Friday, 31 December 2010

Dirty Harry

“I know what your thinking, did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all the excitement I kind of 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 a question: Do I feel lucky? Well. Do ya punk?”

The question punk: is this the most memorable quote in cinema history? For those of you who are to young to remember, or perhaps you have been living on the moon for the last forty years the quote comes from one of Clint Eastwood’s most famous roles, Inspector Harry Callaghan. A role he played in a series of five films starting with the successful 1971 Don Siegel directed and produced Dirty Harry. The plot of this movie revolves around a sadistic psychopathic serial killer who calls himself Scorpio (Andy Robinson). He kills an innocent young women swimming in a San Francisco swimming pool using a high-powered snipers rifle from the top of a high-rise building. He leaves behind a ransom message informing the city that if they do not pay the ransom demanded then his next victim will be “a Catholic priest or a nigger” Inspector Callaghan is assigned to the case.

If you can imagine Eastwood as the “man with no name”, from Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, reprocessed as a policeman in a contemporary setting your get the basic feel for the character of Harry Callaghan: a professional killer just this side of the law bringing the violent justice of the lawless West to modern day San Francisco. He demonstrates his credentials early in the film when he foils a bank raid and utters the famous ‘punk’ quote for the first time, scarcely bothering to put down a hamburger he is eating.

The film was based on a story Dead Right, written by Harry Julian Fink and his wife and various actors were approached to play the strong central male lead. These included Frank Sinatra, who was forced to pull out because of an injured hand, and Paul Newman, who it is reputed suggested Eastwood for the part. It was reported at the time of release that Dirty Harry is what the mass public want from a Clint Eastwood ‘Hero’ someone with the cool, but not the class of James Bond, reassuringly indestructible with the mastery of the cult western loner, a man that can be beaten up but never beaten by criminals or by the authorities. Today the movie would be deemed politically incorrect and even when released (during the Nixon era) the film was met with a great deal of controversy i.e. the equal amount of violence dealt out from both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ and the fact that the movie was seen as a liberal backlash, with the villian wearing long hair and a peace badge. Considered to be one of the most influential police movies ever made, a film that still carries a punch even after forty years.

No comments:

Post a Comment