The first Dirty Harry
film was a substantial hit, and elements of it have entered the public consciousness; most notably, the famous speech Harry delivers to a wounded bank robber
at the end of the film's opening action sequence - "You've got to ask yourself, 'Do I feel lucky?'. Well, do ya? Punk?
". The speech was written by manly man John Milius
and is usually and incorrectly delivered as 'Do you feel lucky, punk?'. This became Harry's catchphrase, and even people who, in 1971, had not seen the film could probably identify it from trailers, television spots, and publicity material.
For the 1973 sequel, 'Magnum Force', it was obviously felt that a similar hook was required, and Milius came up with the title of this node. Harry delivers it at the very end of the film; indeed it is the last line of dialogue, although earlier on Harry had used the variation 'A good man knows his limitations'. On both occasions the other party is his superior, Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook), a nasty piece of work who Harry suspects of wrongdoing. Hal Holbrook is ingrained in the 1970s, later going on to portray a harried NASA official in the influential 'Capricorn One' and Deep Throat in 'All the President's Men' - one of the most '70s' of films, not just a key film of the decade but a film which encapsulates the essence of the 1970s (a decade which lasted from 1969-1977, followed by a short 'sub-70s' from 1977-1979). In their own way 'Magnum Force' and 'Dirty Harry' are essential 70s films, not just for the period detail, writing, attitude and Harry's big gun, but for the cinematography, the jazzy score, the film stock, the credits, the sound mixing, the sound of footsteps, the stock sound effects, the cuts, the techniques, the assumptions, the faces and the wrinkles.
The line did not catch on to nearly the same extent as its predecessor. It's a solid piece of writing, entirely in character, but it's not as simple and direct as "But seein' as how this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off" and so forth. As with so many of Clint Eastwood's filmic utterances, it can be a valuable piece of one's own personal philosophy and possesses great wisdom. You really do have to know your limitations. They are what make you a person. We are all limited, by our mortality; to deny one's limitations is only to delay the realisation of the inevitability of failure.
The next Dirty Harry film, 'The Enforcer', was not blessed with a memorable catchphrase, although the penultimate film in the series, 'Sudden Impact', made at least as much impression with 'Go ahead, make my day'. By the final film, 'The Dead Pool', the catchphrases most likely to be uttered in the playground were emanating from the moistened lips of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose films punctuated the deaths of nameless villains with James Bond-esque quips.
For maximum effect the line should be delivered through clenched teeth, with sideburns, a 70s suit, and a Smith & Wesson Model 29 in .44 with an 8 inch barrel (black, not chrome), loaded for bear.