Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Vertigo - Death Plunge

Then ...  Scotttie and Madeleine's visit to Mission San Juan Bautista (map) is introduced by this wonderful shot down the length of the cloisters, taking full advantage of both shadow and light.

... and Now,  the mission is a museum - open to the public and certainly worth a visit - so it's not surprising that time stands still here.


Then ...  The camera swings to the right and reveals two buildings across the plaza - both will be featured in the ensuing action.  Madeleine's Jaguar is parked between them.

... and Now,  here they are in a recent photo.  On the left is the Plaza Hall, on the right the Plaza Stables.


  In the stables Madeleine, trance-like, recalls her past life at the mission.  She mentions a grey horse ...

Then ...  but Scottie spies a carved wooden horse and buggy exhibit behind them.  "Look at this ... here's your grey horse ... there's an answer for everything ... no one possesses you!"

... and Now,  that horse and buggy are still there tucked into a corner in the stables.


Then ...  Madeleine pulls away from Scottie and runs back across the plaza towards the mission.  "It's too late", she says and asks him to let her go into the church alone.  This shot (below) was filmed on a set to optimize lighting and sound.

... and Now,  here's the real cloisters.  As you can see, they did a heck of a job recreating it.


Then ...  As she walks to the church she looks up at the tower and with a sudden sense of dread he realizes her intention.

... and Now,  as explained in the previous location this tower doesn't exist - the original was removed in 1949 - the tower above was added as a matte painting.  Below is a recent photo of the mission showing the current bell tower, on the right.


Then ...  He rushes after her into the church and desperately looks around.

... and Now,  surprisingly, the church has seen several alterations since 1958.  The ceiling beams are gone and the side wall archways, which had been filled in after the 1906 earthquake, have been opened up again.  But the altar and altarpiece behind it look the same.


Then ...  In the church, he first looks to his right towards this arched doorway ...

Then ...  then he looks to his left and through another doorway sees Madeleine running up a set of stairs leading up the bell tower.

... and Now,  but both shots above are the same doorway! For the one immediately above, a set of stairs were added in.  Here it is below, just inside and to the left of the church entrance, now with added frescoed touches but still with the identical framed artwork and set of pots.


  He tries desperately to catch up with Madeleine as she scales the steep steps (filmed on an elaborate studio set) but his acrophobia kicks in and an overwhelming feeling of vertigo stops him in his tracks just below the trap door at the top of the tower ...

  ... and he can only watch, mortified, immobilised, as she plunges to her death.

Experiment In Terror - Kelly's House

  Kelly's home is in Clarendon Heights between Twin Peaks and Mount Sutro.  No doubt chosen for its views, it is shown a number of times throughout the movie.

Then ...  At the beginning of the movie Kelly drives over the Bay Bridge and we see this nighttime view of her home as she drives into her garage.

Then ...  later, as she reverses out of the garage, daylight reveals the full extent of the view.  Kelly lives in the small house, 100 St. Germain Avenue, squeezed between the two larger homes with gabled roofs (map).

... and Now, taken from the top of Glenbrook Avenue, this (below) is how it looks today.  From here, 100 St. Germain is mostly hidden by bushes but the roof and chimney peep over the top.  That's the Golden Gate Park panhandle above the house and the Buena Vista Park hill is over to the right.  Angel Island and Alcatraz are in the distance on the left.


Then ...  From across the street there's a closer view of the garage and the home's front fence and entrance gate.

... and Now,  still the same, as too is the neighboring house to the left.


Then ...  This panorama shows an even closer look at the garage and entrance gate.

... and Now,  it still looks amazingly similar, even down to the three angled fence supports and the quaint awning over the gate.  The neighbor to the right, though, has traded a chimney for a skylight.

The House On Telegraph Hill - Yacht Harbor

  Victoria and Marc meet at a yacht harbor, the west harbor on Marina Boulevard in the Marina district (map).  Below is a map of the harbor marked where the movie scenes took place.


Then ...  An establishing opening shot of the yacht harbor is shown below taken from near the St. Francis Yacht Club (location A on the map above).  The view looks east across the harbor towards the Russian Hill skyline with Fort Mason on the far left.

