Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Laughing Policeman - Jake Martin's Residence

Then ...  After spending all night investigating the crime scene Jake drives home to catch up on some sleep.  He lives at 156 Robinhood Drive in the city's Sherwood Forest, a tiny neighborhood gem of winding streets on undulating hills just south of Mt. Davidson (map).

... and Now,  in this view down the same street today it has changed very little, other than window upgrades and a lone home down the block with a second story.  The Alameda County shoreline is seen from here across San Francisco Bay.  CitySleuth almost got lost finding his way through the maze of streets but was relieved to find he was not alone - none other than Herb Caen had the same experience, as recounted by this article in which Robinhood Drive gets many a mention.


Then ...  The panning camera paints a view of the home's exterior as it follows him entering the enclosed garden that leads to the front door.

... and Now,  156 Robinhood Drive has been repainted, there are different garage doors and brick posts now flank a metal gate, but it's basically as it was more than 40 years ago.


Then ...  Jake isn't in much of a mood to talk to his wife (Shirley Ballard), in fact the viewer senses there's not a lot of communication between them, but he does share the news of his partner's murder. 

... and Now,  with the exception of the modern kitchen appliances the same cabinets and countertops take us on a 1970s time warp.


Then ...  His alarm awakens him the next morning and we see he doesn't share the same bed with his wife.  He may not be awake enough to appreciate the fine view through the window but we certainly do.

... and Now,  from the same room the view remains a constant.


Then ...  He carries his morning cup of joe out to the patio and contemplates the collapsed barbecue that he evidently has no interest in or no time for fixing.

... and Now,  several changes are evident here.  French doors have replaced the windows of the living room and the concrete patio has been covered with a redwood deck.  And, the home next door has been remodeled or replaced.


Then ...  A hot cup of coffee in hand, breezes from the Pacific Ocean off to the right, San Francisco Bay on the left, a panorama spread out before him ... his job may be unforgiving but he can be forgiven for enjoying these small pleasures.

... and Now,  the vista looks across San Francisco's southern neighborhoods towards San Bruno Mountain;  Daly City is over to the right.


The Conversation - Take The Money or Run?

    Caul has succeeded in extracting and cleaning up his surreptitious recording of the young couple's Union Square conversation but having listened to them over and over he is increasingly concerned that some harm may come to them.  With a certain amount of trepidation he heads to the Director's office to deliver the tapes.

Then ...  A striking sculpture and imposing office building faces him at the far end of a pedestrian bridge.

... and Now,  this bridge spans Clay Street in the Financial District - it links Maritime Plaza with One Embarcadero Center, the 45 story high-rise office in the background which was completed in 1971 shortly before the movie was filmed (map).  A Landmark Theatre cinema has since been built here and the sculpture, by Swiss sculptor Willi Gutmann, is still there, one of many works of art permanently gracing the four office buildings that, together with the Hyatt Regency Hotel, now comprise the Embarcadero Center.


Then ...  He checks in with security at the desk and is asked to wait for the Director's assistant.

... and Now,  this spiral staircase is at the west end of the lobby level of One Embarcadero Center - with the low walls removed it's now a more open space.  The mosaic tiled floor pattern as an architectural feature carries through the public spaces of the entire Embarcadero Center complex, even on the footbridge above.


Then ...  The assistant, Martin Stett (Harrison Ford) escorts him along a corridor high up on the south side of the building.  Over to the left is the art deco Shell Building at 100 Bush Street and beyond it, south of Market, is the outline of the art deco PacBell Building at 140 New Montgomery Street.  A glimpse west to the even taller 555 California (the former Bank of America building) is seen through the windows at far right.

... and Now,  thanks to Google Earth, from a vantage point just above One Embarcadero (in the left foreground below), we can see how that view has changed.  Many newer structures now surround those three buildings but they are still there.


   As it turns out, the Director is out of town and Stett takes the tapes and hands over the agreed-on $15,000 fee.  Caul, realizing the personal, bordering on dangerous, nature of the contents and reminding Stett that he was instructed to deliver them only to the Director, hands back the cash and, after a brief tug-of-war, reclaims the tapes.  As he leaves, Stett pointedly warns him not to get involved ... "Someone may get hurt".

