Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - Art Institute

    As Jake and Larsen know only too well murder investigations involve painstaking work and the endless pursuit of tips.  Next up for them is the girlfriend of one of the bus massacre victims, Gus Niles, who they now know had been trying to buy an automatic weapon of the type used in the massacre.  But first they have to find her.  They begin at her workplace, the San Francisco Art Institute, at 800 Chestnut on Russian Hill (map), pictured here in a recent photo. 


    Larsen looks down through a window to an artist's model reclining languidly in the studio down below.


Then ...  As he mutters disgustedly about the, er, corpulent sight a clue to where this was comes from the window reflection; he must be looking in from outside the building and there's a concrete roof above, unusually angled up rather than down.

... and Now,  this outside space is on the upstairs deck of the Institute but has since been enclosed to create a Digital Media Lab.  That exterior window, above, now hides behind the wall, below, and the concrete roof and beams have been refinished and painted.

... and Now,  in this view of the Digital Media Lab, added since the movie was filmed, the reverse angle of the original roof overhang now makes sense - an architectural feature.


Then ...  Larsen turns and looks across to Jake quizzing a couple of students about the whereabouts of Niles' girlfriend... that's  Alcatraz and Angel Island in the distance.  The window wall on the left is the same one through which Larsen looked down to the studio. 

... and Now,  the matching view is blocked by the media lab occupying  this spot...

... and Now  ... so we have to step outside to see the view as it looks today.  The wall of the building, the Institute's cafeteria, incorporates projecting table tops, one of which the students were sitting on in the scene above.


Then ...  They find she hadn't shown up for work that day so they head out the main entrance to try where she lives.

... and Now  ... the same solid wooden doors are still in use.


Then ...  She lives on Telegraph Hill - up there on the horizon -  so they turn east down Chestnut Street.

... and Now,  cypresses hug the front of the Institute and the sidewalk trees, pollarded every winter, have filled out after an extra  40 years of growth.


I Remember Mama - Katrin's Graduation Gift

Graduation Day is rapidly approaching for Katrin, doubly important because she is to play Portia in the school production of 'The Merchant Of Venice'.  She diligently memorizes her lines in her bedroom attic where her window view, described in more detail in an earlier post, looks across the Embarcadero to the East Bay.


Then ...  Walking down the street she practices her lines with Christine but she for her part chastises her elder sister for being consumed with the play and dreaming of graduation gifts at a time when the family is struggling to make ends meet.

... and Now,  this street scene was filmed on the east side of the 1200 block of Kearny Street between Green and Vallejo on Telegraph Hill, also seen earlier when Katrin was out shopping with Mama.

... on location ...  here's a snapshot taken as they passed 1236 Kearny while they were filming this scene.   What a great view of the action that resident had!


    They run into two of Katrin's friends in front of a store window where she points out the gift she dearly wants... a dresser set.  "it's got everything, even a hair receiver, and it's genuine celluloid!".  This though was filmed at the Warner Brothers back lot.


Then ...  (Cutting back to a location shot) Christine tells her that she's not going to get it ... she had heard Mama saying she would give Katrin her silver solje (brooch), a family heirloom.  Katrin is mortified... "What would I want with an old thing like that for?"

... and Now,  this was shot on the 500 block of Liberty Street in Eureka Valley, described in an earlier post.  The house at far right both Then and Now (with the green door) is 554 Liberty.


Then ...  Christine accuses her of being selfish and adds... "But you'll devil Mama into giving you the dresser set somehow".  As they approach the junction with Noe Street  (map) they pass an empty lot on the corner.

... and Now,  the modern house that sits on that corner lot today is totally out of character with the neighborhood (how was that allowed to happen?).  Next to it, beautifully maintained, are 513, 517 and 521 Liberty Street.  Note how the entrance stairs on some of these surviving original homes have been reworked to optimize space and improve safety (here's another example).


