Making A Choice For The Greater Good

Making A Choice For The Greater Good

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
DIRTY HARRY, from the Clint Eastwood: Dirty Harry Collection Box Set (Blu-ray)
Warner Home Video 

Release date: October 19th 2009
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 98 minutes

Year of production: 1971

Director: Don Siegel
Writers: Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius (uncredited), Terrence Malick (uncredited)

Cast: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, John Larch, Mae Mercer, John Mitchum, Lyn Edgington, Ruth Kobart, Andrew Robinson

“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’ve kinda lost track myself. But being 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?”

Those words spoken by Clint Eastwood went on to become one of cinema’s best remembered and most often imitated, along with “I’m walking here!” from Midnight Cowboy (1967), “You talking to me?” from Taxi Driver (1976) and “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” from Apocalypse Now (1979). But what is it that makes Dirty Harry such an iconic film, even after 40 years?

Dirty Harry

Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is a San Francisco police detective, and not the kind of cop you’d like either in your department or chasing after you. He’s not a team player and he doesn’t play by the rules. He’ll put aside protocol, procedures and anything else that might slow him down in putting the bad guys away. He’s not averse to killing if it makes the streets safer for citizens like you and me. This doesn’t mean he stands for violence though; he’s a just man who can’t understand society tolerating it.

The ‘Scorpio Killer’ (inspired by the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized San Francisco in the late sixties and was never caught) is on the loose and promising to continue with a spree of killings if the city doesn’t pay him $100,000. Dirty HarryThere’s only one thing the chief of police and the Mayor can do – they assign Callahan to the case.

As the murders continue, Scorpio increases his ransom demand. Callahan is sent to meet him with a bag full of cash before his latest victim dies from suffocating after being buried alive.

Taking the law into his own hands rather than letting justice prevail leads to Scorpio being released. This doesn’t sit well with a man like Callahan who’s only ally has always been his 44 Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver but this time he knows he’s sacrificing his career as a detective to put Scorpio away – permanently.

Dirty Harry

Callahan was the first in a new breed of film cops. Previously we saw them as by-the-book kind of guys but here the hero is almost as dark as his antagonist. He’s unpredictable, disliked by his peers, and his questionable ethics have earned him the nickname ‘Dirty Harry’ but despite all of that, he’s a man who believes in acting for the greater good and this is how he weighs up the world and this is ultimately what justifies his actions throughout the movie.

Viewing it again, the movie is still as refreshing and exciting as it was when I first watched it with my dad when I was a little boy. Its dialogue, action sequences, score by Lalo Schifrin and direction by Siegel culminate in a climax which reprises Callahan’s now infamous speech, “’Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?” making the payoff all the more satisfying.


  • Commentary by Richard Schickel
  • The Long Shadow of Dirty Harry
  • Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows
  • Clint Eastwood: The Man from Malpaso
  • Interview Gallery
  • Dirty Harry’s Way and Dirty Harry: The Original
  • Soundtrack Remastered in Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Dirty Harry Movies Trailer Gallery

Although the role was first offered to Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Paul Newman and Steve McQeen, it’s impossible to imagine it being played by anyone else now. Eastwood’s steely gaze, ill temper and effortlessly cool and unflinching manner made Callahan a movie icon and while shows like Hunter (1984), Sledge Hammer! (1986) and 24 (2001) have successfully used the “get the job done” cop template, there’ll always be only one Dirty Harry.

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