An alternative journey through SAN FRANCISCO seen from the perspective of DIRTY HARRY filming locations

The Cross

Mt. Davidson Park (South Entrance), Lansdale Ave, Dalewood & Myra Way, San Francisco, CA 94127, USA


The Cross, located atop Mount Davidson in the centre of San Francisco, is the final destination of the ransom run and arguably one of the most iconic scenes in the film. This is where Scorpio hopes to bag the ransom money and kill Inspector Callahan. He fails on both accounts.

During this scene we see Scorpio at his schizophrenic best, measured and calm one moment, psychotic and deranged the next. The menacing bright-red balaclava coupled with his wild eyes and fits of delirious child-like giggling as he’s about to shoot Callahan from point blank range leave us in no doubt regarding Scorpio’s deep-rooted insanity.

We also see Callahan at his most vulnerable in this scene, within a whisker of losing his life, proving his preparedness to make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

Apparently, when the crew came to shoot the scene they had to wait several weeks before weather conditions allowed for successful filming. The scene was eventually shot in one night.

Scene-shot (00:56:06): Scorpio orders a disarmed Callahan to "turn and face the cross". As he does so the camera pans upwards to give us this memorable close-up shot of the large concrete crucifix. This is the view Callahan gets as he "puts his nose right up against the cement" just like Scorpio tells him.


Located atop Mount Davidson, San Francisco’s highest natural point (283m), the Cross with a height of 31 metres is one of the world’s tallest mock crucafixes and a San Francisco landmark. Yet despite its height and prominence, the cross is hidden by a ring of trees and can barely be seen from any other part of the surrounding city. To see it properly you must climb Mount Davidson where you’ll find it standing tall in the middle of a smallish hilltop clearing.

Originally built by local Christian groups as a lasting icon to their faith, a cross of some form has been present on the site since 1923. The concrete one we see today dates from 1934 and is essentially unchanged to this day. From the 1940s through the 1970s Easter sunrise services were held here and broadcast nationwide by CBS.

Following a series of lawsuits filed by non-Christian groups who took offence to the cross, the City was forced to sell it together with 38 acres of surrounding land to the highest private/commercial bidder. It was bought by the Council of Armenian-American Organizations of Northern California in 1997, which now owns and maintains the cross as a memorial to the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey between 1915 and 1923. A memorial plaque was added to the cross base in 1998.

What you see in the 1971 film is basically what you see in 2010. Very little has changed: the entrance on Lansdale Avenue, the dirt track leading up to the summit, the clearing half way up where Callahan confronts “Alice”, the whitewashed base of the cross, the cross itself, the path Chico sprints up to save Callahan, and the tablet-shaped stones Chico uses as cover at the top of this path as he shoots out with Scorpio are all still clearly identifiable today.


Scene-shot (00:53:40): Halfway up the Mount Davidson dirt track Callahan is confronted by someone he initially thinks is the killer. It turns out to be "Alice", a local rent boy who poses no immediate danger.

Scene-shot (00:53:45): Alice: "My friends call me Alice and I will take a dare." Callahan: "Well Alice, when was the last time you were busted?" Alice: "If you're vice, I'll kill myself!" Callahan: "Well, do it at home."

Scene-shot (00:54:20): After the "confrontation" with Alice, Callahan makes haste towards the illuminated cross atop Mount Davidson for a confrontation with a far more dangerous adversary.

Scene-shot (00:55:29): "Left hand, let's see the gun. My, that's a big one." Hidden in the trees and invisible to Callahan, Scorpio delivers the famous line at the base of Mt. Davidson Cross. According to Andy Robinson, this line was a piece of ad lib that he improvised at the moment of shooting that was not part of the original script. Director Don Siegel loved it and kept it in the film.

Scene-shot (00:56:11): With the camera hoisted on a crane and looking down from the top of the cross, we see Scorpio (red balaclava) passing the yellow bag and creeping up behind Callahan ( who is at the foot of the cross). The foggy conditions generate low visibility which gives the shot an eerie and sinister ring.

Scene-shot (00:56:13): With Callahan's nose "right up against the cement", Scorpio slinks up behind preparing to deliver a heavy blow to Callahan's left shoulder with the MP40 submachine gun. Callahan falls and is incapacitated while Scorpio metes out a severe kicking with his heavy Corcoran paratrooper boots. Only the timely intervention of Chico prevents Callahan's death.

Scene-shot (00:56:42): "Oh no, you lift that hand once more and I won't let you know where the girl is. / Do we understand each other, huh? / Do we understand each other? / Don't pass out on me yet, no, no. no, no, no, not yet, don't pass out on me yet you rotten oinker! / Do we understand each other? / If you care what happens to the girl, you better answer me. / All right, now listen to me carefully, I've changed my mind. / I'm going to let her die. / I just wanted you to know that. / I just wanted to make sure you knew that before I killed you. / Goodbye Callahan!"

Scene-shot (00:57:05): Hearing through his earpiece Scorpio's intention to kill Callahan at the foot of the cross, Chico makes haste up a side path towards the the cross to save his partner. In doing so he passes a distinct v-shaped tree just to the left of the path which I was able to identify (see photos).

Scene-shot (00:57:35): During the firefight with Scorpio Chico takes cover behind some tablet-shaped stones at the top of the side path to left of the cross. Some of these stones are can still be seen today.

Scene-shot (00:57:38:): Using the cross as cover, Scorpio lets rip at Chico with his MP40 Submachine gun. Note the whitewash around the base of the cross. A similar whitewash is still applied and can be seen today.

Scene-shot (00:57:56): After being stabbed in in the leg by Callahan, Scorpio picks up the ransom money and stumbles into the trees behind the cross to make his escape. Here we see him unintentionally jettison the yellow bag moments before tumbling down the steep slope. The SFPD later recovered the money.


One response

  1. that movie is the fucking nuts.

    July 13, 2011 at 22:38

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