Film / Dirty Harry

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Ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do you, punk?

"Go ahead. Make my day."

This is a series of five films starring Clint Eastwood as San Francisco Police Department detective "Dirty" Harry Callahan. He is one of the earliest examples of the Cowboy Cop. His main weapon is the Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 magnum revolver.

Dirty Harry, the first film, is credited with inspiring the tone and themes of modern cop films. Clint Eastwood portrays the iconic blunt, cynical, "the buck stops here" kind of law enforcer constantly at odds with his incompetent, strictly-by-the-book bosses. The hero's relentless pursuit of justice kicks, stomps on, and blasts gaping holes through constitutionally protected rights, causing many to accuse the film of carrying a fascist, or at least authoritarian, undertone (compare, for example, with the thematically similar Judge Dredd comic and movie franchise). As a result of the controversy surrounding the first film, the sequels tried to balance out the ideology, having Harry's bad guys span the length of the political morality spectrum.

Films:
  • Dirty Harry (1971): Callahan tracks down a Serial Killer who goes by the name Scorpio.
  • Magnum Force (1973): Callahan goes up against some renegade cops who have formed a death squad.
  • The Enforcer (1976): Callahan and his new female partner go after a terrorist group that has kidnapped the mayor.
  • Sudden Impact (1983): Callahan investigates a series of killings done by a rape victim on her quest for revenge.
  • The Dead Pool (1988): Callahan investigates a series of celebrity deaths who had been predicted to die in a dead pool racket — and finds that his own name is on the list.

Tropes used:

