Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The House Across The Bay - Rock Widows

    The Rock Widows, "Jennies with a Johnny on the Rock", take a ferry over to Alcatraz (mapto visit their man.  Brenda joins them for the first of what she assumes will be many visits.  She and Steve share small-talk and it's clear he misses her very much.


Then ...  After departing from the slip alongside the large building on the right the ferry sails around the southeastern tip of the island on its return trip.

... and Now,  the most striking difference in today's view is the missing and damaged staff buildings alongside the lighthouse - they were destroyed by fire during the 1969 -1971 occupation of Alcatraz by a group of tribal Indians.  The large building seen at far right above is still there, behind the trees.

... a vintage image ... This photo, taken the year after the prison closed during a brief Indian protest in 1964, gives us a clearer look at those ill-fated buildings.  The Indians were staking their historic claim to the ownership of the island.

   ... and here the buildings go up in smoke in 1970.


Then ...  The rock widows look back to the side of the island that faces San Francisco.  It's sobering to think that when this was filmed the prison was jammed with high-risk maximum security inmates.

... and Now,  the same view today, but the dreaded penitentiary is now a tourist attraction.  The water tower is not in the image above; it was built in 1940 shortly after the movie was released.


Then ...  One of the women, Mary (Gladys George), notices Brenda standing alone and walks over to talk to her.  A cigarette breaks the ice and pretty soon they become fast friends.  Behind them Russian Hill rises above Fort Mason.

... and Now,  Development on Russian Hill has changed its skyline; also downtown on the left where high-rise office buildings are pulled in close by the telephoto lens.  Nearer shore, Ghirardelli Square sits just above the Art Deco Bathhouse and the adjacent Fire Department pump house at Aquatic Park.  Fort Mason's Pier 2 and 3 are on the right and Pier 4, the Alcatraz Pier, is on the left in front of the pump house - it's marked by the red-roofed building at its end (click the image to enlarge).


The Conversation - 10-28

Then ...  After a long day at the surveillance convention, Caul and buddies decide to party at his workshop - they pile into a car inside the St. Francis Hotel's parking garage entrance on Geary Street (map).

... and Now,  there are mirrors on some of the pillars and the fire extinguisher recessed into one of them has been removed otherwise 40 years on it looks very similar.


Then ...  They are crossing Fillmore Street heading west on Lombard in the Cow Hollow neighborhood (map) when a yellow Mustang suddenly cuts in front of them and roars off.

... and Now,  at the same junction.  Peter's Auto Radio store on the corner of Fillmore at far right above is now a children's toy store.  The Arco Car Wash and service station visible above down the block was replaced in 1978 by the Cow Hollow Motor Inn, hidden from here by the trees.


    Caul's surveillance partner Paul (Michael Higgins) is the driver.  But that's a moonlighting job - he's also a cop and, determined to give the exhibitionist driver a run for his money, he takes off after him.  The filming of the chase that ensued jumped back and forth along the five block stretch of Lombard between Webster and Divisadero.


Then ...  The two cars, tires screaming, next make a hard right from Lombard into Pierce.  Across the street at far right there's a chain restaurant, the International House of Pancakes.

... and Now,  the restaurant is still there, rebranded as IHOP (International House of Pancakes ... get it?).  So too is the Surf Motel, but Irv's Union service station seen above on the corner is now gone, replaced in 2007 by the condo/retail building below.


Then ...  In the next shot they are on Webster, turning at high speed back onto Lombard, this time heading east.  Paul is driving his official car and he decides to have some fun - he calls headquarters and requests a '10-28' (vehicle registration details) on the Mustang.

... and Now,  for the most part time has stood still on this corner except for changes with the traffic lights.


Then ...  During the 10-28 call Paul tells headquarters he's heading east on Lombard but even as he speaks we see they now heading west; they have just crossed Scott.

... and Now,  the Sands Motel at 2440 Lombard today is a Super-8 motel and further along the Bank of America branch at 2460 Lombard became, until it recently closed, a Blockbuster Video store.


    When the Mustang pulls up at a stop sign we recognize it as the 1970 Boss 302 model with its unique hockey--stick side stripes that cross over the hood.  Paul stops alongside it and shouts across to the startled driver ...

" Heyyy ... Willie Sanchez ... 654 14th Street ... 162 pounds ... 5 foot 10 1/2 ... Shithead! "


Then ...  Now it's Paul's turn to roar off leaving the Mustang driver wondering what on earth just happened.  The cars had stopped at Lombard alongside the Doggie Diner restaurant at 2099 Lombard Street at Fillmore  This view looks south past the Mustang along Fillmore Street to its steep climb up to Pacific Heights. 

... and Now,  another Motor Inn, the Chelsea, now occupies the southeast corner site where the Doggie Diner used to be.  The tall building at the top of the hill is the prestigious 2288 Broadway co-op apartments.

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    Back at Caul's workshop Bernie declares ... "The bar is now open!".


The Laughing Policeman - Hall Of Justice

    Several scenes in the movie were filmed at the Hall of Justice, the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department at 850 Bryant Street in the SOMA district.  The gargantuan monolith was built in the 1960s to replace the predecessor headquarters at Portsmouth Square (seen here in the 1958 movie The Lineup).  Here's a recent photo of 'The Hall'.


