Tuesday, 19 July 2011
"This is the 44 Magnum, the most powerful hand gun in the world and could blow your head clean off. Do ya feel lucky?" Dirty Harry - Magnum Force (1973)
Magnum Force was the 1973 sequel to the excellent 1971 film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood as maverick cop Harry Callahan. Ted Post, who also directed Eastwood in TV's Rawhide and the feature film Hang 'em High, directed the second film in the Dirty Harry series. The screenplay was written by John Millius (who provided an uncredited rewrite for the original film) and Michael Cimino. This film features early appearances by David Soul, Tim Matheson and Robert Urich as the primary antagonists, the vigilante traffic cops. At 124 minutes, it is also the longest Dirty Harry film.
In 1972, mobster Carmine Ricca (Richard Devon) drives away from court after being acquitted on a technicalty. An unseen SFPD Motorcycle cop stops Ricca’s limo for a traffic violation. Suddenly, the patrolman pulls his service revolver—a .357 Colt Magnum Python—shoots all four men in the car, then rides away.
Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) and his partner Earlington Smith (Felton Perry) visit the crime scene. Callahan is controversial within the department. His superior Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook) views Callahan and his tactics—such as his handling of the Scorpio case, and foiling an aircraft hyjacking at the airport by impersonating a pilot—as reckless and dangerous. The dislike is mutual, with Callahan mocking Briggs with the words "A man's got to know his limitations". Others, such as rookie traffic cops Philip Sweet (Tim Matheson), John Davis (David Soul), "Red" Astrachan (Kip Niven), and Michael Grimes (Robert Urich), see the inspector as a role model. The young officers' zeal and marksmnanship impress Callahan.
More criminals are killed. A motorcycle cop attacks a mobster's pool party, using a satchel charge and a 9mm Smith and Wesson M76 machine gun to kill multiple people. A pimp (Albert Popwell) who killed one of his prostitutes (Margaret Avery) is himself shot by a motorcycle cop. Callahan realizes that the pimp had let his killer approach him and had offered a bribe. He deduces that a cop is likely responsible, perhaps his old friend Charlie McCoy (Mitchell Ryan), who is suicidal and unstable after leaving his wife.
A motorcycle cop murders drug kingpin Lou Guzman and associates with the Colt Python equipped with a suppressor, but encounters McCoy and kills him to eliminate a potential witness. Callahan presents his suspicions to Briggs, who informs him of McCoy's death and that Davis was the first on the scene of the shooting. Davis' promptness draws Callahan's suspicion. During a shooting competition with the rookie, Callahan borrows Davis' gun and embeds a slug in a wall. He finds that the slug matches those found at the crime scene involving Guzman and McCoy, and begins to suspect that a secret death squad within the department is responsible for the murders.
Briggs insists that mob killer Frank Palancio is behind the deaths and obtains a warrant for his arrest. Callahan requests two of the four rookies, Davis and Sweet, as his backup. Palancio and his gang are called shortly before the raid and told that men dressed as police officers will attack. Palancio kills Sweet during the resulting shootout with a 12 gauge Winchester Model 1897 shotgun; he and his men are also killed.
The three remaining renegade cops ask Callahan to join their organization; he responds, "I’m afraid you've misjudged me." He discovers and defuses a bomb in his mailbox left by the vigilantes in case he refused their offer, but a second bomb kills Smith. Briggs arrives and asks Callahan to drive; in the car he draws his Smith and Wesson Model 19 snubnose revolver and forces the inspector to disarm. Briggs reveals himself as a member of the death squad, cites the traditions of frontier justice and summary executions, and says, “You’re a great cop, Harry...But you’d rather stick with the system.” Callahan responds, "I hate the goddamn system, but until someone comes along with some changes that make sense I'll stick with it."
Callahan distracts Briggs and knocks him unconscious, then kills the pursuing Grimes by hitting him head-on with his car. He runs onto an old aircraft carrier as the remaining two vigilantes arrive. The unarmed Callahan evades his pursuers and kills Astrachan, then rides his motorcycle with Davis in pursuit. After a series of daring jumps on the carrier, the two cyclists run out of deck space; Callahan is able to stop but Davis is killed. Briggs confronts the inspector back at his car and threatens to prosecute Callahan for killing fellow cops. The inspector surreptitiously activates the timer on the mail bomb; it explodes, killing Briggs. The final scene of the movie is a close-up of Callahan's face as he says, "Man's got to know his limitations", before he walks away.
Writer John Milius came up with a storyline in which a group of rogue young officers in the San Francisco Police Force systematically exterminate the city's worst criminals, portraying the idea that there are worse cops than Dirty Harry. Clint Eastwood specifically wanted the story to show that, in spite of the 1971's film perceived view of Inspector Callahan, Harry was not a 100% vigilante. David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and Kip Niven were cast as the young vigilante cops. Milius was a gun aficionado and political conservative and the film would extensively feature gun shooting in practice, competition, and on the job. Given this strong theme in the film, the title was soon changed from Vigilance to Magnum Force in deference to the 44 Magnum that Harry liked to use. Milius thought it was important to remind the audiences of the original film by incorporating the line "Do ya feel lucky?" repeated in the opening credits.
With Milius committed to filming Dillinger, Michael Cimino was later hired to revise the script, overlooked by Ted Post, who was to direct. According to Milius, his script did not contain any of the action sequences (the car chase scene and duel on the aircraft carriers) at the end of the film. His was a "simple script". The addition of the character Sunny was done at the suggestion of Eastwood, who reportedly received letters from women asking for "a female to hit on Harry" (not the other way around)
The film received negative publicity in 1974 when it was discovered that a scene in which drain cleaner is used to murder a prostitute had allegedly inspired the infamous Hi-fi murders with the two killers believing the method would be as efficient as it was portrayed in the film. The killers said that they were looking for a unique murder method when they stumbled upon the film, and that had they not seen the movie, would have chosen a method from another film. The drain cleaner reference was repeated in three other films, Lethal Weapon (1987), Heathers (1989) and Urban Legend (1998). According to scriptwriter John Milius, this drain cleaner scene was never meant to be filmed, but was only mentioned in his original script.
Although the film was a major success after release, grossing $58.1 million dollars in the United States alone, a new record for Eastwood, it received a mixed critical response. New York Times critics such as Nora Syre criticized the conflicting moral themes of the film and Frank Rich believed it "was the same old stuff". Pauline Kael, a harsh critic of Eastwood for many years mocked his performance as Dirty Harry, commenting that, "He isn't an actor, so one could hardly call him a bad actor. He'd have to do something before we could consider him bad at it. And acting isn't required of him in Magnum Force."
|Directed by||Ted Post|
|Produced by||Robert Daley|
|Screenplay by||John MIlius|
|Story by||John Milius|
|Based on||characters created by Julian Fink|
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Studio||The Malpaso Company|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Release date(s)||December 25, 1973|
|Running time||124 minutes|