  • Accidental Pervert: "Now I know why they call you Dirty Harry."
  • All There in the Manual: In the original script, and the novelization, the Scorpio's name is Charles Davis and he's an escaped mental patient from Springfield, Massachusetts. In the film he remains The Nameless with no explanation of his background or motives.
  • Anti-Hero: Dirty Harry himself. From the words of Don Siegel himself:
    "I was telling the story of a hard-nosed cop and a dangerous killer. What my liberal friends did not grasp was that the cop is almost as evil, in his way, as the sniper."
  • Artistic License – Law: See Off on a Technicality.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Scorpio Killer, in spades.
    • Mick the Rapist as well.
  • Badass Boast:
    • After Scorpio pays a man to beat him severely as part of a frame up, Harry defends himself from Scorpio's claim that Harry beat him, saying that "(Scorpio) looks too damn good" to have been beaten by Harry.
    • There is also the now-famous "Do I Feel Lucky" quote, since during the first instance he says it, he is effectively making a man surrender with an unloaded gun and verbal intimidation alone.
  • Ballistic Discount: Variant. At a liquor store, Scorpio gets the clerk to show him the gun he keeps for protection. He is then able to surprise the clerk and take the weapon.
  • BFG: This film sees Harry using a Winchester Model 70, chambered in the massive .458 Winchester Magnum cartridge to try and kill Scorpio in a rooftop shootout. Because of its parabolic trajectory, it's a very poor choice for countersniper duties, but fits his personality perfectly.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Scorpio is a monster, but Harry uses some rather questionable methods to defeat him.
  • Bookends: The first film begins and ends with Harry delivering his famous "Do I feel lucky?" speech, first to a bank robber and second to Scorpio himself.
  • Boomerang Bigot: De Giorgio claims Harry to be one, considering that he names honkies as one of several specific races he hates.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Subverted. If you count how many rounds Harry expends in a scene, you'll notice he almost never shoots over his six-bullet limit and you almost always see him reload.
  • Briefcase Blaster: Scorpio carried his disassembled sporterised Arisaka rifle and an MP 40, plus several spare magazines, in a suitcase.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Harry Callahan himself.
    The Mayor: I don't want any more trouble like you had last year in the Filmore district. Understand? That's my policy.
    Harry Callahan: Yeah, well, when an adult male is chasing a female with intent to commit rape, I shoot the bastard. That's my policy.
    The Mayor: Intent? How did you establish that?
    Harry Callahan: When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for The Red Cross.
  • Dead Partner: Pretty much all of Callahan's partners end up dead or in the hospital, as he notes.
  • A Degree in Useless: When Chico tells Harry that his college major was in Sociology, Harry sarcastically tells him that he'll go far.
  • Description Porn:
    Harry Callahan: "I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Now, to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"
  • Distracted by the Sexy: On a stakeout, Harry decides for a moment that an undressing woman is more interesting to watch, and he nearly misses the crook.
  • The Dog Shot First: Harry only fired five shots in the theatrical version, but a sixth shot was added in the DVD. Originally, he fires five shots in single action, cocks the hammer to confront the surviving bank robber, lowers the hammer when the robber backs down, then cocks the hammer (rotating the cylinder to a previously fired chamber) and pulls the trigger - clicking the hammer on a spent case - when the robber says "I gots to know". By adding another shot, the confrontation was turned into a bluff.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Justified since firing .44 Magnum rounds with a double-action pull would be highly inaccurate.
  • Exalted Torturer: Possibly the Trope Maker for film depictions in the US, and something of an Unbuilt Trope, at that. He gets an admission of guilt out of the Scorpio Killer by stomping on his injured leg, but Reality Ensues and Harry is informed by his superiors that the confession can't be used in court because he obtained it through illegal interrogation means.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • The movie opens with a lovely young swimsuited woman going for a swim... who then becomes Scorpio's first victim.
    • We get to see poor Mary Ann's nude corpse being disinterred.
  • Finger in the Mail: Scorpio kidnaps a 14-year-old girl, sending the police her bra, a lock of hair, and a bloody tooth "pulled out with a pair of pliers".
  • Foreshadowing: Dirty Harry warns the police that the Scorpio Killer is going to kill again after they decide to let him go. Not too long afterwards, he decides to kidnap a whole bus of children.
  • For the Evulz: Scorpio seems to just be killing for the sake of it. Women, children, priests, it doesn't seem to matter to him. Even when Harry brings him the ransom money, he tells him that he's decided to let the girl die anyway.
  • Freudian Excuse: Invoked: the chief of police asserts that it is likely Scorpio will return to the scene of the crime because of the compulsive behaviour criminals tend to exhibit, muttering that it must be to "feed their superego or something". Averted insofar as no clues are given as to Scorpio's backstory, motivations or even his name.
  • Give Me a Reason: "Go ahead, make my day."
  • Good Is Not Nice and Soft: A major theme of this series, since the title character is portrayed as frequently doing cruel but necessary things. Summed up with a remark he made after punching in the face someone who was trying to commit suicide: "Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry. Every dirty job that comes along..."
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The 10-year-old's injuries are not shown, though Harry is noticeably Squicked about it, and Harry's partner Chico turns away disgusted.
  • Hand Cannon: .44 Magnum, "the most powerful handgun in the world". note 
