Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - Car Chase

    Inspired no doubt by the popularity five years earlier of the car chase in Bullitt, director Stuart Rosenberg decided to include one in this movie.  As in Bullitt, the chase makes arbitrary geographical jumps around the city.  It starts out in the Financial District, cuts to SoMa then over to Potrero Hill/Dogpatch before ending up in North Beach.

    Throughout the chase, click or tap the image or thumbnail to compare Then with Now.


  The dogged duo watch from their unmarked police sedan, a late 1960s Ford Custom, as Camerero pulls out of the Battery Street exit of One Embarcadero's underground garage in the Financial District (map).  He's driving what has become a classic, a Mercedes-Benz 250 or 280 SL with the 'pagoda' concave top.


    Camerero spots them and decides to shake them off.  He speeds west down narrow Commercial street towards Sansome (map) with Larsen in hot pursuit; on the left is the Federal Reserve Bank building, now called the Bentley Reserve. This block today is pedestrian only, accessed by an overhead bridge across Battery from One Embarcadero Center.


    Larsen follows the Mercedes across Sansome as it continues west along the next block.  Way ahead, Commercial goes on to dead-end in Chinatown at Grant Avenue.


    Next, both cars make a hard left out of Battery into Clay (map)...


... they continue east along Clay past Front Street.  The Golden Gateway Redevelopment Project is in full swing; the old Produce Market has been swept away, the Alcoa Building already complete on the left and Two Embarcadero Center under construction on the right (map).   Ahead is the Ferry Building and the Clay Street on-ramp to the eyesore double-deck 480 Embarcadero Freeway (demolished in 1991 after being damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake).


     A geographical leap  to the South Of Market neighborhood catches up with the action as Camerero, heading north on 3rd Street under the Interstate 80 and 480 freeways (map), is about to make a sharp turn to his right into narrow Perry Street.  Both elevated freeways have undergone changes since then.


    They head east over a sharp crest on Perry Street alongside the freeway (map).  In the Now image a homeless group has decided this is a good place to call home.


    Larsen, cresting the hill, is about to unknowingly drive right by Camerero who has sneakily pulled in to one side...


    ... then when they emerge onto 2nd Street (mapthey make an immediate U-turn and head back to find Camerero.  In this view the 80 freeway is at far left from which the 480 freeway peels off, crossing 2nd towards the Embarcadero.  Demolished following the 1989 earthquake, this section has since been replaced by a west-bound addition to the 80 freeway.


They backtrack along Perry and spot Camerero ahead of them.  In a slick piece of stunt driving the Mercedes, crossing 3rd Street,  is almost broadsided by a spinning green sedan forced to slam on its brakes.


    The next cross-town segue takes us to Potrero Hill.  The chase continues north on Iowa under the 280 freeway, approaching 23rd Street (map).  The recent image shows seismic upgrades to the freeway supports.


    Camerero turns left into 23rd and uses the steep half-block incline under the 280 freeway to launch the Mercedes into the air.  The thriving industrial area these days is packed daily with bumper-to-bumper parked cars.


   Larsen guns it up the same slope, about to get air himself.  Note the huge storage tank on the corner of 23rd and Pennsylvania - it's gone now.

    The site of the storage tank is now occupied by an anti-hunger organization, the San Francisco Marin Food Bank.


    The hefty Ford gets even more air than the Mercedes did.  Behind them 23rd Street recedes east through the Dogpatch neighborhood to San Francisco Bay.


    Now the chase jumps clear over to Russian Hill to where tourists regularly gather every day to take in the east view to Coit Tower from Lombard and Hyde at the top of the famous crooked street (map).


    Not surprisingly they're not joining the procession down the eight switchbacks; instead this is a convenient vantage point from which the camera can zoom in to the two cars, arrowed, crossing Columbus Avenue (map).  In the recent  Now image a Powell-Mason cable car clangs by on Columbus.


    The car chase ends when Camerero abandons his Mercedes in the middle of Union Street  in North Beach and takes off on foot across Columbus with Jake in hot pursuit (map).  This view looks west along Union rising up to Russian Hill.


    He spots Camerero boarding a Muni bus and runs across Washington Square Park in time to jump on at its next stop in front of Sts. Peter and Paul church (map).  As he takes a seat with a clear view of Camerero  the second phase of the pursuit - the bus chase - is about to begin.


The Penalty - Murder At The Hippodrome

Then ...  The Barbary Coast is not a place for the faint of heart, nor the overly inebriated, as this unfortunate imbiber is about to find out.  He makes the mistake of accepting an offer from a shady lady, Barbary Nell, to join her for a drink.  He's so out of it that she practically has to carry him into the bar.

    Lon Chaney and director Wallace Worsley returned to the same location in 1922 to film Voices Of Spring.  Here they are on the sidewalk next to the same sign seen above.

... a vintage photo ...  This 1920s photo reveals where this was filmed - at the entrance vestibule of the Hippodrome dance hall at 560 Pacific Avenue (map).

... and Now,  the building, constructed in 1910, has since been modernized and rebuilt into offices.  But note the narrow building on the right - it still retains its original exterior.  This mix of cheek by jowl old and new typifies today's Jackson Square neighborhood.


   When the drunk passes out she helps herself to the contents of his wallet and stuffs it into her stocking...

    ... but as she sneaks out an unsavory addict known as Frisco Pete (perennial villain James Mason - the other one) demands the spoils.  She resists, a fatal mistake ... he callously thrusts a knife into her. 


 Then ...  The crowd on the dance floor, alerted by Nell's screams, take off after the fleeing killer.

