Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Dark Passage - Irene's Apartment - Real versus Movie Set

    The preceding three posts introduced us to Irene's apartment at the art deco Malloch house at 1360 Montgomery Street, #10.  We learned that the exteriors were filmed at that address but the interiors, in order to optimize sound and lighting, were shot on a studio sound stage.  In April 2016 CitySleuth was alerted by reader Cynthia that the Montgomery Street apartment was up for sale -  the open house allowed him to compare the real apartment with the movie's version.  (By the way, it quickly sold for $1,500,000). 

    Here's the floor plan of the real apartment, a 1 bed 1 bath single floor unit on the 3rd floor.  At the north side of the house the Filbert Steps head down the hill from street level (the last photo in this earlier post).

    And here's the floor plan, roughly to scale, of the movie set.  It is still a 1 bed 1 bath unit but there are significant differences, the most obvious being the bedroom which is now upstairs, accessed by a sinuous metal staircase.  The fireplace has been moved across the living room, as has the kitchen, and there's an added den.  The bedroom is an unusual shape; CitySleuth surmises it was done this way to create extra space on either side of the bed for the camera crew. 


Then (movie) ...  An earlier post explained how the apartment's east view across the patio from the living room was a backdrop photo, flipped left to right, of a nearby north facing view of Angel Island.

... and Now (real),  the east view looks out to Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge.  Much prettier.  Why the moviemakers didn't use this view is anybody's guess.  But note how carefully they reproduced the art deco patio wall design, even down to the flowerpot holders integrated into the railing.


Then (movie) ...  Looking in from the patio on a rainy night, this shot across the living room shows off its centerpiece, the bedroom staircase.

... and Now (real),  no staircase, a compact kitchen straight ahead (note the art deco pattern on the cabinets) and a circular dining space over to the right.  The apartment entrance is on the left, past the closet down the corridor which continues on to the bedroom on the same level.


Then (movie) ...  Irene's view from her patio was once again created with a flipped photo, of old Telegraph Hill cottages on the Filbert Steps as described in more detail in this earlier post.

... and Now (real),  here's the actual patio view including a closer look at the flowerpot holders.  This time the movie view is superior.


Then (movie) ...  The wall behind the bed is at an angle relative to the window wall.

... and Now (real),  the window wall is straight and leads to a small walk-in dressing room.


Then (movie) ...  The view looking down from the bedroom window shows the Filbert Steps linking Montgomery Street's lower and upper levels; across the street they continue up to Coit Tower.  Note the absence of mature trees at that time.

... and Now (real),  comparing with the actual view from apartment #10's bedroom window the parallax differences reveal that the movie's view was taken from a higher level in keeping with its bedroom's upstairs location.  And, it was filmed from a spot more to the right, closer to the building's north side; apparently on the rooftop at the building's northwest corner.

Then ...  Apartment #10 is at the bottom of this frame on the 3rd floor; for this brief exterior shot inserted during a scene in Irene's bedroom the moviemakers used the 4th floor apartment's bedroom so as to represent Irene's.

... and Now,  when CitySleuth took this matching photo on an earlier visit there was a Bogart cutout displayed in the bedroom window of apartment #10.  (CitySleuth saw it propped behind a door during the open house).  Note too the absence of ugly power lines, now underground.


The Laughing Policeman - Flushing Him Out

Then ...  Tailing Camerero has so far failed to lead Jake and Larsen to the supplier of the 'grease gun' - the murder weapon.  It's time for some psychological warfare.  In a ploy to rattle him Jake asks Larsen to go to Camerero's office and drop off the wartime photo they found of him with one of the murdered bus victims.  (Patience, dear reader, it's a convoluted story but the location shots are great).  His office is at One Embarcadero Center, also seen earlier in the movie;  below, the dogged duo are on the promenade level where a Willi Gutman sculpture rises behind them.

... and Now,  the sculpture is still there, partially hidden by the Landmark Theatre structure that has since been added.  Partially hidden too is the iconic Transamerica pyramid in the background.

    That same sculpture made an appearance in Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation, filmed around the same time.  The One Embarcadero highrise behind it, below, is the building on the left, above.


Then ...  They keep watch on his car but he doesn't take the bait.

... and Now,  this is Level A of One Embarcadero Center's underground garage.


    Larsen even tries to persuade Monica, the nurse he had interviewed earlier, to call Camerero pretending to be somebody else.  She finds the whole idea hilariously against the law and isn't persuaded.   But what and where was this quirky place?  And who was MacPhee?  Two readers have suggested Napper Tandy's, a little pub/entertainment place on the Plaza next to the Hyatt on Union Square.  CitySleuth would like to find a contemporaneous photo that could confirm or rule this out.


Then ...  Another futile day of shadowing ends at Camerero's home.  The address, displayed on the side wall as 85 St. Elmo, tells us where it is ....

... and Now,  over 40 years later at 85 St. Elmo Way in the upscale hillside neighborhood of Monterey Heights (map), despite the magnificent tree being taller and sturdier, the lamps flanking the entrance now gone and the address sign moved to the other side, the home still looks as it was.


    Jake decides it's time to confront the suspect directly.  He shows up at his Embarcadero Center office (with an east-facing view towards Yerba Buena Island) but Camerero tells his secretary to say he is not there.  Clearly though, he's rattled; they are on to him.


