"You don't assign him to murder cases. You just turn him loose."
— Tagline for the original film
This is a series of 5 films all 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. 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.
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?
Breast Attack: In Sudden Impact Jennifer Spencer is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on a group of people who had raped her and her sister years before. Before she kills them she shoots them in the groin. One woman was involved - she shoots her in the breast.
California Doubling (for itself): Averted since almost everything in movies 1, 2, 3, and 5 was filmed on location in San Francisco and in the surrounding Bay Area, though there are a few exceptions:
In Dirty Harry, the only thing that isn't an on-location shot is the entire bank robbery scene, which was done on a Hollywood set.
In Sudden Impact, though the scenes in San Francisco were filmed on location, the second half of the film in the fictitious town of San Paulo was actually filmed in Santa Cruz. For the record, that wooden roller coaster that Harry shoots Mick off of at the end is the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
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.
Chromosome Casting: In the first film, the only female character is Scorpio's kidnapping victim, who doesn't appear onscreen until after she's dead.
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?"
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.
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?" Cuts 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.
In 1971, the statement was true, because although the more powerful .454 Casull had recently been introduced to the market, handguns for that cartridge would not be on the market for another decade.
Hollywood Silencer: One of the motorcycle cops in Magnum Force attaches a silencer to 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.
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.
Nausea Dissonance: 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.
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 unexperienced 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*
Off on a Technicality: 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.
The same thing happens at the beginning of Sudden Impact, although we only see the trial.
Oh Crap: In Sudden Impact, when the man that raped Jennifer Spencer and his friends are about to repeat the "experience" when one of them says "Crap". Cue Harry Callahan with a BFG, ready for the men to make his day.
In Magnum Force, watch the pimp's reaction when he sees the traffic cop's revolver pointed at his face and realizes he's about to get shot.
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.
Police Brutality: The corrupt vigilante cops from "Magnum Force" enjoy pulling this. As Harry says, "A man's got to know his limitations."
Police Brutality Gambit: Pulled by Scorpio in the first movie. Harry can tell immediately that it isn't him. How? "'Cause he looks too damn good, that's how!"
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!"
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.
Reassigned to Antarctica: Harry starts Magnum Force in the Stakeout Squad, and in The Enforcer gets reassigned to Personnel after ram-raiding a hostage situation.
Specifically, Smith & Wesson stopped producing the Model 29 several years before the film's production. Clint Eastwood himself contacted S&W representative Bob Sauer, who had several assembled from parts at the factory. Smith & Wesson reintroduced the Model 29 shortly after the film's release.
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, sees the movie and has to face the fact that Real Life crimes can't be solved by just shooting someone.
Rule of Three: While investigating the death of a drug-abusing rocker in The Dead Pool, Harry's partner Al Quan states his personal belief that celebrities always die in threes.
Shout Out In The Dead Pool, the chase scene with the explosive RC car, is a shout out to The Chase Scene in Bullitt.
Here's a weird one: Corrupt Cop "Red" Astrachan is named after a variety of apple. Weirder still is that he's not the only guy in an action series to have that distinction, and he isn't even the most famous.
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 the villains.
Sympathetic Murderer: This trope describes Jennifer Spencer in Sudden Impact - she's picking off the guys who raped her and her sister a long time ago, one at a time. Until she gets taken hostage by the few gang members who she has not targeted yet, but they get dispatched by Harry. When her revolver is found on the leader's body, Harry even lets Jennifer off the hook by pinning the murders on the rapist.
Take That, Critics!: Molly Fisher, the film critic who becomes the second murder victim in The Dead Pool is based on Pauline Kael, in response to her accusing the first film of promoting "fascism." Something about this woman seems to rub directors the wrong way (probably her habit of indiscriminately throwing around the term "fascist" to describe things she doesn't like, as well as her well-earned reputation of being a proto-hipster), since she got another Take That in Willow.
Throw It In: Andy Robinson improvised several lines in the first film, including the "hubba hubba" bit over the telephone and "my, that's a big one" when Harry pulls his gun in the park. The flip that Scorpio does when shot by Harry in the stadium was also Robinson's idea.
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.
Working Title: The title of the first film's script was Dead Right.
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 teenaged 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).
Andrew Robinson, a nice guy who played the maniacal psychopath "Scorpio Killer," gave such a convincing performance he got several death threats from people who watched the movie.
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 devestating 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 mook 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".