Dirty Harry (1971)

Source: Warner Bros.: Blu-ray, 2012.

Year: 1971

Director: Don Siegel

Action Stars

Clint Eastwood

Harry Guardino

Andrew Robinson

John Vernon

Genre: Crime Film

Country: United States

Story Duration: 01:42:15

Act Duration:

1st Act: 00:23:30

2nd Act: 00:23:26

3rd Act: 00:28:33

4th Act: 00:26:43

Plot Turns:

1st: Scorpio’s attempted killing

2nd: Harry Callahan agrees to be bagman

3rd: Inadmissible evidence

ASD Ratio: 65%

AAD Ratios:

1st Act: 57%

2nd Act: 66%

3rd Act: 74%

4th Act: 62%

Action Structure: 1243

Action Scenarios









Total Action Moments: 24

1. Public telephones and micro-deadline structure.
2. Deadline to reach train presented as obstacle that is itself embedded in deadline to reach next phone.
3. Speeding train as mode of locomotion.
4. Scorpio stabbed in leg ending his ascendent moment.
Action Structure

Notable Action Sequence: Ransom Rescue

Duration: 00:13:44

Act: 3rd

Action Scenarios:







Description: The ransom rescue sequence in Dirty Harry (1971) clearly reveals how filmmakers can innovate the rescue scenario. On the hand, the sequence exhibits the prototypical character roles associated with the rescue scenario. The sequence features the captive — the kidnapped girl buried in the ground, the rescuer — Inspector Harry Callahan entrusted to deliver the ransom, and the captor — Scorpio the kidnapper who demands $200,000 in ransom for the release of the girl. On the other hand, the rescuing action presented in the sequence takes on a significantly different form. Instead of literally liberating the captive from their state of captivity, the rescuer in this instance provides a ransom to the captor in the belief that they will follow through on the release of the captive.*

From the start, the rescue takes on a deadline structure to build suspense not only at the macro-level of the sequence, but also at the micro-level of scenes. At the macro level, Scorpio informs the police that the girl has oxygen until 3:00 am, setting an overarching deadline for Callahan’s rescue efforts. At the micro level, the deadlines consist of Callahan reaching public telephones under specified time frames to obtain the next set of instructions, and to keep the girl alive [Figure 1]. Also factoring into the suspense are narratively embedded obstacles that Callahan encounters as he rushes from telephone to telephone, be they a departing train [Figure 2], muggers, an elderly man about to answer Scorpio’s call, and a gay hustler.

In addition to the overarching rescue scenario structuring the sequence, instances of the speed scenario are interspersed as Callahan rushes to each of the telephone destinations, often short of breath, to underscore the toll of his physical exertion. On one occasion, Callahan travels to the next destination by train, increasing the means of locomotion [Figure 3]. Such speed moments are cross-cut with his partner Chico Gonzalez, who also travels at speed in his police vehicle to track Callahan’s movements and maintains secret microphone contact with him.

At the last telephone destination, Scorpio instructs Callahan to head to the cross at Mount Davidson Park. Callahan continues to the park and heads upward to the rendezvous point. There, Scorpio orders Callahan to freeze, invoking the capture scenario as Harry raises his hands reinforcing his captured state. Scorpio clubs Callahan with his rifle and proceeds to brutally kick and stomp on him. The film cuts back to Gonzalez, who overhears Scorpio’s intention to kill Callahan through the hidden microphone, setting up another rescue deadline. Just before Scorpio can shoot, Gonzalez appears and fires at Scorpio, acting now as rescuer, with Callahan assuming the role of captive. Gonzalez and Scorpio then exchange gunfire, that results in Gonzalez shot in the chest. Callahan, slightly recovered from the beating, uses the occasion to stab Scorpio’s leg with a switch-blade, ending his ascendant moment and who yowls in pain [Figure 4]. The sequence ends with Scorpio making his escape seriously wounded but in possession of the ransom money with Callahan unable to pursue.

*In an earlier scene, Callahan tells his superior Lieutenant Al Bressler that he thinks the kidnapped girl is already dead. However, In the ransom rescue sequence, Callahan behaves in a manner that suggests he believes that her life is still at stake. Otherwise, Callahan would be under no pressure to get to the telephones in the prescribed times.

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