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 magnumrevolver.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.
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."
Arc Words: Repeated several times over in Magnum Force, which explores the lengths Harry is willing to go to in his war on crime, as well as setting up a supposedly not so different group of rookie cops who go to worse lengths than Harry.
Harry Callahan: Man's got to know his limitations.
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.
Dirty Harry 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.
During the final showdown in The Dead Pool, the Big Bad takes Harry's Magnum. Harry settled for a HARPOON GUN.
Black and Gray Morality: Scorpio in the first film is a monster, but Harry uses some rather questionable methods to defeat him.
Book Ends: 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: DiGeorgio 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.
The Winchester Model 70, in .458 Winchester Magnum, that Harry uses, has a maximum capacity of 3+1 chambered, yet Harry fires six rounds without reloading.
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 kind of 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 Cavalry Arrives Late: In The Enforcer, after Harry and Kate kill all the terrorists and save the mayor, a single helicopter arrives with Captain McKay on a loudspeaker announcing that they would be giving in to all their demands.
Chekhov's Gun: It's safe to assume any ridiculously powerful weapon introduced at the beginning of a Dirty Harry movie will be used later. The best example would definitely have to be the enormous Harpoon Gun used to impale Rook at the end of The Dead Pool.
Lt. Briggs mentions that he has never once taken his weapon out of its holster. When he does, it's to give The Reveal that he's the Big Bad.
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 a 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 got's to know". By adding another shot, the confrontation was turned into a bluff.
Finger in the Mail: Scorpio in Dirty Harry 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.
Freudian Excuse: Invoked in the first film: 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.
Gilligan Cut: Harry oversees several pilots discussing how to handle a hijacking at the airport in Magnum Force while he and Early are at the snack shop. He follows the officials. After learning about the situation, he says, "Can I make a suggestion?" Cut to Harry exiting the hangar disguised as a pilot and walking across the tarmac to the waiting plane.
Good Is Not Niceand 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: In Dirty Harry, 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",.
Hollywood Silencer: Before killing Lou Guzman in Magnum Force, Officer John Davis attaches a silencer to his Colt Python revolver. Not only would it be completely ineffective, the way it's attached (just slid over the barrel◊) it would fly right off.
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.
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.
Interrupted Suicide: 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.
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 in Dirty Harry. 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).
What makes this disturbing is that Robinson actually received death threats after the movie was released.
Presumably goes for Eastwood himself, too, given the actor has a reputation for being a fairly nice guy, whereas Harry is... well, Harry.
Missing Backblast: Averted in The Enforcer. During the demonstration for the LAW rockets, Kate gets behind the shooter to get a better view. Harry pulls her away in the nick of time before the backblast can scorch her.
In Magnum Force, Harry is called to the scene of a murder with his partner. One of the cops there comments on how the inside the victim's car is just filled with all kinds of brain parts (the audience doesn't see this) and generally goes into the most gross bodies he's seen. Harry is unaffected but his partner looks at the body and then turns to go puke.
It happens again in The Enforcer at an autopsy when the surgeon removes the subject's brain. Harry is unaffected but his partner Kate is clearly looking queasy. A joke by the surgeon sends her over the edge:
Autopsy Surgeon: Oh, Jesus H. Christ, Harry, come here and look at this! It's the damnedest thing I ever saw.
Noble Bigot with a Badge In his initial meeting with Gonzales in the first movie, and with his female partner in "The Enforcer".
Harry did have some valid and very legitimate concerns about their choice of a female partner for him. They were promoting an officer who had never even made an arrest to detective, and he wasn't sure that someone with zero street experience could cut it as a detective - regardless of gender.
And since she gets shot in the end, he might have even been right.
Possibly justified as Callahan's partners tend to end up dead or hospitalised regardless of whether they are experienced or not. If the partner survives they gain a lot of experience and if they die at least an experienced man is not dead.
Which doubles as the Idiot Ball for her superiors who assign inexperienced police officer to a Maverick Cop whose partners wind up wounded or killed in action and who tends to take the most dangerous cases.
The conversation with Gonzales was more hazing the new guy than real bigotry:
Di Georgio: 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?
Di Georgio: Ask him.
Harry Callahan: Especially Spics.*winks at Di Georgio*
No Name Given: We never learn Scorpio's real name (though IMDb lists it as "Charles Davis").
None of the evidence Harry gets from Scorpio in the first movie can be used, since he used torture getting it. Still, he should have been able to charge him with assault, attempted murder and kidnapping-on himself. Plus, the only evidence that would have been excluded is Scorpio's initial confession. Everything else was perfectly admissible.
His partner could also have laid charges; 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 by the Fourth Amendment.
It is this trope that leads the vigilante cops in Magnum Force to go after criminals who escaped the justice system.
In Magnum Force, the murderous pimp has pulled out his wallet and a $100 bill for the traffic cop. He sees a glimpse of Davis's revolver raised. His eyes widen as he instinctively grabs for his hidden revolver, but is shot by Davis before he gets a chance.
