Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers - Alien Stealth

    On a distant world far, far away, a swirling, gelatinous life form facing extinction sends out spores across deep space in search of a new home.


Then ... The spores encounter planet Earth and hitch a ride to the surface via a rain storm in, of all places, San Francisco.  The view looks east from Lafayette Park towards the west-facing block of Gough Street near Clay in Pacific Heights (map).  In the distance several towering apartments atop Russian Hill look out on the city.

and Now,  this is the same view today taken from a little lower down the slope (trees prevent an exact match).  Beautifully maintained, the two Queen Anne Victorians on the right are survivors, having barely escaped being torched by the fire that followed the 1906 earthquake.

... in 1906 ...  here they were back then, with the scorched aftermath of Nob Hill behind them (that's the burned-out Fairmont Hotel on the hilltop), and what's left of downtown at far right.  In the foreground Clay Street tees into Gough on the right side.  The home on the left has since been replaced.


Then ...  As the opening titles roll the camera looks from Lafayette Park along Clay.  The tall, narrow 1250 Jones Street apartment building is seen where Clay crests the top of Nob Hill and the pointed peak of the TransAmerica Pyramid building is visible beyond another apartment highrise.

and Now,  the same view is more or less unchanged 40 years on.


    Across town the alien spores on rain-soaked trees and plants germinate and produce rapid cell growth before our widening eyes, culminating in a small pod with a pretty flower.  Beware pretty things!  The end of the world as we know it is nigh!


Play It Again, Sam - Launderette

Then ...  in voiceover, Allan continues his pejorative lament while walking up the hill to his neighborhood launderette.

... and Now,  Near Coit Tower, this is Grant Avenue on Telegraph Hill looking south towards Filbert Street.  He is just passing 1653 Grant, approaching  the corner at Greenwich (map).  The awning above the doorway is still there and the window has since added security bars.


Then ... He muses on while doing his laundry.

    Back then there was a launderette at 501 Greenwich Street on the corner with Grant, listed below in the 1972 city directory (an earlier directory named it as the G & G Self-Service Laundry).  The exterior wasn't shown in the movie but it's reasonable to assume, since the camera crew and actor were already there for the exterior shot, that this is where this brief launderette interior scene was filmed.

... and Now,  501 Greenwich today is a rentable shared workspace office for professionals, a concept that didn't exist 40+ years ago.  Workstations have replaced washers and dryers.

... and Now,  this exterior  view of the launderette site shows, a few steps down the hill at far left, the door with the awning that Allan passed by in the image at top of this post.


Fog Over Frisco - Find The Killer!

    With Val missing, the search for Arlene's killer becomes even more urgent.  When a will from Arlene is found all are astonished to learn that she had all along been secretly married, to an Arthur Burchard.  Her father remembers the name and that he came from Los Angeles.  The manhunt turns to Burchard.


Then ...  Burchard it seemed owned a small yacht and the search now concentrates on scouring the waterways for it.  For these shots, locations in Los Angeles and in San Francisco were used.  This one shows a Douglas Dolphin flying boat leaving its embarkation dock within the Los Angeles Harbor's Slip No. 5.

... in 1938 ...  here's a vintage photo of that same flying boat at the dock; it was right next to the Wilmington Catalina Terminal (map).  Instead of taking a ferry boat from the terminal, the well-heeled could fly to Catalina Island for the $5 fare advertised below.  (That's a different building seen above across the slip).

... and Now,  the terminal building is gone and this corner of today's Slip No. 5 has become very industrialized.


Then ...  the flying boat continues searching off the coast.

... and Now,  the coastline is that of San Pedro with the Palos Verdes Hills in the background.  The fly-by above was probably filmed from the Los Angeles Harbor lighthouse perched at the end of the long breakwater (map); this recent photo of it shows the same coastline.


Then ...   Tony too joins the search for Burchard's boat in the Los Angeles Harbor.  The harbor's distinctive clock tower can be seen across the Turning Basin beyond the ship's smokestack. 

... c 1920 ...  this early photo captured the 1917 cruise terminal and clock tower in its glory days.  They were demolished in the late 1940s.

... and Now,  the cruise terminal and clock tower were rebuilt in expanded form in 1963; here it is today (map).


  This 1956 photo of the Los Angeles Harbor highlights the locations seen during the search for the killer.


Then ...   The search continues but this time stock footage was used of two ferryboats in San Francisco Bay - the first is close to the Ferry Building.

  ... and Now,  this is the Southern Pacific Railroads' ferryboat 'Berkeley' which operated between the Oakland Pier and the Ferry Building from 1898 to 1958.  After a spell as a tourist mall moored in Sausalito (where it was briefly seen in the 1972 movie 'Play It Again Sam'), it ended up in the San Diego Maritime Museum, still there between two other historic vessels.


Then ...   Another ferryboat is seen off Hyde Street Pier where Russian Hill in the background climbs halfway to the stars.

... in 1935  ...  one year before Fog Over Frisco was released this same ferryboat was photographed passing by the partially constructed Bay Bridge.  It's the Southern Pacific Golden Gate Ferries 'Lake Tahoe'.  Later the boat was moved to Puget Sound and renamed the 'Illahee' where it operated until retirement in 2007.  It is currently awaiting the scrap merchant.


    Tony succeeds in finding Burchard's boat and rescues Val.  What he learns blows the lid off the case.  It turns out that Burchard and Arlene's 'secret lover' Mayard are one and the same person; he it was who killed Arlene in an argument over letters she had written that implicated him in the stolen bond scheme.

   Tony returns and tips off the police ... they finally get their man.


Play It Again, Sam - Role Model

    When it comes to women film writer and critic Allan Felix (Woody Allen) is a loser.  His wife has just divorced him and he seeks solace in a movie theater, enthralled by Humphrey Bogart in the classic Casablanca.

... a vintage photo ...  the scene was filmed in the Surf Theatre at 4510 Irving Street near Golden Gate Park in the Outer Sunset,  a short walk from the surf of the Pacific Ocean (map).  This 1970s photo shows the theatre as it was when the movie was filmed. Opened in 1926 as the Parkview Theatre, it changed its name to the Sunset in 1937 then was remodeled and rechristened as the Surf in 1957.  During the 1960s and 70s the Surf became known for its avant-garde programming of classic and international films (perhaps explaining its choice by Woody Allen for this scene).

... and Now,  the theatre closed in 1985; it has since been further remodeled and is now a church.


Then ...  He's mightily impressed by Bogart. "Who am I kidding", he muses as he leaves the theater, "I'm not like that.  I never was, I never will be".  Right from the get-go we see a lack of self-esteem prompting him throughout the movie to repeatedly turn to Bogart for advice.

... a vintage photo ...  here's a matching view of the Surf taken in the 1980s by which time the seats had been replaced.


Then ...  Outside the theatre Allan walks by a cafe advertising a Bogart Festival.  Its name is partially visible on the right - the Cine Cafe.

... a vintage photo ...  the image shown earlier in this post - here it is again - shows the Cine Cafe at 4508 Irving right next door to the theatre.  The cafe was opened and owned by the proprietor of the Surf Theatre, Mel Novikof.

... and Now,  the Cine Cafe building has survived with the same decorative fenestration, now partially covered with an awning.  Today it's a ballet school run by Ming-Hai Wu, a retired San Francisco Ballet soloist.


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