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Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry (1971)

Director: Don Siegel
Cast overview: Clint Eastwood, Andy Robinson
Running time: 102 minutes

The crime film to influence all crime films. Perhaps that pithy opening remark is a bit over-the-top, but you can't doubt that Dirty Harry has been tremendously influential in setting the benchmark and the direction for future films in the genre. The premise itself is incredibly simple - and nowadays cliche: a serial killer that our police detective hero must catch. The stories themselves are ten-a-penny, although perhaps they weren't in 1971. Still, there a few vital details that raise this above the masses of average crime films.

Firstly, the soundtrack. Lalo Schifrin's score is one of the best I've heard for a film - and almost certainly my favourite. It sounded well ahead of its time and, in my opinion, stands up today as well as any other similar soundtrack from the era. You may know Schifrin for scores such as the Mission: Impossible theme and Bullitt. Dirty Harry's music is funky, energetic, and perfectly fitting for a seventies crime film, infused with the grit and realism that abounds the film.

The acting is also great. Obviously Eastwood is known for roles such as this, and it's not hard to see why as he plays them so well. Harry Callahan is flawed, but also has the determination and passion that endears him to the audience. As a film character, I don't think there are many more iconic. Andy Robinson as Scorpio is magnificent. This remains his most famous role, and he played the maniac to a tee, delivering spittle-filled outbursts of nuttiness with aplomb. The supporting cast also play their roles well, with Harry Guardino as frustrated police boss Bressler and John Vernon as The Mayor both providing effective balance to Eastwood's maverick role.

Overall, this is a defining film, not just in the crime genre, but as a time-capsule movie that still holds up today as a film with plenty of rewatch value - and, most importantly, it's all entertainment. From the first minute to the last, you'll be hooked.

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 you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

Gonzales: There is one question, Inspector Callahan: Why do they call you "Dirty Harry"?
De 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?
De Georgio: Ask him.
Harry Callahan: Especially Spics.

The Mayor: Callahan... I don't want any more trouble like you had last year in the Fillmore district. You 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'd you establish that?
Harry Callahan: When a naked man is chasing a woman through a dark alley with a butcher knife and a hard on, I figure he isn't out collecting for the Red Cross.
[Callahan leaves]
The Mayor: I think he's got a point.

The role of Harry Callahan was originally cast for Frank Sinatra, who dropped out.

After the film's release, Andy Robinson - who plays Scorpio - received several death threats and had to get an unlisted phone number.

The opening sniper scenes were shot atop San Francisco's Bank of America building.