Joe’s $1 a week cinema #10: Dirty Harry
On a couple of occasions now a friend and I have met at a certain Italian restaurant where I consume a bowl of meatballs and a litre of house wine.
This has reached the point where it has become quite a tradition, or, to put it another way, quite a drinking problem. Fortunately I always offset the wine with several beers before and afterwards to ensure I remain clear-headed.
This friend of mine had recently quit his job, and was planning to fund the remaining 20 years of his working life by writing the great Australian novel.
This was a flawless financial strategy built on the fairly modest assumptions that the book would 1) outsell The da Vinci Code; and 2) be completed by April.
With such generous parameters, my friend saw no need to “front-end load” his writing timetable and so spent the first two weeks of his freedom making the necessary preparations, such as purchasing a whiteboard and updating his Facebook status.
And so it was that we found ourselves at this restaurant, happily unmolested by the threat of anyone writing anything. When both of us had finished eating and drunk enough to start thinking straight, my friend observed that the only logical thing to do now was to go back to his place and watch Dirty Harry.
“I like the music,” he explained, in a statement that made perfect sense at the time.
In an age when the world was in danger of being overrun by folk singers, Dirty Harry was a clarion call, the voice of reason that pulled America back from the brink of being a peaceful progressive nation.
Harry Callahan roamed the city bringing law and justice back to the rough city streets. Naturally that city was San Francisco, which, while other US metropolises were being crippled by mob activity and street crime, was experiencing an unparalleled outbreak of gayness.
Harry plans to put a stop to that. If he sees a queer he kicks him in the nuts; if he sees a hippie he kicks him in the nuts; if he sees a black he shoots him. Then kicks him in the nuts.
On the outside, this would appear to paint Harry as a somewhat bigoted character. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. For example when he gets his new partner Chico Gonzales – who is possibly of Hispanic background – Harry does not kick him in the nuts at all, despite being clearly displeased at his general disposition.
Indeed the two men work quite successfully all the way through until Chico is shot, again not by Harry.
In fact the person who shot Chico was a serial killer called Scorpio, a man evil enough to kill two young women and one young boy as well as effeminate enough to confirm Harry’s suspicions about the Haight-Ashbury district in general.
Scorpio appears to be based on San Francisco’s Zodiac Killer of the 1960s, whose identity was never discovered. This would appear to be the genesis of the grand American tradition whereby if you can’t catch a bad guy in real life, you simply make a movie in which you catch the bad guy and sooner or later everyone will presume you did.
This is a remarkably effective device. If you type the words “Zodiac Killer” into Google you get 230,000 results. If you type in the words “Dirty Harry” you get 2,230,000.*
By the end of the film the audience is driven towards a logical certainty principle known as the Callahan Paradigm:
1) That Scorpio is creepy;
2) That Scorpio lives alone in a football stadium;
3) Therefore people who live alone in a football stadium are creepy.+
Indeed, there is not much else to explain why Scorpio goes around killing people, meaning that when the final confrontation between Harry and Scorpio takes place Harry is obliged to quickly shoot him dead for legal, ethical and narrative reasons.
Because Scorpio doesn’t need to explain why he does what he does, any more than Harry needs to explain why he does what he does. We already know why Scorpio does it: Because he is a homicidal maniac. And we know why Harry does it: Because he’s just that kind of guy.
Harry Callahan is a man who gets results, and that is why he will always be a hero to unfinished novelists.
*Other interesting findings include:
“Osama bin Laden is gay” – 26,200 results
“Tom Cruise is gay” – 84,300 results
“Joe Hildebrand is gay” – 4 results
+This goes some way to explaining the success of the Melbourne Storm, who in all their time down south have received fewer visitors than David Hicks.
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