Then ...  Larsen has been assigned to replace Jake's murdered partner.  The investigators meet at the Coroner's office to view the bus victims - the facility is at the north side of the Hall (map). The elevated freeway seen from the lobby through the window on the right is interstate 80 heading east toward the Bay Bridge

... and Now,  it's still in the same place but the coroner's office is now known as the Medical Examiner's Office.  A modern prison facility, visible in the background, was added in the 1990s.

    This aerial shows the location of the Medical Examiner's office (arrowed) and the adjacent futuristically styled prison building.  Bryant Street runs across the bottom with 7th Street crossing at far left.  Look at how closely I-80 passes by the prison cells.


   Inside the morgue the victims are laid out for the coroner's scrutiny but Jake and Larsen are more interested in the victims' belongings - they sift through them looking for clues that might lead to the gunman.


Then ...  The exterior of The Hall may be drab but on entering the main entrance visitors are pleasantly surprised to find a warmly marbled open space.  This view of Larsen as he enters was filmed through the glass partition of the Public Information desk.

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... and Now,  the entrance lobby today is not so open.  There are now airport style bag scanner lines and a partition has been installed to the side of the information desk.  It's good though to see those same chandeliers.

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    Inside the Hall Jake's boss Lt. Styner (Anthony Zerbe) is becoming impatient with the lack of progress and demands results from them both.


Then ...  They exit the building via the main entrance on Bryant Street.

... and Now,  there are some changes, the most obvious being the handrails.  And, the steps look as though they have been replaced or resurfaced.


Then ...  As they drive off we are looking east down Bryant.  6th Street crosses between the Boormann Steel building and the Coca-Cola billboard down the road at 5th and there's a Standard Chevron gas station at right on the corner of Harriet.  Note the Fallout Shelter sign on the left- there's not many of them around these days.

... and Now,  a parking lot has replaced the gas station, the Boormann Steel building is gone but the Coca-Cola in-your-face message lives on.  Those SFPD vehicles are blatantly double-parked but who will ticket them?


The House Across The Bay - Alcatraz

    Prisoners on their way to Alcatraz embarked from a small pier at Fort Mason, adjacent to Aquatic Park (map).  (Fort Mason had its own pier numbering system independent of the city's waterfront Embarcadero piers).  The sign informs us that these boats also supplied Fort McDowell on Angel Island .


Then ...  Larwitt is driven to the pier down a narrow boardwalk alongside the Aquatic Park municipal pier.  At far right is the newly built (in 1939) bathhouse building and behind it the Ghirardelli Square clock tower.  Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill is there too, hiding behind the wooden post.

... and Now,  the Alcatraz Pier has survived but in poor condition and is now off-limits to the public.  CitySleuth captured this matching view from the municipal pier ... considering the passage of 70-plus years it's remarkably similar from here except for the TransAmerica Building on the horizon to the left of the extant clock tower.  Coit Tower is clearly seen and in both Then and Now images you can make out the white speaker tower behind the bleachers, one of a pair erected on either side of the bathhouse.

... and Now,  taken through the locked gate, here's a recent photo of the Alcatraz Pier.  Alcatraz Island is out of the picture to the right.


    In this great image Larwitt, flanked by and handcuffed to federal guards, gets his first glimpse of his future home - he won't be needing that natty attire for the next ten years.  The bathhouse and the second speaker tower are seen behind him.  (This closeup was filmed in a studio with a photo plate backdrop).


Then ...  What he sees is Alcatraz sitting there, imposing, intimidating, awaiting.

... and Now,  the federal prison was operational only from 1934 to 1963 and is but a part of the history of Alcatraz Island.  In the recent photo below, with the Alcatraz Pier in the foreground, a few changes can be seen, including the water tower built in the same year (1940) the movie was released.  The island today is a huge tourist destination hosting a million visitors annually. 


Then ...  The feds lead him down the gangway but a knowledgable observer would recognize that this isn't the same pier, in fact Fort Mason is across the water in the distance, just right of center.

... and Now,  this was filmed more than two miles away at the small coastguard pier near Crissy Field in the Presidio.  A second shed next to the smaller square one has since been added and an adjacent pier on the right is gone.

    On a trivia note here's the same location from the 1958 movie The Lineup by which time that second shed had been built (in fact it was already built by 1947 as seen, together with the adjacent pier, here in the movie Dark Passage.

    The red and white markers on the map below show the locations of the two piers relative to each other.


    ... but as the boat pulls away we are back at the Fort Mason Alcatraz Pier.


Then ...  The next shot looks back towards the bathhouse and speaker tower.

... and Now,  1939 coincided with the tail end of the Art Deco period and its Streamline Moderne influence on the speaker tower and bathhouse are clearly evident.


    CitySleuth couldn't resist including this cute vintage photo taken the year the bathhouse was built.  Intended primarily to broadcast sports events, the speakers went silent decades ago.


    Brenda has witnessed the prisoner transfer - the poignant sight of her husband's slowly receding boat heralds a significant life-changer for them both.


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