The wounded bank robber in Dirty Harry (also played by Albert Popwell - see You Look Familiar) 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.
Out-of-Character Moment: In Magnum Force Harry describes himself as being somehow for the system, despite having shot every criminal he ever tried to put away, (at that point at least, in The Dead Pool he actually managed to put some mobsters in jail), and preferring to do so, as illustrated in his exchange with the mayor at the beginning of the first film. In fact, the only distinction between him and the rogue traffic cops was that Harry somehow managed to avoid hurting anyone who didn't 'deserve' it, and that he at least tried to put them in prison first.
For the most part, the bad guys he shot deserved it by either shooting at him or threatening hostages; the dirty cops couldn't make the same claim. He also doesn't describe himself as being necessarily for the system, instead saying that he despises the system but still has an obligation to abide by it, and while he dislikes the current system, he thought the vigilante cops' alternative was worse:
Harry: When the police start becoming their own executioners where’s it going to end, Briggs? Pretty soon you start executing people for jaywalking. And executing people for traffic violations. Then you end up executing your neighbor because his dog pisses on your lawn.
Also, 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!"
Arguably, also Part 2. Just imagine the fallout of Briggs' conspiracy, even if it remained contained.
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. Also, he lets Jennifer off the hook with her revenge killings of her rapists when Mick is found with the murder weapon on his person.
Rare Guns: Scorpio's rifle, 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.
In "Sudden Impact", Harry's backup gun is an AMP Auto Mag 180 (made by the designer himself from parts he had in his basement). AMP was bankrupt by the time the film was made, and very few Auto Mags were made during production.
Supposedly Enforced in Real Life: It's been claimed that the Auto-Mag jammed so often that they kept a diver on set to retrieve the pistol every time Clint got pissed and threw it off the pier.
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.
Series composer Lalo Schifrin may be absent from one Callahan entry, The Enforcer, but his name certainly isn't. Though it did go to one of Bobby Maxwell's men.
Sociopathic Hero: As the Anti-Hero entry notes, there really isn't that much difference between Harry and Scorpio. Harry has just directed his own violent impulses into a (barely) socially acceptable job.
Though Harry seems to have enough standards as to not kidnap, rape and bury a teenage girl alive, unlike Scorpio. Then again he's not too keen on niggers, spics, limeys and other minorities so maybe he's just as monstrously sociopathic as Scorpio after all.
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.
Theres No Kill Like Overkill: Harry's .44 Magnum is his main sidearm and the most powerful pistol used in the films unless you count the Automag as being higher powered or a sawn-off shotgun as a pistol.
Subverted with the bazooka: it was the right weapon to deal with someone placed in a tower.
To back this trope up the weakest gun ever used on screen by Callahan was a Smith and Wesson Model 10, most likely in .38 special, used when he confronts some hi-jackers in a plane in Magnum Force and takes one from them. This results in him double tapping, just to make sure.
Title Drop: His partner in the first film wanted 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...
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.
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 before later kidnapping, brutally raping and burying 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.) Later, after he is freed, due to claims of improper search and seizure on Callahan's part and that other Constitutional rights were violated, Scorpio redoubles his sadism. After robbing a liquor store and killing everyone inside, 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 kill him if Callahan dares take a step closer. However, Callahan is able to see a brief opening, shoots and badly wounds Scorpio; he later kills him when Scorpio tries to grab his pistol.
Would Hit a Girl: See above, particularly with his rape and killing of the teenage girl and assaulting children 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).
In the films, Callahan is never shown killing a female, however in one of the original novels based upon the character a female is revealed to be one of the big bads, and as a result Callahan shoots her to death as she tries to escape by swimming.
The sad thing is that Andy Robinson is actually a nice guy, contrasting with the ruthless nature of the "Scorpio Killer," and gave such a convincing performance he got several death threats from people who watched the movie, and had to get an unlisted telephone number.
Xanatos Gambit: Lt. Briggs pulls off one in Magnum Force. After failing to recruit Harry to their vigilante death squad, the remaining members attempt to kill Harry, and all die as a result. Briggs pulls a gun on Harry, forcing him to surrender. Harry activates a bomb he found planted in his mailbox, killing Briggs. The fallout of this, despite their being dirty cops in a death squad, even if contained, would potentially be devastating for Harry, and he appears to have just barely gotten past it in The Enforcer.
You Look Familiar: Albert Popwell played mooks in most of the films. (The bank robber in Dirty Harry; the pimp shot and killed in his Cadillac at close range by a rogue cop in Magnum Force; The Muslim Brotherhood leader Mustafa in The Enforcer). This sets up a nice subversion of his typecasting as a red shirt in Sudden Impact when he creeps up on Harry with a shotgun only to be revealed as a colleague from the department.
You Need a Breath Mint: Harry tells Captain McKay, after McKay gives Harry a too close dressing down, "Your mouthwash ain't makin' it".
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!