Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Experiment In Terror - Reluctant Witness

  Whenever CitySleuth draws a blank on pinpointing a location he posts it anyway asking readers to help identify it.  Just occasionally they do, as in this post ...


  Ripley questions Lisa Soong (Anita Loo, in her only movie role), who the priest had seen with the suspect Red Lynch.  She is reluctant with her answers, almost hostile, and refuses to answer without first talking to her lawyer.

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Then ...  The lawyer lives across the street from her and on receiving her call wastes no time going over to join her.

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and Now ...  CitySleuth heard from reader Suzy Safdie who as it turns out lived as a child in this very house.  She identified it as 647 33rd Avenue in the Richmond district (map), a block or so from George Washington High School which made an appearance earlier in the movie.  The house has added a garage since then.

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Then ...  The rest of this block is revealed as the camera pans to the right to show the suspect lurking, waiting as the lawyer crosses and heads up to Lisa's place.  Note the messy oil-pan leaks on the pavement, a sign of the times but rarely seen today.

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and Now ...  The interesting serial row of homes are all different in style, then as now.  Anza Street crosses at the stop sign.

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Then ...    Lynch approaches and gazes up at Lisa's window, presumably the top floor.  Inside, on the advice of her lawyer, she admits to knowing Lynch, in fact they have dated a number of times.  But even after being told he is a three-time murderer, she appears to be holding back information.

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and Now ...  Lynch was gazing up at 652 33rd Avenue but its interior scenes were most likely filmed on a studio set.  Here's that house today.

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Born To Kill - Murder In The Dunes

Then ...  As a Yellow cab drops Mrs Kraft off at the remote address given her by Marty, amongst a lonely stretch of sand dunes, viewers can be excused if they find themselves gripping their seats in trepidation.

... and Now,  but where was this filmed?  It clearly is meant to be somewhere in the Outer Sunset, a district that in the early to mid 20th century saw its vast area of sand dunes inexorably replaced with tract housing.  While there are insufficient clues to work out the exact spot, the location below, at the corner of Santiago Street and the Great Highway (map) is typical of where it could have been.  The landscaped dunes on the right separate this frontage road from the Great Highway and the ocean.


... but wait a minute.  It turns out this scene was not filmed in San Francisco at all.  The moviemakers chose another location on the California coast with a sand dune complex that rivaled San Francisco's but which lagged the development of the Sunset district.  CitySleuth came across a reference to a Hollywood Reporter article revealing that one of the movie's location shoots, obviously this one, was filmed at the beach in El Segundo.  By now, most of that city's dunes have gone too but there's still a significant surviving strip sandwiched between the beach and Los Angeles' International airport (map).


Then ...  Marty leads the dear old lady, she finally realizing she has gotten herself into dire straits, into the dunes and pulls a knife, intent on carrying out Sam's order to do her in.  But, surprise (!!), Sam himself suddenly appears ...

... and Now,  here's a photo of very similar sand dunes recently taken at El Segundo beach.


  Mrs Kraft escapes as Sam throws Marty to the ground.  Paranoid as ever he had jumped to the wrong conclusion after he saw him leaving Helen's room (after an innocent conversation as it happens).  Marty's protestations fail to stop the cold-blooded killer from driving the knife home.


  When the police show up the next day at their home with questions (Marty had been staying there as a guest) Sam tells them he had been playing cards all evening with Helen.  Startled, and despite realizing that his lie could only mean that he was the killer, she nevertheless supports his alibi.


The Laughing Policeman - The Setup

  A plain-clothes cop thinks he is following a suspect unawares, in fact he is being set up.  The suspect makes a phone call as the cop on a bench in the background reads a newspaper, trying his best to look innocuous.  "It's workin' ...", says the man in the booth, "He's stayin' right with me".


Then ...  The man walks from the phone booth, one of those against the back wall, glancing back at the cop as he heads towards an exit.

... and Now,  this scene was filmed at the Transbay Transit Terminal on Mission Street south of Market.  The terminal was torn down in 2010 to make way for a new Transbay Transit Center, still under construction.  The photo below of the same spot was taken shortly before the terminal closed down.  In it we see that those phone booths had been replaced by wall-mounted telephones.

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... in 1965 ...  this vintage aerial photo of the 1939 Timothy L Pflueger designed terminal was taken a few years before the movie was filmed.  The entrance, approached by car via the crescent driveway in the lower left corner and by bus on the ramped roadway above it, was at 425 Mission Street between Fremont and 1st streets.

... in 2010 ...  per this photo of the Mission Street entrance the terminal had hardly changed as recently as a few years ago.

... by 2011 ...  just one year later it was gone, taking with it 71 years of memories but leaving for the moment traces of the crescent driveway.  Construction on the replacement is ongoing.


  To comprehend the scope of the planned redevelopment currently underway at this site just compare the two images below ...

Then ...  this 1965 photo captured the terminal as it used to look.  It also captured the ill-fated Embarcadero freeway; it was torn down following damage in the 1989 earthquake.

