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Clint Eastwood is Ultimately Dirty Harry

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Dirty Harry

With crime escalating and the economy on a hellish roller coaster-dive, it is a perfect time to view the 1970s tough-cop action thriller known as Dirty Harry. The script by the married team Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink (based on her unpublished story), Dean Riesner, and John Milius (unaccredited) is a lesson on a tight, fast tempo story. The .44 Magnum guides story worth of sharp dialogue that launched a legend in movies.

Eastwood states the memorable tough-cop line while holding a .44 Magnum, "Make my Day." He repeats the famous line at the end of the movie. He baits the punk to gamble with his streetwise Russian Roulette.

Direction and Editing Pace the Story

Don Siegel’s stylish, almost surreal, at times direction and editing set the pace for Clint Eastwood in an incredible performance as Harry Callahan, a middle-aged, individualist, unconventional cop who throws away the rule book but gets the short end of the stick. The screenwriters give Callahan some of the most memorable lines and witty comments ever in film history, thus establishing the territory on how far a script goes to create the anti-hero of all jerks while keeping the audience on his side.

Based on the unsolved Zodiac murder case in San Francisco that is eerily contemporary today. The opening scene of a public tribute to San Francisco police officers killed in the line of duty fades to a muzzle-barrel end of a high-powered rifle of a serial sniper, a baby-faced, hippie killer, on a rooftop with a telescopic lens aimed at a young woman in a yellow, one-piece swimsuit. She swims her laps, he pulls the trigger, bullet hits her, and she sinks below the surface as the water turns red.

Harry Callahan

Enter Harry Callahan investigating the crime scene by himself, the lone wolf. He finds the used shell of the shot and a ransom note pinned to a TV antenna. The first few words he says throughout the film are direct responses, “Jesus.”

The handwritten note from the deranged sniper calling himself Scorpio says he will enjoy killing one person every day until he receives one hundred thousand dollars. It will be his pleasure to shoot a Catholic priest or a nigger. I can’t help but remind us of the sniper killings in the D.C area.

Favorite Dirty Harry Quote

Dialogue Makes the Movie

Spiteful and rude, Callahan summoned to the Mayor’s office. After the Mayor inquires what he has done about the Scorpio case so far, Callahan complains, waiting, “Oh well, for the past three-quarters of an hour, I’ve been sitting on my ass in your outer office, waiting for you.”


Up next is probably one of the most unforgettable cop scenes in film history that often gets mistaken for the film's opening scene. On a San Francisco street, Callahan drives up in his navy blue sedan and parks illegally at the red curb in front of an adult bookstore, strides over to a local Burger Den restaurant to order his usual, a jumbo hot dog. Callahan casually asks the cook about a tan Ford across the street in front of the bank, with the usual lack of excitement. He suspects a bank robbery and asks the cook to phone the police department and report a two-eleven in progress. Callahan says, "Now, just wait until the cavalry arrives," he hears the bank's alarm system and a gunshot after one bite of his hot dog and says, "Oh, Sh-t!"

Cliint Eastwood shows how to point a gun at the camera.

Cliint Eastwood shows how to point a gun at the camera.

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"I have a very strict gun control policy: if there's a gun around, I want to be in control of it."

— Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry Quotes

Callahan's calm and collected strides outside pull out his monstrous, long-barreled, heavyweight Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum. He single-handedly stops the heist by shooting the fleeing bank robbers. Still chewing his hot dog, Dirty Harry fires his sixth shot at the last fleeing robber. He looks down at his pant leg that indicates blood seeped through from a leg wound. Dirty Harry walks over to the entrance of the bank. He threatens the wounded robber, who is reaching for his shotgun on the sidewalk.

Aiming the .44 Magnum, Callahan says his memorable tough-cop line baiting the criminal to try and use the shotgun--gamble on luck with his streetwise version of Russian Roulette.

The dialogue contributes to the fast-paced movie while the audience sees Callahan as a tough, unscrupulous cop. In the film review for the New York Times, critic Roger Greenspun describes Callahan, '"Dirty' is Harry's given epithet, and he carries it proudly enough. But he is a knight in shining armor whose dirtiness is mostly rubbed on from the scummy world he keeps trying to wipe clean."

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood is not only a fine actor, but he is an award-winning director and jazz musician. Each project he works on has a social message that is important to our society.

Like Dirty Harry, Eastwood communicates the need to help the underdogs as well as support the heroes of this generation.

© 2014 Kenna McHugh


Kenna McHugh (author) from Northern California on September 04, 2019:

Esstwood shot a handful of movies in my hometown. He's a great guy!

Robert Sacchi on September 04, 2019:

Yes, "Dirty Harry" is an iconic movie and character. It was like the Wild West sheriff in a 1970s big city.

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