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Harry, according to De Giorgio.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted. After being stabbed and later shot in the leg by Harry, Scorpio has a limp for the rest of the movie.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Scorpio attaches a Hiram Maxim 1900's style suppressor to his rifle, but it both doesn't make a "fwip" noise, and is attached with screws Scorpio is seen screwing in at the beginning, thus making this an aversion, though a suppressor that size might burst from the pressures of a .30-'06.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • An interesting aversion: When Harry notes that he was justified in shooting a man he was sure had intent to rape, and his superior reacts skeptically, Harry replies, "When a naked man is chasing a woman through an alley with a butcher knife and a hard-on, I figure he isn't out collecting for The Red Cross." This would be considered a legally justified shooting, under "Plain Sight", which says that if a cop sees a crime in the process of being committed right in front of him, he's allowed to engage the perpetrator, without a warrant. Said rule also is applicable to Harry's takedown of the bank robbery crew, which is why he's cleared of that so quickly. The mayor even notes that Harry's got a point.
    • Played painfully straight when it came to Scorpio getting released from prison. Basically the only thing that would be ruled inadmissible in real life would be his confession, due to the fact that he hadn't been read his rights and had been coerced by torture into giving it. Harry should have been able to charge him with assault, attempted murder and kidnapping of a police officer. Everything else was perfectly admissible. His partner could also have laid charges as a witness; he was close by and saw the whole thing, and Scorpio shot at him, too. The very fact that Scorpio has a fresh knife wound exactly like the one Harry (legally) gave the guy in the balaclava and the same voice would be enough for a conviction. Semi-justified with the rifle, a sporterised Japanese Arisaka (rechambered in Springfield .30-'06), which, as a war prize, could easily have no paperwork at all. In Scorpio's case, while exigent circumstances would certainly apply (someone's life was in imminent danger), his residency is Kezar Stadium, and it is under the consent of the groundskeeper. The trouble with this is the groundskeeper, most likely, does not have the legal standing to grant such permission, which therefore makes Scorpio a squatter and thus his rights are not protected. However, courts have held that even homeless people squatting in public parks have the constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures-the key is whether it can be considered their "house", even if they're squatting there, so that part is unclear.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. "He was only ten years old."
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: At the end of the movie, after finally stopping the Scorpio killer and finding that the only way it was possible was in direct opposition of the system he worked for, Harry throws his badge into a body of water in disgust.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Callahan performs this on Scorpio on the football field.
  • Meaningful Name: Might not be intentional since it is a common surname, but one possible origin of the name Callahan is an old Irish word for "strife and trouble", ceallach, which fits Harry very well.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor:
    • Andy Robinson plays the gleefully bigoted, murderous psychopath Scorpio. Whereas the vegetarian, liberal pacifist Robinson is a gentle and, by all accounts, sweet-natured guy who'd never even held a gun before this role (for which he had to be coached out of his habit of screwing his eyes shut and flinching whenever he fired it). He absolutely hated filming the school bus scene as well. What makes this disturbing is that Robinson actually received death threats after the movie was released.
    • Goes for Eastwood himself, too, given the actor has a reputation for being a fairly nice guy, whereas Harry is... well, Harry.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge In his initial meeting with Gonzales, though this was more hazing the new guy than real bigotry:
    De Giorgio: Ah that's one thing about our Harry. Doesn't play any favorites! Harry hates everybody. Limeys, Micks, Hebes, Fat Dagos, Niggers, Honkies, Chinks, you name it.
    Gonzales: How does he feel about Mexicans?
    De Giorgio: Ask him.
    Harry Callahan: Especially Spics. *winks at De Giorgio*
  • No Name Given: We never learn Scorpio's real name (though IMDb lists it as "Charles Davis").
  • No Warrant? No Problem!: Under pressure to rescue a girl Buried Alive, Harry breaks into the home of serial killer Scorpio on a tip and tortures a confession and the hostage's location out of him. The confession and the murder weapon he collects are inadmissible, see below, Scorpio walks, and on top of it all, he is too late to save her.
  • Off on a Technicality: None of the evidence Harry gets from Scorpio can be used, since he used torture getting it. See Hollywood Law.
  • Oh Crap!: The wounded bank robber when he thinks Harry is about to shoot him.
  • Once an Episode: Harry will run into someone committing a robbery and stop them.
  • One Steve Limit: Broken, with Lt. Briggs (Magnum Force) and Captain Briggs (Sudden Impact) being entirely different characters played by very different actors.
  • Police Brutality Gambit: Pulled by Scorpio. Harry can tell immediately that it isn't him. How? "'Cause he looks too damn good, that's how!"
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Scorpio says he would consider it a pleasure to "kill a Catholic priest or a nigger." He follows through on the latter (then the former later on). Needless to say, the black guy Scorpio pays to beat him up so he can frame Callahan for it sure seems to enjoy the job. He kicks Scorpio again after throwing him out the door, saying "this one's on the house!"
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Harry responds to the mayor's policies on police brutality with the fact that he "shoots the bastard" when it comes to intent to rape.
  • Rare Guns: Scorpio's rifle is an Arisaka No. 2 Paratrooper takedown rifle, but rechambered in .30-'06 and given a sporter stock. Ironically, this makes it virtually worthless from a collector standpoint after the value of Imperial Japanese militaria exploded in the 1990s, since, being one of the rarest rifles in World War II, it would be worth thousands unmodified.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Lieutenant Bressler is easily the only one of Harry's superiors that is actually anyway sympathetic towards him and isn't either an Obstructive Bureaucrat, a glory-grabbing Jerk Ass or a Dirty Cop.