... and Now,  absent the extra buildings atop Russian Hill you would never guess 60 years have slipped by.  (Incidentally, Orson Welles's 1947 movie The Lady From Shanghai featured this same location - see it here).


Then ...  Victoria meets Marc outside the harbormaster's office (location B on the map above).  There's an old stone lighthouse behind her at the harbor entrance.

... and Now, the office and lighthouse are still there but the harbor entrance has been moved to the east by an extension of the spit on which the lighthouse stands.


  Below is a closer look at the lighthouse, built in 1931 but no longer in use.

  And here's a recent look at the harbormaster's office.


Then ...  They talk outside the harbormaster's office.  This scene was filmed in the studio using projected views behind them, a common movie technique known as process photography which gives better control over sound and lighting.

... and Now, the background was indeed filmed outside the harbormaster's office looking southwest across the harbor towards the dome of the Palace Of Fine Arts.  The view today looks just the same.


Then ...  Victoria reveals to Marc that she isn't Chris's mother after all, that she had assumed Karin Dernakova's identity after she died at the Belsen concentration camp.  Marc, unfazed by the revelation, confesses his love for her.  This background, supposedly at the same spot, was filmed on the south side of the harbor at location C on the map above - it looks west towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

... and Now, the same view today, with the bridge partially obscured by, no surprise, fog.

The Lady From Shanghai - Acapulco - Hotel Casablanca

  The cast stayed at the newly opened luxury Hotel Casablanca during the making of The Lady From Shanghai and director Orson Welles made a point of incorporating it into his movie.  Its location atop Camino de la Pinzona (arrowed on the map) rewarded guests with spectacular all-around panoramic views.


Then ...  We get our first look at the hotel, perched high upon a hill, as soft background dance music conveys the viewer to another world.  This image, though, could be a painting.

... and Now,  the hotel, pictured below in a recent photo and now renamed the Casablanca Tropical, has over the decades become a faded shadow of what it once was.  The symmetrical roofline has been compromised by rooftop additions but its views remain matchless. The hotel is currently being renovated and converted to condominiums.  Just look at how the hillside has become jammed with hotels and villas!


   Below is a snapshot of our leading lady relaxing on a small boat on Santa Lucia (aka Acapulco) Bay with the Hotel Casablanca behind her in the background.

   Here's Rita on the grounds of the hotel having her picture taken for a promotional movie still.  She sure knows how to pose.


... from a vintage aerial photo ...  The photo below, circa 1945, shows the almost completed hotel (the rooftop level is not yet completed).  Interestingly - first, you can clearly see the lawn where Rita was posing in the photo above.  Second, the construction-scarred hillside adds to CitySleuth's suspicion that a painting was used for the movie's 'Then' image above.


Then ... A puzzlingly brief scene follows on the Casablanca's rooftop with Elsa walking hurriedly away from her agitated husband for, as we soon find out, a meeting with O'Hara.  Behind them is a southeast view over the bay to the shoreline of the Caleta Peninsula, with their yacht Circe cruising below.

Then ...  the scene below was filmed from the same place earlier in the movie during O'Hara and Grisby's walk, capturing even more of the view.  In both shots the moored boats on the bay are in exactly the same positions.

... and Now,  taken recently from the hotel - there's a lot more development and a lot more boats, especially the crowded marina across the bay at center.


Then ... As dusk falls Elsa, almost angelic with her flowing dress brightly shining in the foreground, runs down the hill from the hotel towards the old town.  Just above her, alongside the Zocalo central plaza, is the Nuestra Senora de la Soledad church, built in 1930 (the Zocalo is marked on the map above).

... and Now,  the mountain's profile is partly obscured by clouds but the encroachment of the town of Acapulco up its slopes is clear to see.  The blue-domed church now has two added Byzantine towers.

...  a vintage aerial photo ...  This aerial view - by now the rooftop level has been completed - shows the church location in relation to the hotel.


  Elsa meets O'Hara in the old town (filmed at the 20th Century Fox ranch).  Unhappy, she talks of suicide, but, when O'Hara offers to take her away, sagely says "You just don't know how to take care of yourself, so ... how could you take care of me?".  Soon after, they up anchor and sail on to Sausalito, California.

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