The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool
The Dead Pool

Theatrical poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Buddy Van Horn
Produced by David Valdes
Screenplay by Steve Sharon
Story by
Based on characters created by Harry Julian Fink
R.M. Fink
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Jack N. Green
Editing by Ron Spang
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) July 13, 1988 (1988-07-13)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dead Pool is a 1988 American action thriller film about the manipulation of a "dead pool" game by a serial killer, whose efforts are foiled by a hardened detective. It is the fifth and final film in the Dirty Harry series, set in San Francisco, California and starring Clint Eastwood as Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan. It co-stars Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, and Patricia Clarkson, each of whom went on to greater film fame. At 91 minutes, it is the shortest of the five Dirty Harry films. This is also Carrey's first non-comedy related movie.



Fame finally catches up with Harry Callahan. His testimony against crime kingpin Lou Janero puts the mobster in prison and Callahan ends up on the cover of a San Francisco magazine as the city's ace crime fighter. Callahan is attacked by Janero's men at a turnoff near the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge while driving. He knocks down one with his car and shoots the remaining men dead. Callahan and his new Asian-American, martial arts-skilled partner Al Quan are then assigned to investigate the death of rock singer Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey), killed in his trailer while taking a break during filming of a slasher film directed by Peter Swan (Liam Neeson).

Later, Dean Madison, Swan's executive producer, is shot and killed during a Chinatown restaurant stick-up. Harry and Quan see the holdup and rush to stop it; Harry manages to gun down all of the robbers inside the restaurant, except for one who manages to escape out the door but is subdued by Quan with his expert martial-arts skills. When they examine the dead producer's belongings, they discover a note in his pocket with Harry's name and the name of Johnny Squares on it. It turns out that the dead producer, and Swan are carrying out a "dead pool" game in which participants try to predict celebrity deaths, either by natural causes or for those who work in dangerous professions. In a turn of events, another celebrity on Swan's list, movie critic Molly Fisher, is stabbed and killed in her condominium.

Callahan is asked to co-operate with the media (particularly reporter and later love interest Samantha Walker) to balance their interference with the investigation. Walker proposes to do an in-depth profile on Callahan for her news report, to make up for an incident earlier in the film where Harry broke Walker's camera to stop her crew from harassing Squares' girlfriend, while he wants to simply perform his job and stay out of the limelight. After dinner, they narrowly escape being killed by Janero's men, leading the reporter to reconsider the plight of police officers versus the public's right to know.

Callahan drives to the prison where Janero is serving his sentence. He promises a huge, chain-smoking quadruple murderer named Butcher Hicks a carton of cigarettes for his help in convincing Janero that if anything bad happens to Callahan, the vicious Butcher will pay Janero a visit. This results in Janero telling his men to stay away from Callahan while he is on duty.

Callahan resolves a situation where a man named Gus Wheeler, rumored to be responsible for the murders, tries to get on the TV news by dousing himself in gasoline and threatening to light himself on fire if he even sees a fire truck or hose. Ultimately, it turns out that Wheeler is just an attention-seeker desperate to appear on camera. Harry and Quan later interview Swan and manage to get the name of another suspect: Harlan Rook, a schizophrenic and deranged fan of Swan who thinks his ideas and work have been stolen by Swan. Swan had gotten a restraining order against Rook about a year before.

Rook next kills talk show host Nolan Kennard, another person on the list, using a very innovative device - he runs a bomb hidden in a remote control car under the victim's car as he is getting in. As the radio control car runs under the car, Rook arms the explosive, and detonates it. The method used is undetected by Callahan at the crime scene, although he does find a wheel of the radio control car, but thinks nothing of it until later when he spots Rook attempting to eliminate them in the same way. Callahan and Quan are pursued in their unmarked car through San Francisco's hilly streets by another radio control car (and Rook himself, who is following in his full-size car just behind his radio car). Eventually Callahan and Al Quan come to a dead end in an alleyway and the bomb explodes, nearly killing Quan, who survives thanks to his bulletproof vest and the fact that Callahan reversed away a split second before the bomb exploded.

Rook, disguised as Swan, calls Walker at the television station and invites her to Swan's film studio for an interview, which is actually a trap. The police, meanwhile raid Rook's apartment and discover torn posters of Swan's films and large quantities of explosives.

Callahan hurries to Swan's studio, where Walker is held captive by Rook. Harry reluctantly surrenders his .44 Magnum revolver after Rook nearly slits her throat. Callahan lures him to a pier after a chase. Rook eventually runs out of ammunition, and Callahan uses this opportunity to shoot Rook with a harpoon, impaling him. Callahan leaves with Walker while the police arrive at the scene.


The Dead Pool is the only Dirty Harry film in which Albert Popwell does not appear. The 1980s rock band Guns N' Roses makes a cameo appearance at the funeral of Johnny Squares, and one scene where Slash is shown firing the harpoon Harry will use at the end of the film.[1]


Eastwood reacted to starring in another Dirty Harry film, "It's fun, once in a while, to have a character you can go back to. It's like revisiting an old friend you haven't seen for a long time. You figure "I'll go back and see how he feels about things now.""[2] The Dead Pool was filmed between February and March 1988 in San Francisco.[3]

Car chase

Callahan is pursued through San Francisco's hilly streets in his unmarked Oldsmobile 98 squad car by a remote-controlled bomb assembled by Rook, disguised as a radio-controlled car. The "bomb" was in fact a highly modified Associated RC10 competition buggy topped with an off-the-shelf 1963 Chevrolet Corvette body from hobby accessory manufacturer Parma International. It was driven by world-champion radio control driver "Jammin'" Jay Halsey and was electrically powered. The sound effects of the "engine" were added in post production. This chase scene has many similarities with the famous chase in the Steve McQueen film Bullitt.[3] Eastwood has said that the chase was his favorite part of the film.

Box office performance

The Dead Pool was released in United States theaters in July 1988.[4] In its opening weekend, the film took $9,071,330 in 1,988 theaters in the US, at an average of $4,954.[5] In total in the US, the film made $37,903,295, making it almost the least profitable of the five films in the Dirty Harry franchise.[4][6]


The song Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N' Roses appears as the theme song for Swan's movie, as used in a scene during filming where Johnny Squares is lip-synching but eventually his mouthing gets out-of-sync. All members of the band have credited cameos in the film. They also appear during filming of a "nightmare scene" at the docks, where Slash (the band's guitarist) is the actor who fires the harpoon gun through a window.


Eastwood has publicly announced that he has no interest in acting in another Dirty Harry film. In 2000, he jokingly spoke about potential sequels: "Dirty Harry VI! Harry is retired. He's standing in a stream, fly-fishing. He gets tired of using the pole— and BA-BOOM! Or Harry is retired, and he catches bad guys with his walker?"[7]



  • Eliot, Marc (2009). American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood. Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-33688-0. 
  • Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781845119027. 
  • Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 086051790x. 

External links

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