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Magnum Force

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Title: Magnum Force  
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Subject: Harry Callahan (character), Dirty Harry, Ted Post, Robert Urich, Felton Perry
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Magnum Force

Magnum Force
Theatrical film poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Ted Post
Produced by Robert Daley
Screenplay by John Milius
Michael Cimino
Story by John Milius
Based on Characters created by Harry Julian Fink
R.M. Fink
Starring Clint Eastwood
Hal Holbrook
Mitchell Ryan
David Soul
Felton Perry
Robert Urich
Tim Matheson
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Frank Stanley
Edited by Ferris Webster
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 25, 1973 (1973-12-25)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $39,768,000[1]

Magnum Force is a 1973 American action film and the second to feature Clint Eastwood as maverick cop Harry Callahan after the 1971 film Dirty Harry. Ted Post, who also directed Eastwood in the television series Rawhide and the feature film Hang 'Em High, directed the film, the second in the Dirty Harry series. The screenplay was written by John Milius (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. At 124 minutes, it is also the longest Dirty Harry film.


  • Plot 1
    • Deleted scenes 1.1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Development 3.1
    • Filming 3.2
  • Effect 4
  • Controversy 5
  • Release 6
    • Box office performance 6.1
    • Reception 6.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Mobster Carmine Ricca (Richard Devon) drives away from court and an angry mob after being acquitted on a technicality. An unseen SFPD motorcycle cop stops Ricca’s limo for a minor traffic violation. Suddenly, the patrolman pulls his service revolver (a Colt Python .357 Magnum), shoots all four men in the car, then rides away.

Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) and his partner Earlington "Early" Smith (Felton Perry) visit the crime scene. Callahan's superior, Lieutenant Neil Briggs (Hal Holbrook) views Callahan and his tactics as reckless and dangerous. The dislike is mutual; Callahan mocks Briggs, saying "A man's got to know his limitations", after Briggs reveals to him his pride on not ever having to draw his gun in the line of duty.

Rookie cops Phil Sweet (Tim Matheson), John Davis (David Soul), "Red" Astrachan (Kip Niven), and Mike Grimes (Robert Urich) encounter Callahan at the indoor firing range, Sweet demonstrates his speed and accuracy while using Callahan's Smith & Wesson Model 29. Sweet reveals that he is an ex-Airborne Ranger and Special Forces veteran and that the others are as good or better shots than himself. The young officers' zeal and marksmanship impress Callahan.

Later, a motorcycle cop attacks a mobster's pool party using a satchel charge and a sub-machine gun. Shortly afterwards, a pimp (Albert Popwell) who murdered one of his prostitutes (Margaret Avery) is shot to death by another motorcycle officer. Callahan realizes that the pimp had let his killer approach him and had offered a bribe. He deduces that a cop is likely responsible, and begins suspecting it may be his old friend Charlie McCoy (Mitchell Ryan). He had recently encountered him outside the firing range and found him despondent and suicidal after leaving his wife, Carol (Christine White).

After hearing McCoy's rant, Callahan visits Carol and learns from her that McCoy was playing Russian Roulette the last time he visited his kids. Carol tries to seduce Callahan, but her kids and Early's call for backup during an undercover operation break the mood. Arriving at the undercover operation's location, Harry and Early take on a gang of four armed robbers, killing three of them.

Back at his apartment building, Callahan meets a girl called Sunny (Adele Yoshioka) who immediately asks him, "What does a girl have to do to go to bed with you?", to which Harry replies, "Try knocking on the door." A bit later in the evening, Sunny knocks on Harry's door, but before Harry and Sunny can get it on, Lt. Briggs summons him to the city morgue to view the bodies of more shooting victims. At the morgue, Briggs announces Callahan and Early are back on the homicide detail.

A motorcycle cop murders drug kingpin Lou Guzman and associates using a John Mitchum), who sees McCoy dump his bike outside Guzman's apartment complex just before he witnesses Guzman's murder. The assassin motorcycle cop encounters McCoy in the garage of Guzman's building and kills him to eliminate a potential witness. Meanwhile, Harry presents his suspicions about McCoy to Briggs, who informs him of McCoy's death. Later at a combat pistol championship where Davis becomes "the new pistol champ", a puzzled DeGeorgio tells Callahan that Davis was the first police officer to arrive after the murder of Guzman and McCoy.

