It has been estimated that Clint Eastwood earned around 30 million dollars for this picture. Around this time, Eastwood's salary on movies took sixty percent of the profit, with forty percent for Warner Brothers.
Of the five 'Dirty Harry' movies, it was this film that used the catchphrase "Go ahead, make my day" whereupon it became synonymous with the Harry Calahan character and became popularized into the vernacular of popular culture. Although Clint Eastwood made the phrase "Go ahead, make my day" famous, it was originally used a year earlier by actor Gary Swanson in the movie Vice Squad (1982). Swanson, who played a Hollywood vice cop, said the line, "Go ahead, scumbag, make my day," to actor Wings Hauser, who played a pimp, during a bust. The quote is often erroneously attributed by most people to be from the first movie of this series, Dirty Harry (1971). The phrase was also voted in a 2005 poll by the American Film Institute as the No. #6 most memorable line in cinema history. The phrase was so well publicized and became so popular that many members of the public knew about it by the time the movie opened.
Clint Eastwood is seen wearing Gargoyles sunglasses, which would later surface in The Terminator (1984). The latter film also spawned an ad campaign with Arnold Schwarznegger wearing the sunglasses, saving the company from bankruptcy. Iconic and unique looking, Gargoyles Classics are considered among the best safety glasses ever made and are still manufactured. Gargoyles were adopted by the militay as official US Eye Armor in the 1990's. With different colors and side shields, they were well publicized props during the television series ER (1994-2009).
Charles B. Pierce wrote the line "Go ahead, make my day." The line was inspired by a warning that his father would say to Pierce when he was a child. According to Pierce, his father warned him "When I come home tonight and the yard has not been mowed, you're gonna make my day."
In promoting this film, Clint Eastwood said: "I think the public is interested in justice, and that's what Harry stands for. He's unique because he stood for the same principles from the beginning, when it wasn't terribly fashionable...People are little edgy about the rights of criminals taking precedent over the rights of victims. They are more impatient with courtroom procedures and legal delays".
The only Dirty Harry film where Callahan uses a semi-automatic handgun. The gun is a large caliber semi-automatic pistol AMP (auto magnum pistol).44 AutoMag model 180. It was developed by the Auto Mag Corporation between 1966 and 1971 to translate the power of .44 magnum to a semi-automatic pistol. Cartridges for the .44 Auto Mag were originally formed using surplus .30-06 or .308 Winchester (similar to the 7.62 x 51 NATO) - at the time of the film's release ammunition for the Auto Mag firearms were available from Norma in Sweden (see also Beverly Hills Cop II).
The film's famous "Go ahead, make my day" line went on to be immortalized by the American Presidency when then U.S. President Ronald Reagan used it in a key address when he said, "I have my veto pen drawn and ready for any tax increase that Congress might even think of sending up. And I have only one thing to say to the tax increasers. Go ahead--make my day." This was on March 13, 1985, in a speech threatening to veto legislation raising taxes at the American Business Conference.
The reason the film was made at all had to do with a survey. Warner Bros. was preparing to release the Sean Connery James Bond film Never Say Never Again (1983) and they took a survey. They asked movie goers to name an actor and a famous part that actor played. Clint Eastwood as "Dirty Harry" scored so high in the survey results, the studio told Eastwood it would be "open" to distributing another "Dirty Harry" film. Eastwood made this film as a result of that meeting.
This movie was not the first time that Clint Eastwood directed himself as the Dirty Harry character, though it is the first entire film where he did so. Eastwood directed the suicide jumper scene in the first Dirty Harry (1971).
Albert Popwell's fourth and final appearance in a Dirty Harry film. He has played a different character in each of the four movies: an uncredited bank robber in Dirty Harry (1971), a pimp in Magnum Force (1973), Mustapha in The Enforcer (1976), and finally, Horace King in this movie. His character alternately lives and dies in each film.
The carousel Jennifer is researching is the "1911 Looff Carousel" located at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz,California. In 1987 the U.S. Park Service declared the ornate merry-go-round a National Historic Landmark along with the Boardwalk's 1924 Giant Dipper roller coaster.
The scene where Callahan chases the robber in the senior citizen bus was filmed at and around the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz, California. This area was heavily damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989. Many of the buildings in this scene had to be razed, due to extensive earthquake damage.
Bradford Dillman previously played Captain Jerome McKay in The Enforcer (1976), and plays Captain Briggs here. Magnum Force (1973) featured a different character named Lt. Briggs played by Hal Holbrook. It is unclear whether the two Briggses are related or just have the same last name.
Out of the orginal poster art when they were advertised and also duplicated on the front covers of first run VHS and DVD boxes, this is the only Dirty Harry movie where his gun isn't on the poster or front covers.
The first Dirty Harry movie where the ending credits aren't a freeze frame of the last shot with credits presented in slide show form. Here, the camera has an aerial shot for a few minutes, then fades to black in the middle of the credit sequence while the credits move up wards like most movies. It is also the only Dirty Harry film where Harry is not seen walking away at the end.
When Harry is practicing in the woods with his 44 Automag, Horace shows up. Nobody should be standing next to a muzzle of any gun when firing. Especially a caliber like that. Horace's eardrums should be next county over. Yet, neither even flinch.
Although not earning screen credit, Adele Yoshioka, who portrayed Callahan's girlfriend Sunny from the Magnum Force movie 10 years earlier, can be seen as a patron in the diner shoot out scene around 11 minutes into the film.
The song performed by Roberta Flack over the end credits, "This Side Of Forever", is the same piece of music heard over the end credits of the two previous films in the series that Lalo Schifrin scored (Dirty Harry and Magnum Force), only with lyrics added.
Bette Ford and Sondra Locke are too close in age for Ford to be speaking in a matronizing tone to Locke during their short scene together - "Nonsense, child" being the most ridiculous line. Ford and Locke are just under 7 years apart, aged 45 and 39 at the time of filming. Moreover, the character of Jennifer is supposed to be substantially younger than Ray (Audrie Neenan) but in real life Locke was older than Neenan, by 6½ years.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The production company had to keep a diver on the set during the filming of the climactic scene filmed on a pier in which Callahan shoots the bad guy. When the gun would jam, which it did frequently, Clint Eastwood would in a fit of rage throw the gun a considerable distance into the water. The diver would retrieve the gun, which would be dried out, repaired, and reloaded for the next take.
Has a surprising amount of similarities with his western High Plains Drifter (1973). Not only were they both directed by and starring Clint Eastwood and released ten years apart, but both movies have haunting flashbacks that are revenge stories. Harry gets beaten up by three men similar to the Marshall getting whipped by three men. Both movies have rape. The first action scene Clint Eastwood is in at the beginning of both movies has him shooting and killing three characters. The climax of both movies are the same location in the flashbacks with Eastwood in the shadows at night killing the remaining villains. These are also the only two Clint Eastwood movies to costar actor Russ McCubbin. He plays Fred Short in High Plains Drifter (1973) and Eddie in Sudden Impact (1983). This is the fourth of five time Eastwood plays Dirty Harry just like High Plains Drifter is the fourth of five time he plays a nameless cowboy.