"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 as 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?"

1971 film produced and directed by Don Siegel and which fired star Clint Eastwood to mega-stardom. Full of action and guns it is a tale of two men who mirror each other with their passion for violence and non-conformism, one a clearly psychotic murderer calling himself Scorpio (who is based on San Francisco's notorious zodiac killer), the other Inspector Harry Callahan the policeman who makes it his mission to hunt the killer down.

Scorpio demands $100,000 from San Francisco city to stop his killing and the mayor and police chief decide to pay-up. Callaghan is assigned to deliver the money, a course of action he is against, knowing that Scorpio's demands can only escalate. Callaghan also finds himself teamed up against his will with a young inexperienced partner. Scorpio taunts the authorities and Callaghan in particular with a tale of an abducted girl he will murder unless he receives more money, until Callaghan goes after him on his own.

This film belongs to Eastwood, who adds a depth to Harry without his performance ever going over the top; as with his earlier spaghetti westerns Eastwood has the knack for playing an 'antihero'. Callaghan's backstory is carefully uncovered (his abrasive, uncaring attitude stems from the death of his wife) as his frustrations become magnified when each attempt to capture Scorpio while staying within the bounds of the law fails. Eastwood's task is helped by a script which loads up a succession of one-liners for Eastwood to shoot off, a job he did so successfully that many of the lines are instantly recognizable today.

The film featured some of the most shocking violence for its time, and like The French Connection, contains a reactionary subtext and a cop who prefers to employ his own judgement above the laws he has pledged to honour and obey. Both these films act as a retort to the idealism of the sixties and express a belief that the American legal system cares more for the rights of criminals then victims. The underlying endorsement of vigilantism in Dirty Harry would inspire the Death Wish series of revenge movies starring Charlie Bronson.

This was the second film where Siegel and Eastwood worked together after 1968's Coogan's Bluff, and they would work with each other again on Escape from Alcatraz. Siegel's direction is controlled and tense, particularly good is the chase scene culminating in the football stadium. Watching the film today it has a striking urban 70s look, and although such violence in films has become common-place, Dirty Harry remains a watchable and shocking film.

The Cast

Clint Eastwood - Harry Callahan
Reni Santoni - Chico
Harry Guardino - Bressler
Andy Robinson - Scorpio
John Mitchum - DeGeorgio
John Larch - Chief
John Vernon - Mayor

Four more films featuring Eastwood in the Harry Callahan persona were made :- Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool. As with most sequels none of them are as worthwhile as the original but if you must watch one try Sudden Impact. (Or if you want to see a tacky parody of the car chase in Bullit and Jim Carrey pretending to be Axl Rose try The Dead Pool)

In Tribute To The Police Officers Of San Francisco Who Gave Their Lives In The Line Of Duty