    Christine was right, Katrin got the dresser set.  But when she tells her (to brother Nels' disapproval) that Mama had to sell her precious solje to pay for it Katrin is shocked and distraught, causing her to perform poorly in the play.


Harold And Maude - At The Cemetery - 2

    At yet another funeral, held at the same cemetery as the earlier one, Maude peeks out from behind a fellow mourner (some think this might have been Cat Stevens, who wrote the movie's soundtrack).  She catches Harold's attention across the gathering with a loud "Pssst!".


Then ... Startled, all turn and look at Harold, including the same priest whose car Maude earlier had, shall we say, "borrowed".

... and Now,  from the same spot that's the cemetery's mausoleum in the background.

    The location is marked by the arrow in section 'J' of the Holy Cross Cemetery, 1500 Mission Road, Colma.


Then ...  With the homilies over and the Lord's Prayer said, Maude, contrarian as ever, jauntily leads the way from the ceremony beneath a bright yellow brolly.

... and Now,  the day CitySleuth visited a fallen branch had joined the linear array of headstones.


Then ...  As Harold walks towards his private hearse, Maude rounds the corner in it having unknowingly, of all cars, "borrowed" his.

... and Now,  from here we get a closer look at the mausoleum.  Things have hardly changed.


Then ...  Harold accepts her offer to give him a ride home.  By the time they reach the Hillsdale Boulevard exit from the cemetery (map) he tells her it's his car she's driving.  They change places and he gives her a ride home instead.

... and Now,  the most interesting change here is the hillside, so carefully cultivated above but since allowed to go to seed.  The nurseries across the road partially make amends.


The Laughing Policeman - A Tip From The Angels

    Leads are few and far between in this case but an arrested drug dealer anxious to soften his sentence on a third strike passes on the name of the bus victim who had lured Jake's partner onto the massacre bus - a Gus Niles who sported a distinctive eagle tattoo.  But they still don't know who the bus killer was and their search for someone who might have been asking around for an automatic weapon, aka "grease gun', takes them to another quid pro quo meeting at a Hell's Angels hangout, known to the police as a source of weapons.

Then ... Driving up Texas Street they breast 19th Street in the Potrero Hill neighborhood (map).  The city glitters in the background and in the center of this view the 6th Street and King Street exits mark the end of the incoming 280 freeway.

... and Now,  the freeway is almost hidden by one of the many Lower Potrero Hill projects currently under construction.

... recently ...  in 2014 the freeway from here was still clearly visible, a closer match to the movie view above.


Then ...  one of the bikers glances this way and that and, the coast being clear, beckons them in.

... and Now,  this is 605 Texas Street, a couple of blocks south of the top of the hill above (map).  Other than the added security gate on the front door it still looks the same.


Then ... a short passage leads them into the living room where a picture of a scantily clad female reclining on a Harley catches Larsen's eye.  Always the ladies man.

... and Now,  Déjà vu!  CitySleuth is nothing if not nostalgic and was delighted to find the room to be completely unchanged, including the built-in storage area.


Then ... the biker grabs a bottle of liquor from the kitchen to add lubrication to the negotiations.

... and Now,  the current owner had heard about the filming when buying the house two years after the movie came out and told CitySleuth that the kitchen remained exactly as above for another thirty years until it was remodeled into this current layout.


Then ... The visit wasn't a complete waste - the Angels tell them that prior to the bus massacre someone with an eagle tattoo had been around looking for a grease gun.  The detectives leave and, in this shot of them reversing out, the background reveals three of the adjacent houses.

... and Now,  those houses too have seen little change in over forty years.


Then ... They head back the way they came, up Texas Street.

... and Now,  as they leave Larsen reflects on what they have just learned... "Terrific... our John Doe now has a name, Gus Niles.  Now we know that Gus Niles was looking for a grease gun.  We also know that he was a victim on the bus, shot by a grease gun.  Now that ain't complicated at all is it?"


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