Dirty Harry | 1971
A reaction against the liberal Sixties saw the rise of Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), frustrated by the workings of bureaucracy and legal rights, determined to hunt down the epitome of middle-class terrors – Scorpio (Andy Robinson) a smirking, unkempt hippie wearing a Peace symbol, who murders and rapes indiscriminately and probably feasts on live kittens for breakfast.
The movie was shot almost entirely around San Francisco, where Scorpio’s first victim is killed while taking a quiet dip in the rooftop pool of what was the Holiday Inn at Chinatown and is now the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, 750 Kearny Street between Washington and Merchant Streets.
Scorpio is taking potshots from his rooftop perch atop 555 California Street at Kearny Street, formerly the Bank of America World HQ, downtown. He leaves a note promising to take out one person per day until he’s paid the mind-numbing sum of $100,000.
Down at ground level, the California Street frontage of this same building provided the entrance to the highrise which ended up as The Towering Inferno a couple of years later.
The sullen ‘Dirty’ Harry is soon summoned to the mayor’s office, where he amply demonstrates his contemptuous attitude to authority. The real Mayor’s Office in San Francisco’s City Hall, was used for filming while it was empty over a Memorial Day weekend. You can see its imposing entrance lobby much later in the film, with the grand staircase you’ll probably recognise from the ending of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
City Hall stands on Polk Street between McAllister and Grove Streets.
Spotting a robbery in progress, Harry demonstrates his street smarts by calling for backup without betraying a flicker of concern.
You won’t be able to get a hotdog at Harry’s favourite eaterie, catch a film at the local cinema (showing Eastwood’s first directorial outing, Play Misty For Me) or make a withdrawal from the bank outside which Harry first delivers his signature line “How lucky do you feel?”. This whole sequence was filmed on the Warner Bros Burbank backlot in Los Angeles, where car crashes are easier to set up. This explains why hilly San Francisco becomes suddenly so flat.
This is the only studio exterior, though, and it’s back to the real Bay City for the Police Department building out of which Harry works, which is the Hall of Justice, 850 Bryant Street, South of Market. It's here you can see the seal pointedly featured in the film
Scorpio is spotted by a police ’copter on the rooftop of 1606 Stockton Street, overlooking Washington Square Park in North Beach, where he’s choosing another victim.
When Scorpio makes a run for it, Harry and his newly-assigned partner Chico (Reni Santoni), follow a suspicious-looking guy through the city's benighted streets to Filbert Street.
Harry chases him into the narrow passageway of Krausgrill Place, off Filbert Street
It's here he's mistaken for a peeping tom and has to be rescued from a gang of irate neighbours.
Acting on a hunch, that Scorpio will return to the same rooftop, Harry sets up a stake-out beneath the illuminated revolving 'Jesus Saves' sign (built specially for the film, so it coud be shot to bits), atop 1520 Stockton Street.
The twin-spired Italianate church over the way is Saints Peter and Paul, 666 Filbert Street. This is the church to which Scorpio returns to carry out his threat of blowing away a Catholic priest.
The church has an earlier place in film history. While it was still under construction in 1923, it was featured in the modern-day section of Cecil B DeMille's first (silent) version of The Ten Commandments.
The night-time search for the killer takes Harry and his college kid partner Chico (Reni Santoni) down the raunchy section of Broadway at Columbus Street, past such local colour as Big Al’s and the Roaring 20s strip joints. Big Al's has since closed, but the famous neon signs still remain.
Showing a caring side, Harry demonstrates his tough love approach to save the life of a potential suicide tottering on a ledge on California Hall, at the junction of Turk and Polk Streets across from the Embassy Hotel.
But Scorpio is still out there, and follows through on his promise when the body of a ten-year-old African-American boy is discovered on waste ground at Sierra Street and Texas Streets in the Potrero Hill district. Not surprisingly, the empty lot has since been extensively developed as housing.
Scorpio goes on to kidnap a girl and ups his demand to $200,000. After Harry is reluctantly given the job of bag-man to deliver the ransom, he's bounced all around town by Scorpio using a series of phone calls.
The first meet is at Marina Green, East Harbor, where the public payphone rings and Harry is given instructions to head to Forest Hill MUNI Station, between Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson. This, by the way, is the same station which stands in for the 'New York' subway of the 1970s, where Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) first meets Scott Smith (James Franco) in Gus Van Sant's Milk.
The station looks surprisingly shabby as Harry catches the K car to Church and 20th and from there is forced to leg it through a darkened tunnel.
The tunnel is the Fort Mason Tunnel, now disused.
Barley pausing to see of a bevy of muggers, Harry emerges from the tunnel on Van Ness Avenue.
He takes Scorpio's next call at the art deco hot dog stand.
The final assignation is at the 100-foot tall concrete cross, which tops Mount Davidson, San Francisco’s highest peak. The cross was one of a series of five erected in 1934, during the Depression, using public donations. If you can face the climb, the path up to the peak begins at the corner of Myra Way and Sherwood Court.
After taking a beating from Scorpio, Harry’s pursuit becomes personal and he tracks the killer down to Kezar Stadium on Kezar Drive in the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park, where he's living as caretaker.
The stadium you see today is not the one in the film. The former home of the San Francisco 49ers, the team left in 1970 – which meant it was empty for filming – and was finally demolished in 1989. A new stadium, with a smaller seating capacity, has replaced it.
The injured Scorpio goes for help at, what was, the real Park Emergency Hospital, 911 Stanyan Street at Beulah Street, just west of the famous Haight-Ashbury District on the edge of Golden Gate Park. It's now part of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.
Naturally, the whiny killer calls for his lawyer and, like all crazed killers, he’s immediately released on a technicality by do-gooders who insist on all those pesky legal niceties.
Despite being warned off, Harry is naturally on Scorpio’s case, tailing him to a strip joint – the Roaring 20s again, on Broadway.
There are clearly no depths to which this snickering murderer won’t stoop and he goes on to hijack a schoolbus full of kids.
The bus is taken over the Golden Gate Bridge onto Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and through the Waldo Tunnel on Highway 101, heading for ‘Santa Rosa Airport’.
The final showdown, where Scorpio is finally wasted was at the old Hutchinson rock quarries of Larkspur, about 10 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The area has since been completely redeveloped as Larkspur Landing.