Davis' prompt arrival at the crime scene raises Callahan's suspicions of the rookie cops. During the shooting competition with the rookies, Callahan borrows Davis' Colt Python and purposely embeds a slug in a range wall. That night he retrieves the slug, and ballistics reveals that the slug matches those found at the crime scene involving Guzman and McCoy. Harry begins to suspect that a secret death squad within the department is responsible for the murders.

Examining the slug while Harry refuses to reveal its source, Briggs ignores Callahan's suspicions and insists that mob killer Frank Palancio is behind the deaths. When Briggs obtains a warrant for Palancio's arrest and tells Harry to lead the arrest team, Callahan requests two of the four rookies, Davis and Sweet, as his backups. Palancio and his gang are tipped off shortly before the police raid via a phone call and told that killers dressed as police officers will hit them in two minutes. Palancio kills Officer Sweet during the resulting shootout with a shotgun. During the prolonged arrest operation, Palancio and all of his men are killed. When the office where the shootout took place is examined, nothing that would incriminate Palancio is found, raising Harry's suspicions further.

After the raid, the three remaining renegade cops, sitting on their bikes, confront Callahan in his garage complex. When Harry tells them they've killed a dozen people and asks what they're going to do next week, Davis cold-bloodedly replies, "Kill a dozen more". They present Callahan with a veiled ultimatum to join their organization saying, "Either you're for us or you're against us;" he responds, "I’m afraid you've misjudged me." Without saying a word, they drive away on their motorcycles. While checking his mailbox, Harry discovers a bomb left by the vigilantes in case he refused their offer. He inspects his apartment for further traps just before saving Sunny's life by preventing her from opening his mailbox. Callahan defuses the bomb, but a second bomb at Smith's home kills Early as Harry phones to warn him.

Callahan calls Briggs and tells him about the bombs. When Briggs arrives from City Hall, Harry shows him the bomb that was in his mailbox. Briggs wants to get the bomb back to headquarters and asks Callahan to drive. In the car, Lt. Briggs examines the mailbomb, then suddenly draws his revolver and forces Harry to disarm, revealing himself as the leader of the death squad. He cites the traditions of frontier justice and summary executions, and expresses disappointment for Callahan's refusal to join his squad, hinting that Harry is being taken to a secluded location where he will be executed without witnesses.

As Briggs forces Harry to drive toward the docks at gunpoint, he spots Grimes in the rear-view mirror, who is using his radio, shadowing them on his police motorcycle. Callahan distracts Briggs by sideswiping a bus, then knocks him unconscious by repeatedly beating his head into the dashboard. During a protracted high-speed street chase, Harry tries to escape from Grimes while being fired upon, but then turns the tables and kills the pursuing rookie by hitting him head-on with his unmarked police car. He abandons the partially wrecked car and runs onto an old aircraft carrier in a shipbreaker's yard, as the remaining two vigilantes arrive and start shooting. The unarmed Callahan evades his pursuers within the darkened ship, but not before he beats Astrachan to death as the vigilante runs out of ammunition. Davis finds Astrachan's body and checks for any sign of breathing just before hearing Callahan attempting to start Red's motorcycle. Back on deck, Harry then rides Astrachan's motorcycle with Davis in pursuit. After a series of daring jumps between ships, the two run out of deck space. Callahan is able to dump his bike after a jump and avoid the deck's end, but Davis falls to his death.

Harry makes his way back to the car, but a bleeding Briggs gets the drop on Harry. Rather than shoot Callahan, Briggs states he intends to prosecute him for killing all three vigilante police officers. As Callahan is forced to exit the vehicle, he surreptitiously activates the timer on the mail bomb and tosses it in the back seat. As Briggs slowly drives away, the car explodes, killing him. The final scene is a close-up of Callahan's face in front of the raging inferno as he comments, "Man's got to know his limitations", before walking away.