... and Now,  Were these interior scenes filmed inside the Hippodrome?  In hopes of finding the answer CitySleuth is searching for but has yet to find a contemporaneous photograph that may show that stage as confirmation.  But, just in case, here's the hip interior of 560 Pacific Avenue now.


Then ...  The pursuers rush out into the street between the twin columns that flanked the Hippodrome's entrance.

... and Now,  in the same view today the yellow-capped parking meter stands where the columned entrance used to be.  During the Barbary Coast era the older building on the left at 574 Pacific - with an exterior retaining its original character - was Spider Kelly's Bar Room.


Harold And Maude - Save That Tree!

Then ...  Our odd couple head over San Bruno Mountain from their Half Moon Bay visit, on the way passing the large building below that sticks out like a sore thumb.

... and Now,  this is Visitacion Valley and McLaren Park to the north of Guadalupe Canyon Parkway from the spot marked on this map.  (The better-known Cow Palace is just out of sight off to the left).  The incongruous structure is gone, having been demolished by controlled implosion in 1998.  These were the twin Geneva Towers, a 576 unit public housing project built in 1967 that deteriorated into unmaintained squalor and drug-dealing prior to its being shut down.  For more information and a video of its sudden demise see here.

   Three years earlier Geneva Towers appeared in this shot of the bad guy in the high speed pursuit along Guadalupe Canyon Parkway during the thrilling Bullitt car chase.


Then ...  Maude is in high spirits today ... we next see her doing tight 360's around the junction of Marshall and Hamilton Streets in Redwood City (map).

... and Now,  Marshall Street crosses in the foreground and the building on the left is the San Mateo County Superior Courthouse.


Then ...  As Maude heads west on Marshall past the courthouse on the right the straggly potted tree in the foreground catches her eye.  She screeches to a halt, mounting the sidewalk, to the consternation of the passersby.

... and Now,  the buildings ahead are new but the U.S. mail is still picked up here.


    She is determined to save that tree.  As they discuss the best way to haul it away some cops are about to exit the courthouse and start checking out Maude's (well, the borrowed) straddled car.


Then ...  Without skipping a beat she beckons Harold into a Mustang conveniently parked in front of the cops and roars loudly off around the corner...

... and Now,  a new correctional facility has since been built across the street but the corner itself is still very recognizable.


    "Did I just see what I thought I saw...?"


Dark Passage - Irene's Apartment - Real versus Movie Set

    The preceding three posts introduced us to Irene's apartment at the art deco Malloch house at 1360 Montgomery Street, #10.  We learned that the exteriors were filmed at that address but the interiors, in order to optimize sound and lighting, were shot on a studio sound stage.  In April 2016 CitySleuth was alerted by one of his readers that the Montgomery Street apartment was up for sale -  the open house allowed CitySleuth to compare the real apartment with the movie's version.  Check out the realtor's photographs and video tour of this special place here before they are removed.  (By the way, it quickly sold for $1,500,000). 

    Here's the floor plan of the real apartment, a one bed one bath single floor unit on the 3rd floor.  At the north side of the house the Filbert Steps head down the hill from street level (the last photo in this earlier post).

    And here's the floor plan, roughly to scale, of the movie set.  It is still a one bed one bath unit but there are significant differences, the most obvious being the bedroom which is now upstairs, accessed by a sinuous metal staircase.  The fireplace has been moved across the living room, as has the kitchen, and there's an added den.  The bedroom is an unusual shape; CitySleuth surmises it was done this way to create extra space on either side of the bed for the camera crew. 


Then (movie) ...  An earlier post explained how the apartment's east view across the patio from the living room was a backdrop photo, reversed left to right, of a nearby north facing view of Angel Island.

... and Now (real),  the east view looks out to Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge.  Much prettier.  Why the moviemakers didn't use this view is anybody's guess.  But note how carefully they reproduced the art deco patio wall design, even down to the flowerpot holders integrated into the railing.


Then (movie) ...  Looking in from the patio on a rainy night, this shot across the living room shows off its centerpiece, the bedroom staircase.

... and Now (real),  no staircase, a compact kitchen straight ahead (note the art deco pattern on the cabinets) and a circular dining space over to the right.  The apartment entrance is on the left, past the closet down the corridor which continues on to the bedroom on the same level.


Then (movie) ...  Irene's view from her patio was also created with a reversed photo, of old Telegraph Hill cottages on the Filbert Steps as described in more detail in this earlier post.

... and Now (real),  here's the actual patio view including a closer look at the flowerpot holders.


Then (movie) ...  The wall behind the bed is at an angle relative to the window wall.

... and Now (real),  the window wall is straight and leads to a small walk-in closet.


Then (movie) ...  The view looking down from the bedroom window shows the Filbert Steps linking Montgomery Street's lower and upper levels; across the street they continue up to Coit Tower.  Note the absence of mature trees at that time.

... and Now (real),  comparing with the actual view from apartment #10's bedroom window the parallax differences reveal that the movie's view was taken from a higher level in keeping with its bedroom's upstairs location.  And, it was filmed from a spot more to the right, closer to the building's north side; apparently on the rooftop at the building's northwest corner.

Then ...  Apartment #10 is at the bottom of this frame on the 3rd floor; for this brief exterior shot inserted during a scene in Irene's bedroom the moviemakers used the 4th floor apartment's bedroom so as to represent Irene's.

... and Now,  when CitySleuth took this matching photo on an earlier visit there was a Bogart cutout displayed in the bedroom window of apartment #10.  (CitySleuth saw it propped behind a door during the open house).  Note too the absence of ugly power lines, now underground.


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