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

Dirty Harry 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.


A sadistic serial killer who calls himself "Scorpio" (Andy Robinson) murders a young woman in a San Franciscomarker high-rise rooftop swimming pool using a high-powered rifle from the top of the 555 California Streetmarker skyscraper. When SFPD Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) investigates, he finds a spent shell casing and a ransom message from the killer, promising more deaths if the city does not pay him $100,000. The chief of police, with the agreement of the Mayor (John Vernon), assigns Harry to the case and arranges for extra support.

Later, Harry waits for his lunch in a local café, but notices a robbery taking place at a nearby bank and tells the café owner to call the police and report an armed robbery in progress. While he waits for reinforcements, the robbers emerge from the bank, forcing Harry to confront them alone. During the confrontation, Harry utters to one of the robbers:

The robber surrenders, and it is revealed that Harry's gun was, in fact, empty. The next day, Harry is assigned a rookie partner, Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni). Harry notes that his partners always get injured (or worse), and that he needs someone experienced, but the Chief gives him no choice.

A police helicopter foils Scorpio's second attempt at murder while he is targeting a black man in a park, but Scorpio escapes. The next night, he manages to kill a young boy from another rooftop. Since Scorpio's last victim was a black man, the police believe Scorpio will pursue a Catholic priest as his next victim, feeling "owed" one for the disruption of his earlier attempt. The police set up a sting, with teams on rooftops throughout the city, but leaving the rooftop Scorpio used in his disrupted murder attempt clear, and providing a target of opportunity, a priest at the Sts.marker Peter and Paul Churchmarker. Harry and Chico wait for Scorpio on an adjacent rooftop, Harry with a high-powered rifle and Chico with a spotlight. When Scorpio appears, a shootout ensues but he eventually escapes, killing a police officer.

Infuriated that his plans have twice been foiled, Scorpio kidnaps a teenage girl, rapes her and buries her alive. He contacts the city and demands twice his previous ransom, giving the city until 3 a.m. the following morning, when the girl's air will run out. The mayor decides to pay, and tells Harry to deliver the money to a location at the docks with no back-up. Without permission, Harry wears a wire, has Chico follow him and tapes a knife to his shin. When Harry reaches the drop point, Scorpio contacts him through a public payphone, sending Callahan on a journey between various pay phones in the city, in order to separate the inspector from any back-up that he may have. However, Harry's wire allows Chico to follow him.

The chase ends when Harry reaches an enormous cross at Mount Davidsonmarker, one of the city's parks. Scorpio instructs Harry to drop his gun and the money, then to face the cross and stand up against it. Scorpio then proceeds to beat Harry before revealing that he has "changed his mind" and is going to let the girl die anyway, and kill Harry as well. Chico arrives at the scene and shoots at Scorpio, saving Harry. Chico is shot in the ensuing shootout. While Scorpio is distracted, Harry stabs him in the leg with his concealed knife. Scorpio screams hysterically and escapes without the money. Chico survives his wound, but tells Harry he will be resigning from the force.
Scorpio being tortured by Callahan on the field of Kezar Stadium
Harry and his new partner, Frank DiGiorgio, question several doctors in the area. They find the doctor who treated Scorpio. The doctor tells them that he has seen Scorpio living and working in nearby Kezar Stadiummarker. Running out of time, Harry and Frank break into the stadium and search Scorpio's room without a warrant. Harry hears Scorpio fleeing and chases him, shooting Scorpio in his previously stabbed leg. When Scorpio is unwilling to reveal the location of the girl, instead asking for a lawyer, Harry tortures Scorpio by standing on his wounded leg. Scorpio finally tells where he has been keeping the girl. A brief scene shows police exhuming the dead girl's naked body (Debralee Scott) the following morning from a pit on a hill overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

Because Harry broke into his home illegally and tortured him to obtain a confession, Scorpio is released without charge. As Scorpio's rifle was seized improperly, it cannot be used as evidence and the District Attorney decides that he cannot be charged with any of the other murders. After Scorpio's release, Harry follows Scorpio on his own time. Scorpio sees Harry following him, and pays a thug to give him (Scorpio) a severe but controlled beating. He then tells the press that the police are harassing him, personally naming Harry as the one responsible for his injuries to the press. The police chief orders Harry to stop following Scorpio, despite Harry's protest that he didn't beat the man. However, he follows his orders, knowing he cannot stop Scorpio if he is suspended or fired. On the next evening, Scorpio attacks a liquor store owner, takes the store owner's pistol and leaves.

