“I know what you’re thinkin’, punk. You’re thinkin’, ‘Did I have six shots or only five at lunch today?’. Well I was in there too, but to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a Magnum of Colt .45, the most powerful beer 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?”
Today’s Blog is on Don Siegel’s 1971 crime drama, Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood in the title role. San Francisco Homicide Inspector Callahan is on the trail of a serial killer who goes by the moniker, Scorpio (Andy Robinson). Scorpio is a fictionalized version of the Zodiac Killer who was operating in the area at the time and, to this day, has never been caught. Scorpio, after snipering a girl in a pool, sends a letter to the Mayor (John Vernon, best known as Animal House’s Dean Wormer) informing him of his intentions to kill one person a day until his ransom of $100 grand is met. The Mayor agrees, putting an ad in the paper telling Scorpio that he needs time to put the money together. He isn’t thrilled with the idea of Dirty Harry handling the case, based on his history of violence with his beloved .44 Magnum pistol. Callahan’s rookie partner, Inspector Chico Gonzalez (Reni Santoni) is hardly up to the task, let alone alongside a renegade like Callahan.
Harry sets the bar for on-screen vigilante cops who dish out just deserts to their evil antagonists. And 1971 was a big year for that type of policeman. The French Connection, released a couple of months earlier, earned Gene Hackman his only Best Actor Oscar as tough cop, Popeye Doyle, in the 2nd highest grossing film of ’71; Dirty Harry was 4th. Eastwood wasn’t the first actor offered the role. It was turned down by 6 others including: Sinatra; Paul Newman; John Wayne; and Burt Lancaster, who disliked all the violence & felt it promoted right-wing politics. Good thing too: Lancaster was 58 during filming & Eastwood did all of his own stunts on the picture. Dirty Harry received no Oscar nominations, but was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry last year. Eastwood, on the other hand: Has 5 Oscars, including the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Academy Award; he’s been nominated 6 more times; he has a string of Golden Globe wins & nominations; he’s done it all; he’s even talked to a chair before an audience of millions!
Dirty Harry is the first and far & away the best of a 5-picture franchise culminating in 1988’s The Dead Pool. Franchises are very popular today, but rarely go beyond 5 or 6. Many people don’t realize that the idea goes back to the earliest days of cinema. Live action, character-based franchises dominated early American film. There are 20 franchises of 25 or more movies & shorts where the first was released before filming ever even began on The Wizard of Oz, including: Over 200 for Sherlock Holmes, the most of any character, from 1916 to 2011; almost as many Dracula pictures; 35 Charlie Chans; over 100 about Cinderella, the first released 1899; plus Jesse James, Hopalong Cassidy, Frankenstein, Tarzan, and Rin Tin Tin. So now, “go ahead & make my day” and watch the trailer below then add Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry to your Netflix Queue if “you’re feelin’ lucky, punk!” 4 Stars!