Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

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 Avenue 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.


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