Using the pistol, Scorpio kidnaps a school bus load of children. He demands another ransom and a jet to take him out of the country. The mayor again insists on paying, but Harry refuses to deliver the money this time, instead pursuing Scorpio without authorization. Scorpio spots Callahan standing on the top of a railroad trestle over the road to the airport. When the bus passes underneath him, Callahan jumps onto the top of the vehicle. A panicked Scorpio starts shooting through the roof and drives the bus erratically, trying to shake Harry off. Scorpio stops the bus after crashing through some gates while swerving to avoid a truck. Scorpio runs into a nearby rock quarry and Harry pursues him, resulting in a gun battle. Scorpio retreats until he takes as hostage a boy who happens to be fishing at a nearby slough. Harry pretends to be willing to surrender, then shoots Scorpio in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. The boy escapes, and Scorpio looks up to see Harry standing over him, gun drawn. Scorpio's pistol is inches from his hand. Harry then reprises his "Do you feel lucky, punk?" speech. Unlike the bank robber in the earlier scene, Scorpio tries his luck and, laughing maniacally, grabs for his gun. Before he can fire, Harry shoots him in the chest, and Scorpio falls into the water. Harry watches as Scorpio's body floats on the surface. He takes out his inspector's badge, and hurls it into the water, walking away.




According to Mark Whitman's book, The Films of Clint Eastwood, the original draft for the script was titled "Dead Right" by Julian and Rita Fink. It was set in New York Citymarker, 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, Washingtonmarker.

The character Dirty Harry is allegedly based on real life San Francisco police inspector Dave Toschi, one of the investigators of the Zodiac murders. Writer John 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.

Scorpio, the film's antagonist, was based on the real-life Zodiac Killer, who was on the loose in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker at the time. 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.

When Clint Eastwood approached Don Siegel to offer him the directing job, Eastwood gave Siegel four drafts of the script, one of which was written by Terrence Malick. In Malick's script, he had altered Scorpio from being a mindless psychopath killing only because he likes it, to being a vigilante who killed wealthy criminals who had escaped justice. Siegel didn't like Malick's script, but Eastwood did, and Malick's ideas formed the basis for the sequel, Magnum Force.


Although Dirty Harry is arguably Clint Eastwood's signature role, he was not a top contender for the part. Indeed, the role was originally written for Frank Sinatra, but the singer had broken his wrist ten years earlier (possibly during the filming of The Manchurian Candidate), found the large handgun too unwieldy, and declined the role. It has also been suggested that the death of Sinatra's father prompted him to seek lighter material. Still, the November 9, 1970 issue of Box Office magazine was one trade-paper that touted the pre-production Dirty Harry starring Frank Sinatra.

John Wayne was considered for the role at one point, but was not offered the part due to his age. Wayne later portrayed a Dirty Harry-like detective in McQ, a 1974 film directed by John Sturges and set in Seattle. Marlon Brando was also rumored to have been attached to the project. Director Don Siegel also tried to cast Audie Murphy for the role: "We started to talk and I suddenly realized, my God, I'm looking for a killer and here's the killer of all time." Eastwood was only offered the role of Harry Callahan after Steve McQueen and Paul Newman also declined the role for varying reasons. 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 neglected in 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. 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

Eastwood performed the stunt in which he jumps on to 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 down in 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.

Filming locations

In San Francisco, Californiamarker:

Other locations:


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."

Box office performance

The film made a total of $35,976,000 in the U.S. theatrical release, making it a major financial success in comparison with its modest $4 million budget.


Clint 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 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 box-office success of Dirty Harry led to the production of four sequels.

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. Film critic Roger Ebert, while praising the film's technical merits, denounced the film for its "fascist moral position." A section of the Philippine police force ordered a print of the film for use as a training film.[38471][38472] The motif of a cop who cares more for justice than rules was one subsequently imitated by a number of other films. The film can also be counted as the seminal influence on the Italian tough-cop films, Poliziotteschi, which dominated the 1970s and that were critically praised in Europe and the U.S. as well.

Dirty Harry helped popularize the Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver, chambered for the powerful .44 Magnum cartridge. The film initiated a modest increase in sales of the powerful handgun, which continues to be popular some thirty-five years after the film's release. The .44 Magnum ranked second in a 2008 20th Century Fox poll of the most popular film weapons, after only the lightsaber of Star Wars fame. The poll surveyed approximately two thousand film fans.

In popular culture


Warner Home Video owns rights to the Dirty Harry series. 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.[38473]


  1. Sinatra as Dirty Harry, The-Dirtiest.Com
  2. Anecdotage.Com
  3. Review by J.T. Lindroos (
  4. Review by Andrew Keech (

External links

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