... coming soon ...  work is in progress on the futuristic new terminal, illustrated in this architectural rendering.  Scheduled to be completed by 2017 it will act as a hub for 11 Bay Area transit systems, boast a 5.4 acre park on its roof and will link underground to the current Caltrain terminus at King Street.  Surrounding it will be new residences, shops, parks and offices, including the Pelli Transbay Tower which will assume bragging rights as the tallest building west of the Rockies at 1070 feet.


Then ...  the suspect climbs one floor up the stairs to the bus level under the huge shed and boards a 14-Mission San Francisco bus.  He is closely followed by the cop who has to hammer on the door but he too gets in.  CitySleuth just loves those Art Deco city buses!  Such style, unlike today's tin cans.

... in 1973 ...  here's a vintage photo on a typical busy day taken in the same boarding area the year the filming took place.  That's the E-Claremont bus stop above, the F-Berkeley stop below, both lines serving the east bay.  Those pass-through roadways were originally train tracks for the Key System Bay Bridge rail system when the terminal opened.

... in 2008 ...  The F-Berkeley continued to operate from here right until the day the terminal closed down, two years after this photo was taken.  Note one change though - the steel pillars had been stiffened with an earthquake retrofit.


  The bus departs carrying suspect, cop and a few other passengers on what will be its last ride, a journey to hell.


The Conversation - Caul makes a Call

Then ...  Harry Caul, as befits a man of simple means, uses San Francisco's Muni buses to get around town.  Here, wearing his ubiquitous plastic raincoat, he gets off the 3-Jackson to make a phone call to 'The Director', the executive who hired him to snoop on his wife.

... and Now,  the modern version of the 3-Jackson still serves this stretch of Sutter Street.


Then ...  He crosses the street to a public phone booth.  There are several clues to this location - the red sign on the side of the building down the street belongs to the Hotel Carlton at 1075 Sutter; there's the Travelers tavern at 1176 Sutter, and at left alongside the phone booth is the yellow and maroon tiled Fosters Cafeteria.  This can only be the corner of Sutter and Polk. (map).

... and Now,  the Hotel Carlton is still there, the tavern too, currently the R Bar.  Fosters on the corner though has been replaced by another eatery, El Super Burrito.  The phone booth (which could have been a movie prop) is not there now.

... a vintage photo ...  this 1940s photo looking north up Polk Street from Sutter captures the Polk Street side of the Fosters restaurant.  Back then the trams ran on tracks along both Polk and Sutter.  Check out that public clock on the left - not everyone could afford a watch in those days.  Note too how well folks dressed back then when they stepped outside, especially the lady crossing, with heels, purse, fur coat and hat.

... and Now,  the same view except that today's street fashion, sadly, has become slob casual.


  In this carefully composed shot he arranges a meeting with the Director.  "Is that ... payment in full?", he asks, anxiously.


Born To Kill - Two visitors - Felton Hotel

  Mrs Kraft has checked into the Felton Hotel in San Francisco to find out how Arnett is doing in his search for Laury Palmer's killer.  When Arnett stops by to see her, he doesn't notice he is being followed by Sam's friend Marty; with revenge in mind they want to know who hired him.


Then ...  Once Arnett (and Marty) head up to Mrs Kraft's room the clear view outside gives us clues to the hotel's location.  The key one is the barely visible roadway and tower of the Bay Bridge way in the distance so this must look east down Broadway, the block across the street being the 700 block between Stockton and Powell.  The hotel though is a virtual location, shot in a studio using a projected background filmed from the northwest corner of Powell and Broadway (map).

... and Now,  in the same view today we can still see, in addition to the bridge, 705 Broadway (at left within the open doorway above) and 781 Broadway (at far right with the same exterior fire escape ladder).  Everything between them was replaced in 1961 by the second phase of Chinatown's Ping Yuen low income housing project.  In the center of the open doorway there's a cafe sign - not quite legible but it was the Jai-Alai Cafe at 761 Broadway.

... a vintage photo ...  in this 1940s photo there's a clear view of the Jai-Alai cafe sign at left on the 700 block  of Broadway.  Compare it to the distant view in the Now image above.

... and Now,  the real business currently at the virtual site of the Felton Hotel is Souffle's Cafe at 1401 Powell.  Note that it too has an entrance set at 45 degrees on the corner.


Then ...  Arnett's visit is short; he leaves after telling Mrs Kraft that he is getting close to identifying the killer.  Marty then knocks on her door, telling her he has information about Laury  which he will reveal if she meets him later that night.  She naively agrees ... (bad idea).  The view through the window is obviously a pier on the Embarcadero, but which one?  The building in front of it with the sloping roofline corner provides the answer ...

... a vintage photo ...  because this is the old Ferry Station Post Office on the corner of Washington, seen here at far left in a 1965 image of the ill-fated double-decker Embarcadero freeway.  So Pier 1 is the pier seen above, it is just off the left of the picture.

... a vintage photo ...  the arrow in this 1947 image taken from the Mark Hopkins hotel points to the Post Office and Pier 1 but Mrs Kraft's window view appears to have been taken from a lower, closer vantage point, perhaps from one of those buildings on the left.  In the real world this same view would not be seen from the virtual location of the Felton Hotel, several blocks to the north.

... and Now,  the Post Office is no longer there, it used to sit within what is now Sue Bierman Park.  But Pier 1 is still there, facing Washington Street (map).


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