Theatrical film poster by Bill Gold
|Directed by||Ted Post|
|Produced by||Robert Daley|
|Screenplay by||John Milius
|Story by||John Milius|
|Based on||characters created by Harry Julian Fink
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Editing by||Ferris Webster|
|Studio||The Malpaso Company|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||124 minutes|
Magnum Force is a 1973 American police thriller 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 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 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 .357 Magnum Colt Python), 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 despite them being loaned to stakeout by their Lieutenant. Callahan is controversial within the department. His superior, Lieutenant Neil Briggs (Hal Holbrook) views Callahan and his tactics—such as his handling of the Scorpio case, and foiling an aircraft hijacking 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" after Briggs reveals to him his pride on not ever having to draw his gun in the line of duty; Harry also has noticeable delight in showing up Briggs after the foiled hijacking. 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. Encountering Callahan at the indoor firing range, the young officers reveal that they are all ex-Airborne Rangers or Special Forces. The young officers' zeal and marksmanship impress Callahan.
More criminals are killed. A motorcycle cop attacks a mobster's pool party, using a satchel charge and a 9mm Smith & Wesson M76 sub-machine gun to kill multiple people. Later, a pimp (Albert Popwell) who killed one of his prostitutes (Margaret Avery) is himself shot at close range 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, and begins suspecting it may be his old friend Charlie McCoy (Mitchell Ryan), who he encounters outside the firing range and who is despondent and suicidal after leaving his wife, Carol (Christine White).
After hearing McCoy's rant, Callahan visits Carol and finds out from her that McCoy was playing Russian Roulette only the night before. In the meantime, Carol tries to seduce Callahan, but her kids and Early's call for backup during his undercover operation break the mood. Back at his apartment building, Callahan meets a girl called Sunny (Adele Yoshioka) who immediately asks "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 and they spend the night together, though their tryst is briefly interrupted when Lt. Briggs summons him to the city morgue to view the bodies of more victims. At the morgue, Briggs announces Callahan and his partner are back on homicide detail.
A motorcycle cop murders drug kingpin Lou Guzman and associates using a Colt Python equipped with a suppressor. However, Guzman is under surveillance across the street by Callahan's old partner, Frank DeGeorgio (John Mitchum), who sees McCoy dump his bike outside Guzman's apartment complex just before he witnesses Guzman's murder. The assassin motorcycle cop then 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' promptness at the crime scene raises Callahan's suspicions of the rookie cops. During the shooting competition with the rookies, Callahan borrows Davis' gun and purposely embeds a slug in a range wall. Later at night he retrieves the slug, ballistics then reveal 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 backup. 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 12 gauge Winchester Model 1897 shotgun. During the prolonged arrest operation, Palancio and his men are also killed.
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 "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 then 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 his partner as Harry tries 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 and determines that it can be detonated by a mailbox key or a timer. He then directs Harry on the freeway and draws his .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 19 snubnose revolver and forces the inspector to disarm. Briggs then reveals himself as the leader of the death squad. He cites the traditions of frontier justice and summary executions, and says, “You’re a great cop, Harry, you had a chance to join the team but you’d rather stick with the system.” Callahan responds, "Briggs, I hate the goddamn system, but until someone comes along with some changes that make sense I'll stick with it." Unimpressed, Briggs tells Callahan "You're about to become extinct."
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 bike. 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 military vessel graveyard 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 with a Colt Python. Rather than shoot Callahan, Briggs threatens to prosecute him for killing all three vigilante police officers. As the inspector 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, "A man's got to know his limitations", before he walks 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.
- Clint Eastwood as SFPD Homicide Inspector Harry Callahan
- Hal Holbrook as SFPD Homicide Lt. Neil Briggs
- David Soul as SFPD Traffic Officer John Davis
- Tim Matheson as SFPD Traffic Officer Philip Sweet
- Kip Niven as SFPD Traffic Officer Alan "Red" Astrachan
- Robert Urich as SFPD Traffic Officer Michael Grimes
- Felton Perry as SFPD Stakeout Inspector Earlington "Early" Smith
- Mitch Ryan as SFPD Traffic Officer Charles "Charlie" McCoy
- Margaret Avery as the Prostitute
- Bob McClurg as the Cab Driver
- John Mitchum as SFPD Stakeout Inspector Frank DiGiorgio
- Albert Popwell as the Pimp, J.J. Wilson
- Richard Devon as Carmine Ricca
- Christine White as Carol McCoy
- Tony Giorgio as Frank Palancio
- Jack Kosslyn as Walter
- Bob March as Estabrook
- Adele Yoshioka as Sunny
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. Clint Eastwood specifically wanted the story to show that despite the 1971's film 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. 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, 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". 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).
Frank Stanley was hired as cinematographer and Lalo Schifrin once again conducted the score and filming commenced in late April 1973. 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. Eastwood was intent, like with many of his films on shooting it as smoothly as possible, often refusing to do retakes over certain scenes insisted on by Post who 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". Post remained bitter with Eastwood for many years and claims disagreements over the filming affected his career afterwards. 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."
The film would launch a number of careers, including David Soul (Starsky & Hutch television series), Robert Urich (S.W.A.T., Vega$ and Spencer 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 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 in the United States alone, a new record for Eastwood, it received a mixed critical response. 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". 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.
Box office performance 
In the film's opening weekend, it grossed $6,871,011. In the United States, the film made a total of $44,680,473, making it more successful than the first film and the seventh highest grossing film of 1973.
- "Magnum Force, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
- As stated in The Enforcer
- "Magnum Force" at IMDB - Trivia
- McGilligan (1999), p.233
- McGilligan (1999), p.234
- John Milius commentary on Magnum Force Deluxe Edition DVD
- McGilligan (1999), p.235
- McGilligan (1999), p.236
- Munn, p. 142
- "Magnum Force, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- "Dirty Harry Franchise Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
- McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-638354-8.
- Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-790-X.