Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The House On Telegraph Hill - Runaway Car

  Victoria heads to the nearby market in her car unaware that she is about to suffer a terrifying experience - her brakes suddenly fail and she finds herself speeding out of control.  It couldn't have happened in a worse place given that she lives near the top of Telegraph Hill.  The runaway car travels entirely on Telegraph Hill streets except for one cut to Russian Hill.  Below is a map (click on it to enlarge) showing the eight locations leading up to the crash site.


And here, in Then and Now format, is how the runaway car sequence unfolded...


  As she crests the hill shown above, her brakes give out on her and there's nothing she can do about it...

Continuing on ...


  With the end of the cul-de-sac rushing towards her, this doesn't look good.  How will it end?  Will Victoria survive?  Why did the brakes fail?  Citysleuth intends to keep you all in suspense until the next post ...


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Vertigo - Communing With The Redwoods

  Scottie and Madeleine decide to go 'wandering' together.  They drive to the redwoods, a scene many think was filmed in Muir Woods, 16 miles north of San Francisco.  Not so; they went to Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, 70 miles south of San Francisco, not very far from director Hitchcock's 200 acre ranch near Scotts Valley.


Then ...  Madeleine's Jaguar enters the bottom of the frame on its way to the redwoods.

...  and Now,  This is Highway 9, 4.8 miles southwest of Skyline Boulevard (map).  It is indeed the way to Big Basin, about 10 miles further on along Highways 9 and 236 (map).  Citysleuth had to rappel down a steep hillside to find a gap in the trees for this matching shot.  A half century of tree growth now hides most of the roadway - check out too how the tiny tree on the sloping horizon right of center, above, has grown, below.


  The park sequence that followed was created by skillfully combining both location and studio footage.  Here's a map of the park (click on it to enlarge) with arrows showing where to find the movie locations described below.


Then ...  At the park they walk to the majestic Father Of The Forest tree, a giant Sequoia Redwood on the Redwood Trail (below, center).  Note its distinctive vertical hook branch some forty feet up on the left side.

...  and Now,  viewed from the same spot today the tree is mostly hidden behind new foreground trees...

...  and Now,  ... but here's a closer view of the old-timer showing the same hook branch.


Then ...  They stand in awe, dwarfed by the ancient giant.  Scottie tells Madeleine the tree is more than 2000 years old, 'always green, ever living'.  Trance-like, she reverts to Carlotta and is disturbed, "knowing I have to die".

...  and Now,  not surprisingly the venerable tree has hardly changed in a mere half century - the bark features still match up.


Then ...  She walks over to a redwood cross-section showing its growth history by date and points out where she was born and where she died.  Spooky.

...  and Now,  the closeup footage above was filmed in the studio but there is a 'Redwood Round' displayed in the park next to the visitor center, below.  It replaced an older round in the 1980's and as we can see, its date markings differ from those in the movie.

Thieves' Highway - Ed's Fateful Journey

  Nick's partner Ed Kinney has been following Nick to San Francisco with his truckload of Golden Delicious apples.  He is lagging because his truck is an old jalopy and is barely making it.  Two opportunists are following him in their truck in the hope that he'll break down and they will be able to snag his precious load.

Then ...  The two trucks start to climb up a steep grade.

... and Now,  supposedly they are driving from Fresno, 190 miles south of San Francisco, but in fact these highway scenes were filmed on Highway 29 in Napa Valley 75 miles north of San Francisco.  Here, they are heading north out of Calistoga on the Calistoga Grade section of the Lake County Highway and are just approaching a hairpin bend (map).


  Ed's truck barely makes it over the top of the grade and as he picks up speed going downhill the driveshaft snaps and his brakes fail.  He is in big trouble as he fights to control his truck during a wild high speed descent (below).  This is still the Calistoga Grade but here he is travelling in the opposite direction, towards the Napa Valley floor.


Then ...   He is horrified to see a hard left turn into a wicked hairpin bend rushing towards him.  The Napa Valley, spread out ahead, catches our attention but not his.

... and Now,  this is the same hairpin bend he was climbing towards (top picture), but from the opposite direction (map)

... an aerial view ...  here's that hairpin bend as viewed on Google Earth.  It's more than 180 degrees, warranting its 15 mph limit.


Then ...  As he whips into the curve, fighting the g-force, he knows there's no way he'll make it - to borrow a noir cliche, his number is up.

... and Now,  a better road surface but otherwise identical.


  His truck plunges off the side of the road and barrel rolls down the hill, scattering thousands of apples over the slope and erupting into flames.


Then ...  Trailing him, Pete (Joseph Pevney) and Slob (Jack Oakie) pull over and rush down the hill to help.

... and Now,  the valley floor, viewed from the same roadside spot, is blanketed by vineyards (below).  Who could have known back then that this area would become one of the world's most famous winemaking appellations?


Then ...  The crash footage ends as passers-by pull over and pick their way through scattered apples and broken crates towards the billowing smoke.  There is nothing they can do.  Director Jules Dassin in a later interview said this was his all-time favorite shot.

... and Now,  the slope today is unchanged but for a rundown fence and overgrown weeds.

Petulia - The Mendoza Residence

  While Petulia is recovering from her beating, Archie comes across a letter she wrote addressed to a Mr. Mendoza at 4295 Morton Drive, San Francisco (a fictitious address).  The viewing audience knows from flashbacks that this is the family looking after Oliver after his accident and Petulia has been sending them food and cash.  Archie doesn't know this and he goes to the address to investigate.

  But as it turns out, the Mendoza house is not in San Francisco - it is in a housing tract in the Serramonte neighborhood of Daly City, just south of San Francisco.  Reel SF blog reader CDL deserves compliments for finding this location for CitySleuth.

Then ...  Has a housing tract ever looked so good?  Cinematographer Nicholas Roeg filmed this glowing vista of the tract in its early construction phase.  Morton Drive runs across the foreground and the three streets aligned away from the viewer are, from left to right, Callan Blvd, Wakefield Ave and Canterbury Ave.  The Mendoza house is 4295 Callan Blvd, in the left foreground, marked with an arrow (map).  Citysleuth wonders if the director's choice of this location was inspired by Pete Seeger's hit song 'Little Boxes', a satire on suburburban development.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  The south-facing shot above was filmed from near the Hickey Boulevard ridge which runs up to Skyline Boulevard.  Extensive construction below the ridge since then and mature trees prevent an identical matching shot today but the similar view below is taken from a little higher up on Hickey close to Skyline.  The pink house in the bottom left corner was still under construction in the movie shot above - the Mendoza house opposite it is obscured by the line of newer houses along the near side of Morton Drive.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence

... Google Earth View ...  Below is a recent satellite photo of the housing tract and the Mendoza house (arrowed), courtesy of Google Earth.  Skyline Blvd runs along the top of the ridge at right.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence

Then ...  Archie descends the entrance steps of 4295 Callan Blvd after knocking on the door and getting no response.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  just the same!

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  here's a wider view of the Mendoza house.  The junction with Morton Drive is one house down at right.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence


Then ...  Archie finds Mendoza who can't help him because he doesn't speak Spanish.  Behind the house (below) a couple of spaced-out hippies are no help either.  He leaves, none the wiser.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence
... and Now,  the fecund slope between the two lines of houses after more than 40 years of growth.

Petulia -  The Mendoza Residence

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