Deleted scenes

Cut from the final film were two scenes that explain why Harry grows to suspect Astrachan, Davis, Grimes, and Sweet of the killings of Charlie McCoy, Guzman, Ricca, the pimp, and all of the other criminals.

  • The first scene cut takes place after Davis and Harry watch McCoy's funeral flight take off and before the combat pistol championship; after the flight Harry and Davis drive from the airport to a bowling alley for a few drinks; a black youth is suddenly chased outside and assaulted by four toughs; Davis attacks the toughs while Harry dispatches one with his beer mug. After subduing the robbers, Davis harangues a group of eyewitnesses for letting such crimes take place. Harry witnesses Davis's harangue and sees in it his own approach to crime fighting, albeit far more severe.
  • Later, after examining the bullet from Davis's gun at the combat pistol championship range, Harry checks on old issues of a police magazine. He finds articles condemning the revolving door justice allowed by liberal politics - and these articles are authored by the four rookie cops.




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, conveying the idea that there are even worse rogue cops than Dirty Harry.[2] Clint Eastwood specifically wanted the story to show that despite the 1971 film's perceived view of Inspector Callahan, Harry was not a complete vigilante. David Soul, Tim Matheson, Robert Urich and Kip Niven were cast as the young vigilante cops.[3] Milius was a gun aficionado and political conservative and the film would extensively feature gun shooting in practice, competition, and on the job.[3] 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.[3]

With Milius committed to filming Dillinger, Michael Cimino was later hired to revise the script, overseen 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".[4] 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).[4]


Frank Stanley was hired as cinematographer and Lalo Schifrin once again conducted the score and filming commenced in late April 1973.[3] During filming Eastwood encountered numerous disputes with Post over who was calling the shots in directing the film, and Eastwood failed to authorize two important scenes directed by Post in the film because of time and expenses; one of them was at the climax to the film with a long shot of Eastwood on his motorcycle as he confronts the rogue cops.[5] As with many of his films, Eastwood was intent on shooting it as smoothly as possible, often refusing to do retakes over certain scenes. Post later remarked: "A lot of the things he said were based on pure, selfish ignorance, and showed that he was the man who controlled the power. By Magnum Force Clint's ego began applying for statehood".[5] Post remained bitter with Eastwood for many years and claims disagreements over the filming affected his career afterwards.[6] According to director of photography Rexford Metz, "Eastwood would not take the time to perfect a situation. If you've got seventy percent of a shot worked out, that's sufficient for him, because he knows his audience will accept it."[5]


The film would launch a number of careers, including David Soul (Starsky & Hutch television series), Robert Urich (S.W.A.T., Vega$ and Spenser for Hire) and Tim Matheson (Animal House and Fletch). Future Three's Company TV star Suzanne Somers can be seen as the topless blonde at the mobster's pool party.


The film received negative publicity in 1974 when it was discovered that the scene where the prostitute is killed with drain cleaner 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 at least three other films, including 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.[4]


Box office performance

In the film's opening weekend, it grossed $6,871,011.[7] In the United States, the film made a total of $44,680,473,[8] making it more successful than the first film[9] and the sixth highest grossing film of 1973.

(Its theatrical rentals were $19.4 million.[10])


New York Times critics such as Nora Sayre criticized the conflicting moral themes of the film and Frank Rich believed it "was the same old stuff".[6] 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".[6] Rotten Tomatoes sampled 20 reviewers and judged 80% of the reviews to be positive.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "Magnum Force (1973)".  
  2. ^ McGilligan (1999), p.233
  3. ^ a b c d McGilligan (1999), p.234
  4. ^ a b c John Milius commentary on Magnum Force Deluxe Edition DVD
  5. ^ a b c McGilligan (1999), p.235
  6. ^ a b c McGilligan (1999), p.236
  7. ^ Munn, p. 142
  8. ^ "Magnum Force, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved February 11, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Dirty Harry Franchise Box Office Information".  
  10. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 20
  11. ^ "Magnum Force (2011)".  
  • McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. London:  
  • Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books.  

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