The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Six Reasons Why Men Love Dirty Harry

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American Movie Classics has been running Dirty Harry movies all week, and in honor of their observance of one of the greatest cinematic badasses of all time, I got to thinking about why the testosterone crowd loves movies with Harry Callahan and his huge handgun.

1. Dirty Harry fights crime and gets results, which is the kind of macho enforcement crap that men love. Harry Callahan alone has flushed out psychotic snipers threatening the innocent (if flaky) citizens of San Francisco, dismantled a cadre of corrupt cops bent on creating a new society that looked a helluva lot more like Nazi Germany than the United States, exterminated a gaggle of political radicals threatening the mayor of San Francisco (even though Harry personally didn’t care for the mayor, he didn’t let his feelings get in the way of his job), rescued a small seaside town in California from the twisted vengence of a rape survivor, cleaned up the Mafia problem in San Francisco, and saved us all from more movies in which Liam Neeson directs hack-job heavy metal videos while still finding time to supposedly kill people to win a sick and twisted game.

2. The Dirty Harry films are but a branch in a complex network of badass, tough guy films starring and directed by badass tough guys; thus, they have won our respect and acclaim by remaining true to their roots. The original Dirty Harry was directed by renowned badass director Don Siegel. His catalogue of work includes the original sci-fi-identity-theft thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which has been remade twice), Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, and the prison drama Escape From Alcatraz. The prison drama alone should be enough to enshrine Siegel in the Testosterone Hall of Fame, but that wasn’t even his greatest film. That honor goes to the gritty 1962 combat film Hell is For Heroes, which features a crane shot so brilliant and moving that men routinely weep and crap their pants at the sight of Siegel capturing the frailty and vulnerability of men in combat. And that’s only after James Coburn gets wrecked by his own flamethrower. In addition to this, Siegel’s film showcases Steve McQueen, a Testosterone Hall of Fame charter member. He plays Reese, a salty combat survivor who cracks when the pressure is off. If that isn’t enough to make you rush out and buy a DVD of the film, Siegel makes milquetoast cuteboys Bob Newhart, Bobby Darrin, and Nick Adams look like plausible combatants in the same flick. One of Siegel’s final films was The Shootist, starring all-time President and Overlord of the Testosterone Hall of Fame, John Wayne. Ron Howard obviously picked up a trick or two from Siegel during the filming (Howard plays piss-pants Gillom in the film); that has enabled him to make some decent films of his own despite not being a badass. Siegel knew badasses when he saw them, and that’s why he picked Clint Eastwood to star in many of his films. He also snared notorious basass Charles Bronson for his 1977 film Telefon, badass extraordinaire Lee Marvin for The Killers in 1964, and badass Robert Mitchum for The Big Steal (1949). The only way Siegel could have been more of a badass would have been if he had collaborated with other card-carrying badasses like Burt Lancaster, William Holden, and Gene Hackman.

3. Dirty Harry uttered enough cornball one-liners to make James Bond blush with shame, and we all love to say them to our friends and in department stores when the checkout lines are moving too slowly. A small sampling of the best of Harry Callahan includes the original, “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?” in addition to: “A man has got to know his limitations…” (right after he blows up Hal Holbrook at the end of Magnum Force), “This badge is a seven-point suppository… you can stick it up your ass…” (when he hands his badge and gun over to Captain McKay in The Enforcer), “Your mouthwash ain’t makin’ it…” (said to same later in The Enforcer), the tired “Go ahead, make my day…” in Sudden Impact, and my personal favorite (also from Sudden Impact), “Nobody, and I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hotdog.”

4. Clint Eastwood knew when the Dirty Harry films lost their meaning, and even though it was almost too late, got out before they turned into recurring celluliod jokes like Death Wish XIV, Lethal Weapon VII, and Die Harderest that would only immasculate him. Eastwood and Harry’s only real misstep was 1988’s regrettable The Dead Pool. Aside from the poor choice of casting a miserably unable Liam Neeson as the main suspect, Sondra Locke also did her whiny, pale-skinned best to send the Harry films to an unexpected and uncomfortable grave. Eastwood walked away after that, but he knows that right now he could write, direct, and produce another Dirty Harry film starring the likes of Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Hillary Swank, Sean Penn, and Forest Whitaker that would mostly likely win Academy Awards for best director, best cinematography, best actor, best actress, best costumes, best sound design, best foreign-language film, and probably best animated feature.

5. The Dirty Harry films are the grandfathers of maverick cop stories we all love to watch. Dirty Harry was released in 1971 amidst an unusual Hollywood movement that was a essentially a backlash to the hippy counterculture designed to let the long-hair pot heads know that staunch conservatives are still in control. Other films around the same time all featured the lone, badass symbol of justice setting the bureaucratic, liberal, bleeding-heart legal system on its ear with his own brand of enforcement: Death Wish (1974) and Bullitt (1968) are two examples. It was such a fad that it enabled two other films of the same kind to be made, and they were based on true stories: The French Connection (1971) and Serpico (1973). If not for the popularity of these films and the Dirty Harry series, modern classics like the original Die Hard and Lethal Weapon films may not have been made. And if not for them, you can forget about other “realistic” cop dramas on TV like Hill Street Blues and The Shield.

6. Harry Callahan fought Political Correctness as successfully as he did crime, which was a victory for everyone with the “Y” chromosome. Despite all that faced him in terms of crime and corruption, Harry still managed to get all his partners dispatched. While Harry didn’t directly cause them to die, it was no coincidence that every partner assigned to him because of the demands of political correctness, racial and gender quotas, and Affirmative Action died while working with Harry. Early Smith (token black man) was blasted to a new postal zone in Magnum Force, and Kate Moore (token woman) was given more breathing holes in The Enforcer. The only clemency granted was to Al Quan (token Asian man) in The Dead Pool, and that was because he did a very un-Callahanlike thing by wearing a kevlar vest. Harry’s greatest PC coupe, though, was managing to openly display his penis (read: his power and authority) throughout large parts of each film, despite the presence of women, children, and other lesser men in and around the San Francisco area (some Bay Area residents would say this is normal behavior in the city). Albeit his penis was symbolized by a .44 Magnum (and later, a .44 Automag), Harry still bandied it about with impunity, thus inspiring generations of gun enthusiasts, hunters, NRA freaks, Charleton Heston fans, and Dick Cheney.

Written by seeker70

September 5, 2008 at 12:38 am

2 Responses

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  1. […]  Like shit shit.  Bad shit.  Dog shit.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from Dirty Harry Callahan, it’s that a lot of things can happen to dog shit.  It can be scraped up with a shovel off […]

  2. […] The Seeker.  I had a helluva lot of fun writing one of the earliest pieces, that one being about Dirty Harry.  And I surprise myself sometimes not by what happens but by what doesn’t happen.  I […]

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