Watch this scene play out here.


Born To Kill - Snares and Nets

    The next morning Helen visits Mrs Kraft at the Felton Hotel to warn her against telling the police about witnessing the murder in the dunes, otherwise she too will be killed.  Frazzled and finally beaten down, she agrees and calls off the private detective Arnett.

    For his part Arnett calls Helen and tells her he will call the police unless she gets him the $15,000 payoff he had earlier demanded.  But meantime Helen's rich fiancĂ© has walked out on her, citing her behavior since Sam arrived on the scene.  Realizing her only hope of financial security is gone, and blaming Sam, she tells Arnett to go right ahead.  He can't resist a biblical quote, borrowing from Ecclesiastes 7:26 ...

    "I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets ... and he who falls beneath her spell has need of God's mercy."


    Sam finds out the police are on the way and assumes Helen had shopped him.  He corners her in a bedroom and blasts away through the door, doing her in, moments before the police burst in and do the same to him.


Then ...  In the movie's final scene Arnett buys a newspaper on the Embarcadero street corner where Market and Sacramento merge.  Steuart Street tees in at far left and a streetcar passes by on one of four sets of tracks serving Market Street.

... and Now,  this corner was swallowed up when the Embarcadero was widened in the 1990s.  Across Market we see that the 1916 Southern Pacific Building has survived the Financial District transformation all around it.  CitySleuth took this recent matching photo from amongst the street vendors who congregate at this spot each weekend.


Then ...  As he reads about the sensational deaths of Sam Wild and Helen Brent, he waxes biblical once again, this time from Proverbs 13:15 ...

    "The way of the transgressor is hard ... " and adds an afterthought, "more's the pity, more's the pity".

    The view behind him looks west along Sacramento Street.  The business at right on the corner with the Embarcadero is the Henry Cowell Lime and Cement Co (interestingly its address was 2 Market Street) and a short way up the street is the projecting sign of the Loop Cafe at 6 Sacramento.  In the distance past Arnett's fedora is the faint silhouette of the Mark Hopkins hotel atop Nob Hill.

... and Now,  you would never guess this view down Sacramento Street is from the same spot.  The first part of the original block is now part of the expanded plaza and what remained has been usurped by modern structures including the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the left.

... in 1953 ...  Six years after the movie was filmed this vintage photo looking across the Embarcadero and along Market Street was taken from the Ferry Building.  It shows (arrowed) the corner where Arnett bought his newspaper.  Sacramento angles off to the right of the arrow.  By then the streetcars had been replaced by trolleybuses but the streetcar tracks were yet to be removed.


Then ...  The movie ends as he strides across the Embarcadero towards the ferry building to catch Southern Pacific's 'Berkeley' ferryboat on the first leg of his return to Reno.

... and Now,  the same view today.  The historic Ferry Building continues to dominate this prime waterfront spot even though its early days as the world's second-busiest transit terminal (London's Charing Cross station being the first) have long since passed.  Since 2003, following a four year 75 million dollar restoration, the building has thrived as a mixed-use property with a world class food market on the entire ground floor and premier office space above.


The Laughing Policeman - Carnage

Then ...  The 14-Mission bus approaches, heading north on Mission Street; it has just crossed  Army Street and is about to overtake the sedan in the foreground whose driver is lying in wait (map).  At far right is a corner Doggie Diner at 3100 Mission and beyond that a Sears Roebuck store at 3120 Mission.  On the left at 3101 Mission the corner building housed the Sears Catalog Department.

... and Now,  Army Street was renamed Cesar Chavez Street in 1990. The Sears building is still there on Mission, that's its grey tower at far right, but the store has closed. The Doggie Diner has since been replaced by another building as has the Sears Catalog building opposite.

... in 1964 ...  here's a vintage photo with a good view of the Sears Roebuck store.  It now houses a career development office on the ground floor and various businesses populate the offices above. Back then the auto used car lot on the corner preceded the Doggie Diner.


Then ...  In the next shot - it's just a bock from the previous one - we see the bus being overtaken by the sedan.  It pulls over and the driver gets out and boards the bus when it stops at the curb on the left.