    • The D.A. who informs Harry that Scorpio's walking because of Harry's torture also comes across as this, as following his What the Hell, Hero? on the Constitution, he makes it a point to emphasize how much he hates Scorpio walking too, as he has a family, himself. For his part, Harry reassures him he'll be watching Scorpio for the next crime.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Dirty Harry fought obvious stand-ins for the Zodiac Killer (in Dirty Harry) and the Symbionese Liberation Army (in The Enforcer). This is lampshaded in the 2007 movie Zodiac, where David Toschi, the detective who served as the inspiration for Dirty Harry (as well as Bullitt), sees the movie and has to face the fact that Real Life crimes can't be solved by just shooting someone.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The Scorpio Killer when wounded.
  • The '70s: The films don't indulge in the groovier aspects of the decade, but it's wide neckties, ugly dun-colored suits and giant sedans for everybody!
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: According to Andrew Robinson, Scorpio is this.
  • Shout-Out: Harry tossing his badge in the end is one, to High Noon.
  • Straw Character:
    • One of the most common criticisms of the first film's politics is that it uses an almost cartoonishly evil and one-dimensional villain (and, similarly, a preposterously weak-willed and ineffectual local government and police force) in order to make Harry's rather extreme methods seem reasonable and even necessary by contrast. Roger Ebert observed this in his original review:
      The movie clearly and unmistakably gives us a character who understands the Bill of Rights, understands his legal responsibility as a police officer, and nevertheless takes retribution into his own hands. Sure, Scorpio is portrayed as the most vicious, perverted, warped monster we can imagine — but that's part of the same stacked deck. The movie's moral position is fascist. No doubt about it.
    • The Judge brought in to analyze Harry's actions teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, the surest way in that era of painting someone as an over-permissive liberal. Pauline Kael, a former native of San Francisco, noted how unlikely this would be in real-life and suspected the filmmakers included this specifically to tweak conservative viewers.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Harry Callahan disgusts a jumper by saying how much blood and guts are going to be on the floor and how he doesn't want to go down with him, eventually Harry tricks him onto a fire truck.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else: Scorpio. Andy Robinson was cast specifically because Clint Eastwood said he wanted someone who looked like a "choirboy".
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: It was a liquor store and this was how the villain, an ex-con, was able to get a gun to battle with Dirty Harry.
  • Title Drop: His partner wants to know why people call inspector Callahan, Dirty Harry. He gets mixed answers. It wasn't until after Harry talks a man out of jumping by insulting him, that he tells his new partner the real reason:
    Harry: Now you know why they call me Dirty Harry. Every dirty job that comes along...
  • Too Dumb to Live: Despite Harry already wounded him and had his gun trained on him, Scorpio still tried to go for the dropped gun in an attempt to kill Harry. He gets shot off the pier and killed for his troubles.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Harry's methods aren't actually shown all that positively. His interrogation of the Scorpio killer is downright horrific, and ends up doing no good anyway. And in the end, he throws away his badge after disregarding his orders and endangering innocents. He realized that he crossed the line, and was no longer fit to carry the badge. Which is all of course cheerfully ignored for the sequels, where he's always right and somehow has his badge again.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Scorpio seems to suffer it every time his plans are thwarted, like when he is caught and shot in the leg by Callahan in the stadium.
  • Vomiting Cop: Chico is about to throw up after seeing Scorpio's second victim.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A major part of the criminal activities of one Charles Davis, aka the "Scorpio Killer," who freely and remorselessly romps about San Francisco.
    • He shoots a young African American boy, sniper style, to death.
    • Later, he kidnaps, brutally rapes and buries alive a young teen-aged girl. In the later case, he demands a huge ransom for her safe return ... but then, just for the fun of it, he refuses to reveal his whereabouts until Callahan tortures him during questioning. (Even at that, the girl is found dead inside her grave.)
    • He hijacks a school bus full of children. Scorpio delights in slapping both boys and girls around, and forcing them to sing the children's song "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and even threatens to shoot several of the kids.
    • In the climatic scene (after Scorpio crashes the bus into a dirt embankment), Scorpio – after engaging in a gun battle with Callahan – grabs a boy who was sitting on a nearby pier and threatens to use him as a human shield if Callahan dares take a step closer.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Scorpio rapes and kills a teenage girl and assaults children — boys and girls alike — on the school bus. He also holds a gun to the female bus driver's head and throws her out of the driver's seat (after Callahan tracks down the bus and jumps on its roof from a railroad bridge).
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Scorpio pays some black guy to beat him up, just so he could frame Callahan for it. Understandably, said black guy evidently enjoys the job. Scorpio did call him a "black son of a bitch".
  • You Wouldn't Hit a Guy with Glasses?: No, but Scorpio would hit children with glasses – including at least two of the children he's holding hostage in the climatic school bus scene of the original film; this includes an 11-year-old girl he slaps (as hard as he possibly can) across the face at least twice and then – after she's knocked to the floor – kicking her!


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