Starring: Clint Eastwood, Andy Robinson, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon
Release Date: Dec. 22, 1971
Running Time: 102 min
Genres: Action, Crime, Thriller, Drama
Commentary Dirty Harry is the first of several "Dirty Harry" films, starring Clint Eastwood as "Dirty" Harry Callahan, a very tough, no-nonsense cop who's out for justice at all costs. In this film he goes after a madman named Scorpio (Robinson). Dirty Harry has little respect for routine procedure but always gets results, and certainly does in this case.
The movie begins with serial killer Scorpio killing a young girl in a San Francisco roof top swimming pool with a high-powered rifle. He threatens to kill another person every day unless he's paid a ransom from the police department. Callahan goes after him several times, but gets into trouble with his department for not respecting Scorpio's rights. Eventually Scorpio kidnaps a busload of children and Callahan decides to go after him himself without authorization. He's able to rescue the children, but then Scorpio kidnaps a young boy, holding a gun up to his head. Callahan manages to shoot Scorpio in the arm, causing him to drop his gun. He then wastes Scorpio with his last bullet and throws his badge into the river in disgust.
Cultural Significance Dirty Harry became a very popular film. It spawned four sequels and influenced many other similar movies. Dirty Harry was also one of the first films in which Clint Eastwood plays a cop.
Social Relevance I think the tone of Dirty Harry is too conservative in the sense that it seems to imply that there's too much emphasis in our society on criminal rights and not enough on fighting violent crime. There may be some truth to this, at least at the time the movie was made, but I think the film exagerates this point.
Interestingly, the sequel Magnum Force takes the opposite point of view. In that movie, the San Francisco police force abuses their power and ends up killing violent criminals without respect for the legal system. Harry fights them, in the end saying, "Man's got to learn his limitations!"
Here's the original movie trailer.
Here's the famous last line delivered by Clint Eastwood.