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

Washington Square

Scorpio’s Rooftop, Dante Building, 1606 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94133-3316, USA.

Saints Peter and Paul Church, 666 Filbert Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA.

SCENE SYNOPSIS:

The rooftop scene in Washington Square Park where Scorpio loiters among the washing lines is memorable for three reasons. First, we get to see the killer’s (Scorpio’s) face for the first time (a full twenty minutes into the film); second, revealing the lethal contents of his tan suitcase – a Japanese Arisaka Type 2 Paratrooper Takedown Rifle and a MP40 submachine gun – we realize Scorpio is properly out of control; third, we are treated to a display of quality nut-job finger-splaying as Scorpio puts on his black gloves.

After demanding $100,000 and now being told to “be patient” by the Mayor in a newspaper personals column, Scorpio is seen in stoical mood tearing up the message; he then dons some black gloves, calmly walks over to his tan suitcase and opens it. He takes out a telescopic sight, scans the park, singles out a victim to shoot.

We get a glimpse of the arbitrary workings of Scorpio’s insanity when he suddenly panics after momentarily losing sight of his intended target. When the target comes back in sight, Scorpio smiles, assembles the rifle, takes aim, and prepares to commit murder – all to the hypnotic rhythm of a classic Lalo Schifrin beat. At the critical moment Scorpio is rumbled by a police helicopter – “You on the roof. You there, yes you!” – and forced to flee.

To the north west of the rooftop, just across Washington Square Park, is the impressively white Saints Peter and Paul Church – ironically located at 666 Filbert Street. No scenes in Dirty Harry were actually shot inside the church grounds, although its silhouette does feature sporadically throughout the the film.

Scene-shot (00:20:04): Scorpio on the rooftop of the Dante Building doing the black-gloved finger splaying routine of a man possessed. He is just about to open the “tan suicase” containing a sniper rifle and a MP40 submachine gun. Note the hut, the triangular shaped stairway behind Scorpio as well as the pointed silver roof jack directly behind his raised right hand; they are all in exactly the same position today – only the two silver vents in the foreground are no longer there (see photos).

STATE OF PLAY TODAY:

Scorpio loiters on the roof of the Dante Building at 1606 Stockton Street on the south-east corner of Washington Square Park.

I was fortunate to be granted access to the rooftop. The washing lines and fencing on which Scorpio leans as he tears up the Mayor’s reply have gone, but everything else looks much the same. The square hut, triangular-shaped sloping stairway, the silver roof jack Scorpio passes as he crouches down to open the tan suitcase are all in exactly the same place today as they were in 1971. Even the steel ladders through which Scorpio aims his rifle are still there.

Today one of the tenants of the Dante Building is movie rental firm – Film Yard Video. I went inside and was astonished to find not a single Dirty Harry poster in sight.

Considering the shop is located in a building that featured prominently in one of the most iconic films of all time, I found this criminally irresponsible and complained. The Dude behind the counter saw my point. Whether or not a poster now adorns the walls of this shop I have no idea.

Scene-shot (00:19:29): From the church the camera then pans across Washington Square Park, focusing in on the washing lines atop the Dante Building (right) where Scorpio lurks “with intent to kill”.

Scene-shot (00:19:53): “To Scorpio. We agree but need time to get money. Be patient.” Scorpio, slinking among the washing lines on the Dante Building rooftop, calmly tears up (and rejects) the reply left by the City of San Francisco in the personal columns of a local newspaper. He then goes forth to single out his next victim. Note Saints Peter and Paul Church in the background.

Scene-shot (00:20:12): Scorpio scans Washington Square Park for someone suitable to shoot. Note the triangular-shaped stairway to Scorpio’s left and before him the fixed steel ladders arching over the outer wall. Both are intact today and in the same position (see photos).

Scene-shot (00:21;03): After momentarily losing sight of his victim Scorpio runs to the corner of the rooftop and back in a desperate panic. See how this corner looks today in the photographs above.

Scene-shot (00:21:58): Scorpio taking aim. Note the fixed steel ladders his rifle is pointing through – they are still in place today (see photograhs).

Scene-shot (00:22:15): “You on the roof. You there, yes you! Stop what you’re doing. Turn around and put your hands in the air.” The moment Scorpio is rumbled by the police helicopter (right of the TV aeriel) seconds before he’s about to pull the trigger.

Scene-shot (00:22:26): After being spotted by the police helicopter Scorpio makes a quick dash for freedom. Note the steel ladders on the left side of the scene-shot and the row of apartments on the right.

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3 responses

  1. Thanks guys !!!
    Tremendous nostalgy & feeling here.

    And isn`t that sloped laundry-closet right there,or what ever that is, 🙂
    the same that “scorpio” throws backwards in with MP40,
    in combat with Chico and Harry at the night-ambush-scene?

    Just before he gets away from that same door,again.
    About to shoot officer Collins.

    ” the son-of-a-bitch took the bait “.

    September 22, 2011 at 04:43

  2. Thank you Jaakko.

    Yes, I believe the sloping roof in the pictures is the exact same one you mention.

    Scorpio falls back on this and lets rip with the MP40, grinning broadly in a state of heightened insanity, revelling in the destruction of neon. He then escapes down this very same stairwell.

    “Officer Collins never knew what hit him.”

    December 21, 2011 at 01:11

  3. Carl Silverman

    Dirty Harry, Films were simpler then, a simple story, simply told. FX? I don’t think so. Explict blood? Not needed. Made my day!

    January 29, 2013 at 20:13

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