Why one lucky punk was the actual criminal fifty years after Dirty Harry.
Clint Eastwood may have nailed the film’s bad guy, but the criminal on whom he was based got away with seven killings in what is now considered one of America’s most notorious cold cases.
ONE OF THE MOST REMARKABLE QUOTES IN FILM HISTORY: “I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six or five shots?’ You must ask yourself one question: “Do I feel fortunate?” “How about you, punk?” Clint Eastwood was on location in California fifty years ago this October, holding a Smith and Wesson handgun and seeking to track down a serial killer known only as Scorpio in the haggard appearance of rebel investigator ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan.
The seeds of the story and the Scorpio character were seeded by a real-life serial murderer who murdered at least five people in northern California in the late 1960s, as fantastical as the premise of Dirty Harry may sound.
The Zodiac Killer, like Scorpio, would write letters to police and local media. This week, amateur sleuths identified Gary Francis Poste, a former Air Force pilot who died in 2018, of whom more later.
However, he was playing a more complicated game than the fictional assassin, as the Zodiac’s letters contained complex ciphers that the recipients were expected to decipher.
Panic had already broken in among the local people by the time the first letter arrived at the offices of the San Francisco Chronicle and two other local newspapers on August 1, 1969.
“I will be reborn in Paradice (sic) when I die,” the note stated. “…and all those I’ve killed will become my slaves. I’m not going to tell you my name because you’ll try to slo (sic) down or atop my slave collection for my afterlife.” Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Arthur Faraday, 17, were shot and died while riding in a car in a quiet layby site famous with courting lovers just eight months before, on December 20, 1968.
Over the next ten months, the killer shot lovers Michael Renault Mageau, 19, and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22, in a car park; he killed taxi driver Paul Stine, 29, in San Francisco; and he trussed up and fatally stabbed Bryan Calvin Hartnell, 20, and Cecelia Ann Shepard, 22, another pair of lovers who were in the car park. “Brinkwire News Summary.”