... and Now,  what's interesting about this location is that the bus is off route because this is 26th Street with Mission crossing in the background (map) - the real 14-Mission bus of course would cross 26th as it passes along Mission.  There is indeed a bus stop here but it's for the 27-Bryant.  The Auto-Torium parts store, above at 2999 Mission, is now one of four local Casa Guadalupe restaurants, riotously muraled at right.


Then ...  The bus continues on; you will be forgiven if the store signs in Chinese and oriental-styled street lamps make you think this is Chinatown ...

... and Now,  ... because that's exactly where this is, facing east on Clay Street approaching Grant Avenue (map).  Typical of Chinatown, it's essentially unchanged.  This by the way is way off the real 14-Mission route.


    As the bus proceeds down Clay the mystery passenger methodically assembles an automatic weapon.  He suddenly stands up and with a hail of bullets methodically and mercilessly shoots everybody on board including the driver.  Total, shocking carnage.


Then ...  With the driver slumped over the wheel the bus swerves and comes to a halt after taking out the  Brenham Place street sign on the corner of Portsmouth Square (map).  The gunman calmly alights and walks away.

... and Now,  Brenham Place ran along the west side of Portsmouth Square and is now Walter U Lum Place, renamed in 1985 in honor of a local advocate for Chinese-American rights.


    The first responders to the massacre include Sgt Jake Martin of the SFPD (Walter Matthau).  He is shocked to find his partner Dave Evans, who had called in sick a few days earlier, amongst the victims.  He and Inspector Leo Larsen (Bruce Dern) sit down at the scene and try to make sense of it all.


The Conversation - Too Many Questions

Then ...  Caul has a sometime girlfriend, Amy, and occasionally he stops by unannounced to see her.  Viewed through the gate from her apartment building's courtyard we see a Muni bus pull up mid-block across the street; Caul gets off and crosses towards us.

and Now,  this is Frederick Street between Masonic and Delmar in the Haight district.  The 6-Parnassus bus still passes by the same spot stopping not here, but at the end of the block.


  Amy resides at the Casa Madrona Apartments at 110 - 116 Frederick Street in the Haight district near Buena Vista Park pictured below in a recent photo (map).  In another nod to its cinematic past Marilyn Monroe reportedly took a break from Hollywood and stayed here.


Then ...  He enters the courtyard, closing the gate behind him.

and Now,  the masonry block front wall has been replaced or plastered over and extended into the courtyard to accomodate residents' mailboxes.  The wrought -iron gate has also been replaced - for added security it is taller than was its predecessor.


Then ...  He then makes his way past the ornamental fountain towards a lighted entrance ahead.

and Now,  the fountain has been replaced by another and a recently added railing now isolates it from the pathway.  The masonry blocks built into the wall at rear, more clearly seen above, are still there, now peeking through shrubs.


Then ...  Inside the front door Caul pauses, lingering at the top of the steps, hanging back and peering down as though, paranoid, he wants to make sure nobody is watching.

and Now,  the hallway today shows all of the same architectural details.  CitySleuth loves it when things stay just as they were!  The door's window glass is different though, losing its style.


Then ...  Amy's apartment is at the bottom of the short flight of stairs.  It's late and knowing she is probably in bed he lets himself in.

and Now,  that same door viewed from the top  of the stairs.


Then ...  A skimpy wrap and plastic raincoat make strange bedfellows but Amy (Terri Garr) is warm and welcoming and happy to see him.  They seem to get along fine as they snuggle up and share a bottle of wine.  In the background we see a glimpse of the kitchen.

... and Now,  the apartment actually has a separate bedroom but for the movie the bed was moved into the living room to make it appear to be a cosy studio. There have been a few changes since the early 70s including a remodelled kitchen but that's the same back door leading out from the apartment.


Then ...  Amy knows very little about Harry Caul - he keeps his personal life close to the vest.  She wants to know more about him and it's clear that he is not at all comfortable with her questions.

... and Now,  the door behind him is the door to the bedroom.  Note the same wall moldings then and now.


Then ...  She keeps probing until, that's it ... he's had enough and abruptly leaves.  On his way out she tells him she won't wait up for him any more.  This man clearly has a hard time keeping friends.

... and Now,  through the open door we see that the same newel post and bannister are still there.


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