that he did not beat the killer.

Scorpio kidnaps a school bus load of children. He demands another ransom and a plane to leave the country. The mayor again insists on paying but Callahan instead pursues Scorpio without authorization, jumping onto the top of the bus from a railroad trestle. The killer flees into into a nearby rock quarry, where he has a gun battle with Callahan. Scorpio retreats until he takes a young boy as a hostage.

The inspector pretends to be willing to surrender then wounds the killer. The boy runs away and Callahan stands over Scorpio, gun drawn. The inspector reprises his "Do you feel lucky, punk?" speech. Scorpio tries his luck and, laughing maniacally, reaches for his gun. The inspector shoots him in the chest, propelling Scorpio into the water. As Callahan watches the dead body float on the surface, he takes out his inspector's badge, angrily hurls it into the water, and walks away.

Cast[edit | edit source]

*Clint Eastwood as Insp. Harry Callahan *Ruth Kobart as Bus Driver

Production[edit | edit source]

Development[edit | edit source]

According to Mark Whitman's book, The Films of Clint Eastwood, the original draft for the script was titled "Dead Right" by Harry Julian and Rita Fink. It was set in New York City, not San Francisco, California, and ended with a police sniper instead of Callahan taking out Scorpio. Another earlier version of the story was set in Seattle, Washington. Four more drafts of the script were written. John Milius wrote a draft of the film inspired by Akira Kurosawa's studies in lone-gun detectives. Milius has also mentioned being influenced by a friend of his, a Long Beach police officer who dealt with criminals in a rather summary fashion. According to Milius, his friend "rarely brought people back" but was, contrastingly, extremely gentle with animals. Quite a bit of Milius' script remains in the finished film, including Harry's mystique and his "Do I feel lucky?" monologue.

Terrence Malick wrote a draft of the film in which Scorpio was a vigilante who killed wealthy criminals who had escaped justice. Malick's ideas formed the basis for the sequel, Magnum Force.

When producer 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 too excessive for television, so the rights were sold to Warner.

Initially, Warner Bros. wanted either Sydney Pollack or Irvin Kershner to direct. Kershner was eventually hired when Frank Sinatra was attached to the title role. But when Sinatra eventually left the film, so did Kershner. Eastwood pushed for Don Siegel when he was cast in the film.

Scorpio, the film's antagonist, was loosely based on the real-life Zodiac Killer, who had committed five murders in the San Francisco Bay Area several years earlier. In a later novelization of the film, Scorpio was referred to as "Charles Davis," an escaped Canadian mental patient who murdered his grandparents while still a teenager.

Casting[edit | edit source]

Although Dirty Harry is arguably Clint Eastwood's signature role, he was not a top contender for the part. Originally the character of Harry Callahan was written as a man in his mid to late 50's. Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, and Frank Sinatra were all offered the role. Sinatra actually accepted the role, however he had broken his wrist during the filming of The Manchurian Candidate eight years previously, and during contract negotiations, he found the large handgun too unwieldy. Additionally, his father had recently died, and Sinatra decided he wanted to do some lighter material. After Sinatra left the project, the producers started to consider younger actors for the role. Marlon Brando was considered for the role, but was never formally approached. Both Steve McQueen and Paul Newman turned down the role. Believing the character was too "right-wing" for him, Newman suggested that the film would be a good vehicle for Eastwood. One of Eastwood's stipulations for accepting the role was the change of locale to San Francisco. Eastwood has claimed that he took the role of Harry Callahan because of the character's obsessive concern with the victims of violent crime. Eastwood felt that the issue of victims' rights was being overshadowed by the political atmosphere of the time.

Audie Murphy was first approached to play the Scorpio Killer, 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. 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 reportedly received several death threats and was forced to get an unlisted telephone number. In real life, Robinson is a pacifist who despises guns. In the early days of principal photography, Robinson would flinch violently every time he fired. Director Don Siegel was forced to shut down production for a time and sent Robinson to a school to learn to fire a gun convincingly. Nonetheless, he still blinks when he shoots. Robinson also reportedly was squeamish about filming the scene where he verbally and physically abuses several schoolchildren.

Principal photography[edit | edit source]

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 Andrew 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 an 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 the current ending.

Filming locations[edit | edit source]

In San Francisco, California:

  • 555 California Street
  • California Hall, 625 Polk Street (until recently, the California Culinary Academy)
  • San Francisco City Hall
  • Hall of Justice - 850 Bryant Street
  • Forest Hill Station
  • Hilton San Francisco Financial District, 750 Kearny Street - rooftop swimming pool in opening scenes
  • Kezar Stadium - Frederick Street, Golden Gate Park
  • Dolores Park, Mission District
  • Mount Davidson
  • Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Washington Square, 666 Filbert Street
  • Washington Square, North Beach
  • Big Al's, 556 Broadway St.
  • Roaring 20's strip club, 552 Broadway
  • North Beach, San Francisco

Other locations:

  • Larkspur Landing — scene of Callahan and Scorpio's showdown, known as the Hutchinson's Rock Quarry when filmed
  • Greenbrae, California
  • Mill Valley, California
  • Universal Studios Hollywood — San Francisco Street (Hot dog café / Bank robbery sequence)

Music[edit | edit source]

The soundtrack for Dirty Harry was created by composer Lalo Schifrin, who had previously collaborated with director 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, 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."

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