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Tagline: Dirty Harry is at it again.

Preshow Entertainment: None

Pizza: Pagliacci's


Back in 1983, you couldn't go a day without hearing “Go ahead, make my day” on TV or from a friend. Though you may know what movie this catchphrase is from, I’m betting most people don’t. The marketing department must have known the phrase would stick, or perhaps they were part of the process since it appears in the movie’s 80-second trailer - twice. The movie is SUDDEN IMPACT, the fourth entry (of five) in Clint Eastwood’s DIRTY HARRY franchise. It’s the only HARRY he directed, and he did so in a noir…oh wait, I have more to say about the catchphrase, like…“who wrote it?” Some credit one of IMPACT’s screenwriters, Charles B. Pearce. Other camps cry foul, claiming it was uttered in the movie VICE SQUAD, which predates IMPACT by two years. Well, I saw VICE SQUAD, and I'm here to tell you - yup. It was there first. "Come on, scumbag...make your move, make my day." But that doesn’t mean two people couldn’t have come up with it at the same time.

Yet as great as "Go ahead...." is, it was soon replaced, probably by "Where's the Beef?" I’ll tell you what my beef with IMPACT is - it’s a two hour cliché. But luckily, this beef also has cheese, and I love cheese!


SUDDEN IMPACT is the highest grossing of the HARRY films and Clint directed it noir-ish-ly. Well, at least in the opening. IMPACT starts with a bang, a series of bangs, actually. A femme fatale with her hat’s brim covering her eyes has just shot a man while Lalo Schifrin’s score meted out some Sax Noir 101. But after this, the noir disappears and we get a routine cop thriller. I’d call it a well-made B-movie. Others will disagree, I’m sure.

There’s also the issue of calling IMPACT one of the first female serial killer movies. I can think of many, including Truffaut's THE BRIDE WORE BLACK (screened at RMC in August of 2010), as well of a slew of rape and revenge sub-genre movies like MS. 45 and the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. Anyway…


The murderer’s name is Jennifer Spenser (or "Spencer" in the credits), played by Sondra Locke, whose 14-year relationship with Clint ended with a palimony suit against him and then some ugly allegations going both ways. I like movies where we see the killer up front. It's a different mystery - How Will They Get Caught vs. Who Done It? Jennifer's a painter whose works are dark and a bit gruesome, as if she's the house artist for NIGHT GALLERY.

Following this preamble, we watch a case Harry was involved in get thrown out of court because of his dirty procedures. The bad guys laugh at Harry as they exit the courtroom, just as they did in HARRY and in the similar revenge/vigilante film DEATH WISH, but at least we get to see that Clint Squint of anger. Nicolas Cage makes goofy faces when he's angry, and Clint squints. SIDE NOTE: Why do punky bad guys always look and act nothing like their real life counterparts? Putting a beret on and chomping on a toothpick doesn't make you threatening.

Then, the “make my day” scene. Out of all the places to rob, they choose the only burger joint with windows facing the street instead of walls. Yes, it's almost entirely windows. They deserve a little Harry Callahan justice just for that dumb move. And they get it. Like in the original, the redoubtable Harry gets interrupted while eating (though this time it’s over-sweetened coffee) and has to deal with the criminals.

Apparently, Harry can never have a boss who's not fed up with him to the point of getting an aneurysm. Here, he sends seditious Harry (gets rid of him, actually) to San Paolo to check out a lead. Naturally, he gets himself into trouble there too within the first week. No, change that to – day. Scratch that, and make it – hour. No, no, no – second. That’s it, second; for the very moment he pulls into this white bread Our Town, he watches as a robber comes flying out the bank and shoots a cop. Sure, this would make national headlines, but it doesn't because we’re in the movie bubble, or more specifically - The Harry Bubble, where it's okay for these comic book things to happen. And where does this cops-and-robber chase end? On the very same corner Jennifer happens to be standing on. See, she now resides in San Paolo, restoring the carousel, which signals to us these painted ponies will be used later in an action sequence, perhaps the film’s finale. She recognizes Harry from when she stuck around the scene of her crime, after she shot the first victim. The next day, Jennifer's jogging (but not in jogging clothes) and gets run off the path by Harry and his new dog.


