On this date 50 years ago, a film was released that changed cinema forever and catapulted Clint Eastwood into the stratosphere of the Hollywood elite. The movie that I’m referencing is, of course, “Dirty Harry.”
Eastwood was already a huge star before the movie came out in 1971, but in 1972 he was first crowned No. 1 in Quigley’s “Top Ten Money-Making Stars Poll.” You can credit a lot of that to the character of Harry Callahan. When it was all said and done, the movie grossed $36 million at the box office, on the budget of only $4 million. It’s no wonder why the movie spawned four sequels, but the original was as memorable as movies get.
The film is largely credited with starting the “loose cannon” cop character, who has been ripped off more times than we can count. The thing about Callahan was that he had to be a loose cannon. There was no good cop/bad cop. There was only him, taking on one of the great sharpshooter villains, Scorpio.
The film wasn’t released without a little controversy, with some critics calling it fascist, while also claiming it glamorized police brutality. On the other hand, some critics loved it right out of the gate. Despite what the media thought of the film, it has grown into a cult classic and a must-watch for any fan of Eastwood or cop thrillers.
There’s a lot more that could be said about Eastwood and his paramount role in this iconic movie, but we should look at it through the lens of three of the guns that make this movie so meaningful and memorable.
SMITH & WESSON MODEL 29
“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 kind of lost track myself. But being that 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?”
The most famous gun of this movie, and the gun that can be credited with making this movie such a cult classic is the S&W Model 29. The line from the scene below is certainly iconic and noteworthy from the movie but also played a large part in S&W selling these revolvers for many years to come.
The line has been made into parody and been repeated in many different movies and TV shows in the years since the film, further cementing its cultural and cinematic impact. Callahan repeats the line again in the closing scene of the film, making it a calling card of sorts for his character. Fun fact, the line that made the movie so famous was actually a bit of an ad-lib by Eastwood.
The script actually called for Callahan to quickly go over regulations, stating, "Well? Was it five or was it six? Regulations say five... hammer down on an empty... only not all of us go by the book." Must not have rolled off the tongue as well, and we're all better off for Eastwood's improv I think.
ARISAKA TYPE 2 PARATROOPER TAKEDOWN RIFLE
The movie opens on the villainous sharpshooter, Scorpio, and his suppressed Arisaka takedown rifle. The rifle and his skills behind it really set the stage for the rest of the movie as he pens letters to the police telling them how he’ll be able to strike victims at a distance and proves he can do it.
In the opening scene, we get to see Scorpio’s custom carrying case he has for the rifle as well. Not only does it fit his custom sniper rifle, but it can also fit an MP 40, along with some more mags as well. It’s a gun he puts to good use and fires from the hip – because how else do you shoot an MP 40 – throughout the rest of the movie.
At the end of the movie, Callahan has Scorpio on the run. This logically leads the killer to hijack a school bus as a getaway car. When Callahan jumps on the roof of the bus to commandeer it, the only thing that Scorpio has to fight back with is his Walther P38, which he stole from a liquor store owner. The final scene where Callahan once again delivers his famous line again pits the S&W 29 against the Walther P38. I think we all know which rose to the occasion in this movie.