Then ...  Jake tells Larsen he knows Camerero was there so they wait for him outside the building's garage.  When his Mercedes pulls out, they are about to embark on a wild car chase across the city ...

... and Now,  this is the Battery Street exit of One Embarcadero's underground garage (map); there's now an added staircase over on the left.


The Penalty - Years Later

Then ...  The caption moves the story to its next phase where the camera looks towards the Ferry Building on the left then, slowly panning to the right, reveals the Financial District.

... and Now,  the city today is even richer.  Both panoramas, facing east across San Francisco Bay, were taken from the Fairmont hotel on Nob Hill (map).  (The reverse view from the bay was seen earlier in the previous post).  Note the Bay Bridge below, at upper left; the movie image above, filmed early in 1920, preceded its opening by 16 years.  Old St. Mary's Church tower in the center foreground is a common denominator in both images.


    The amputee is now an adult, known only as Blizzard (Lon Chaney), with an enormous axe to grind, intent on avenging the malpractice inflicted on him as a child.  He makes his entrance, below, a little later in the movie.  To get in character Lon Chaney doubled his legs back, strapped his ankles to his thighs then attached specially designed wooden stumps.  It was painful; he had a limited time for each scene before having to take them off.  An oversized coat hid his legs and he wore padding beneath his clothes to maintain proportion.  Quite the sacrifice, making his remarkable performance even more so.


Then ...  The city panorama is followed by views of contrasting neighborhoods that illustrate the socially opposed lives of the movie's main characters.  First we see the now successful and respected Dr. Ferris being chauffeured  from an enclave of exclusive homes.

... and Now,  this is Presidio Terrace on Arguello Blvd at Washington at the edge of the Inner Richmond district (map). The gated (but it's always open) community of 36 luxury homes, most of them built between 1905 and 1920, has been home to the city's smart set ever since.

... and Now,  in this aerial view the mostly Beaux Arts, Mission Revival and Tudor Revival homes flank a circular road.  When the enclave opened, its advertised policy reflected the blatant discrimination of the time ... "There is only one spot in San Francisco where only Caucasians are permitted to buy or lease real estate or where they may reside. That place is Presidio Terrace."    Many dignitaries over the years have lived here including Senator Dianne Feinstein whose former home was 30 Presidio Terrace, the English Tudor at far left above.  Typical sales prices for these homes are in the $5 - 10 million range.


Then ...  Next, a street in a shabbier neighborhood, Blizzard's stomping ground.  The pagoda-like tower in the background suggests this is Chinatown, mostly rebuilt since its devastation by the 1906 earthquake and fire only 14 years earlier.

... and Now,  sure enough, this is Chinatown's Grant Avenue looking south from Clay (map).  The pagoda belongs to the Sing Chong Building on the corner of California Street.  The neighborhood, because of its tradition, resistance to change and absence of trees, has maintained its look and feel for over a century.  Long may that continue!  And what if the old man crossing the street above were time-transported into the scene below?  He might be forgiven if he thought the lady on the left was nursing an earache and the man on the right was reading his own palm.


Then ...  And, at the far end of the social scale, the infamous and licentious Barbary Coast where the two sailors entering the Diana Hall saloon are oblivious to the  policeman harassing a couple of prostitutes in the street.  The bar next to it is Spider Kelly's, and next to that (with the columns) the Hippodrome, a drinking and dancing establishment which will play a part as the story unfolds.

... and Now,  This is the north side of the 500 block of Pacific Street between Montgomery and Kearny (mapin what is today known as the Jackson Square neighborhood having traded its early 20th century pimps, prostitutes and bartenders for lawyers, interior designers and high-end office and boutique workers while still retaining its old commercial character.


The Penalty - "You Should Not Have Amputated!"

    The Penalty is a very entertaining silent film starring Lon Chaney in a remarkable performance that made him famous.  Its addition to this blog takes us back to 1920 San Francisco and lets us see how the movie's location sites have changed over the passage of almost 100 years.


    The  movie's opening credits roll over a background of the Ferry Building at the turn of the century as seen from the bay (map).  But this is a stylized matte painted image, the clock tower is similar to but a little different from that of the current Ferry Building which replaced an earlier wooden structure in 1898 and has remained more or less unchanged to this day.  Also, the hill to the right, perhaps meant to be Nob Hill, would not loom so large when viewed from this far out.

Then ...  Had the moviemakers used the actual bay view when they filmed the movie it would have looked similar to this contemporaneous postcard photo.   The building at far right is the Fairmont Hotel, atop Nob Hill since 1906.  Left of center is the Southern Pacific Building, there since 1916.

... and Now,  in a drastic transformation the Financial District today dwarfs the surviving Ferry Building and Southern Pacific Building.


    (Note to readers -  to streamline readability CitySleuth has taken the liberty of attaching the script from the title cards beneath the image).

    The story begins with an inexperienced doctor (Charles Clary) called upon to operate on a young accident victim.


   He decides to amputate both of the unfortunate boy's legs above the knee.  Right after the operation his senior colleague checks the boy out and tells Ferris he has made a huge mistake.


    Ferris has mangled the poor child for life but the older doctor covers for him and lies to the boy's parents.


   The boy had overheard the doctors' conversation and tries to tell his parents but they believe their explanation that he is delusional from the anesthetic... "It's the effect of the ether".


    The boy now has to wear artificial stumps for the rest of his life - he will grow up with a twisted determination to wreak revenge both on the doctor and the city of San Francisco itself.


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