Harry and Jennifer cross paths a third time (I don’t see the same person in my apartment building that often), and it’s here, in one of the movie's only yappy scenes, they discover their mutual hatred of bad guys getting away because of the system. But even Harry has his limits. There's still some law in his head, some morals. He is, after all, a cop…a cop who doesn’t yet know Jennifer is the murderer…a murderer who, after killing one of the bad guys, sees her reflection in the mirror and shoots it. She’s got some issues, but it’s not like I’m perfect either, so let’s move on.

Harry gets a cold welcome (which eventually turns out to be a get-out-of-my-town warning) from San Paolo’s police chief Jannings (Pat Hingle). Hmmm. Perhaps Jannings is hiding something. But he’s not the only one who hates Harry. Everyone hates Harry. His boss hates him, Jannings hates him, the thugs that walked out of the courtroom hate him, and I'm pretty sure there are times when Harry even has contempt for himself. He sort of is an asshole, when it comes down to it. But it’s okay because I’m pretty sure he knows it.

Also hating on Harry, the mob, who is after him for an unrelated thing featuring a small and uncredited (why?) role by the incredibly fun Michael V. Gazzo (THE GODFATHER PART II's Frankie Pentangeli).

Let me get back to that Harry Bubble. I present my evidence here. Things that this movie gets away with, that better movies wouldn’t dare do.

  • One scene has Harry beaten up badly by three guys, only to escape by accident. He falls off a pier into the ocean. Lucky!
  • Why do three punks, with weapons in their hands, not fire at Harry when they see him (slowly!) going for his gun? I mean, they could just kill him. Instead, they quiver and say things like "Holy shit!" Next time, just shoot.
  • The three punks who kill someone in Harry's room don't think to steal his gun? The coolest gun ever?
  • In flashbacks, why do Sondra and others actors look older than they do in the present day scenes?
  • In his garage, one of the bad guys loads his gun, making sure no one is watching. With the garage door wide open?
  • Corny music cues.

Besides the Harry Bubble, Eastwood does a competent job directing-by-numbers, though soon he’d be tackling more serious and challenging fare such as BIRD and UNFORGIVEN. Sometimes, Eastwood makes fun of the movie itself, like when the cops arrive at the first murder scene where the victim has been shot in the groin. The cop with Harry is not just eating a hot dog, but the dog is sticking out of the bun, like a dick. Other times, he gets serious, dipping his 44-magnum toe into Hitchcock territory, especially when Locke is on screen (she's been said to look Tippi Hedren-y) and Schifrin's score trades its jazz in for a demonic theme. All that said, Eastwood and the script stick to the original HARRY model (something the three other HARRY films don’t do), with the murderer revealed in the opening and that moment at the end, when Harry materializes seemingly out of nowhere, waiting for the bad guys to see him. They both even have a catchphrase (DIRTY HARRY’s was the whole "Do you feel lucky? Well? Do you punk?”).

I wish he’d chosen a better leading lady instead of his girlfriend, because truth be told, I thought Locke was just awful. BTW, her Wikipedia page lists her as having two birthdays, 1944 and 1947. That means she’s an alien.

Bruce Surtees, who was famous for favoring an absence of light, which works well here, shot IMPACT. His first three movies were with Clint; the hidden gem THE BEGUILED, PLAY MISTY FOR ME, and the original DIRTY HARRY.

COOL FACT: Mara Corday plays the coffee shop waitress in the “Make My Day” scene. She was also the lead in 1955's TARANTULA, where Clint had an uncredited role. It was his first year of making movies.

Mara Corday - Coffee Shop Waitress

DRINKING GAME: When frustrated with a situation, Harry uses the word “swell.” And he uses it a lot. How many times? Enough to get you drunk. Hey, maybe he was saying, “swill?” For you boozers, you can play the advanced game, using the word “ass,” which is spoken more times here than “a” and “the.”


For the fictitious San Paolo location, SUDDEN IMPACT used the California town Santa Cruz. Coincidentally, the missus and me were just up there, looking for trouble (and for a Harry Callahan spotting). See? That’s me (below) in front of the carousel, the one Sondra Locke was there to restore. We stayed at a hotel in Santa Cruz, where I was tempted to tell the housekeeper – “Go ahead, make my bed.”


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