The Laughing Policeman - Car Chase
Inspired no doubt by the popularity five years earlier of the car chase in Bullitt, director Stuart Rosenberg decided to include one in this movie. As in Bullitt, the chase makes arbitrary geographical jumps around the city. It starts out in the Financial District, cuts to SoMa then over to Potrero Hill/Dogpatch before ending up in North Beach.
Throughout the chase, click or tap the image or thumbnail to compare Then with Now.
The dogged duo watch from their unmarked police sedan, a late 1960s Ford Custom, as Camerero pulls out of the Battery Street exit of One Embarcadero's underground garage in the Financial District (map). He's driving what has become a classic, a Mercedes-Benz 250 or 280 SL with the 'pagoda' concave top.
Camerero spots them and decides to shake them off. He speeds west down narrow Commercial street towards Sansome (map) with Larsen in hot pursuit; on the left is the Federal Reserve Bank building, now called the Bentley Reserve. This block today is pedestrian only, accessed by an overhead bridge across Battery from One Embarcadero Center.
Larsen follows the Mercedes across Sansome as it continues west along the next block. Way ahead, Commercial goes on to dead-end in Chinatown at Grant Avenue.
Next, both cars make a hard left out of Battery into Clay (map)...
... they continue east along Clay past Front Street. The Golden Gateway Redevelopment Project is in full swing; the old Produce Market has been swept away, the Alcoa Building already complete on the left and Two Embarcadero Center under construction on the right (map). Ahead is the Ferry Building and the Clay Street on-ramp to the eyesore double-deck 480 Embarcadero Freeway (demolished in 1991 after being damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake).
A geographical leap to the South Of Market neighborhood catches up with the action as Camerero, heading north on 3rd Street under the Interstate 80 and 480 freeways (map), is about to make a sharp turn to his right into narrow Perry Street. Both elevated freeways have undergone changes since then.
They head east over a sharp crest on Perry Street alongside the freeway (map). In the Now image a homeless group has decided this is a good place to call home.
Larsen, cresting the hill, is about to unknowingly drive right by Camerero who has sneakily pulled in to one side...
... then when they emerge onto 2nd Street (map) they make an immediate U-turn and head back to find Camerero. In this view the 80 freeway is at far left from which the 480 freeway peels off, crossing 2nd towards the Embarcadero. Demolished following the 1989 earthquake, this section has since been replaced by a west-bound addition to the 80 freeway.
They backtrack along Perry and spot Camerero ahead of them. In a slick piece of stunt driving the Mercedes, crossing 3rd Street, is almost broadsided by a spinning green sedan forced to slam on its brakes.
The next cross-town segue takes us to Potrero Hill. The chase continues north on Iowa under the 280 freeway, approaching 23rd Street (map). The recent image shows seismic upgrades to the freeway supports.
Camerero turns left into 23rd and uses the steep half-block incline under the 280 freeway to launch the Mercedes into the air. The thriving industrial area these days is packed daily with bumper-to-bumper parked cars.
Larsen guns it up the same slope, about to get air himself. Note the huge storage tank on the corner of 23rd and Pennsylvania - it's gone now.
The site of the storage tank is now occupied by an anti-hunger organization, the San Francisco Marin Food Bank.
The hefty Ford gets even more air than the Mercedes did. Behind them 23rd Street recedes east through the Dogpatch neighborhood to San Francisco Bay.
Now the chase jumps clear over to Russian Hill to where tourists regularly gather every day to take in the east view to Coit Tower from Lombard and Hyde at the top of the famous crooked street (map).
Not surprisingly they're not joining the procession down the eight switchbacks; instead this is a convenient vantage point from which the camera can zoom in to the two cars, arrowed, crossing Columbus Avenue (map). In the recent Now image a Powell-Mason cable car clangs by on Columbus.
The car chase ends when Camerero abandons his Mercedes in the middle of Union Street in North Beach and takes off on foot across Columbus with Jake in hot pursuit (map). This view looks west along Union rising up to Russian Hill.
He spots Camerero boarding a Muni bus and runs across Washington Square Park in time to jump on at its next stop in front of Sts. Peter and Paul church (map). As he takes a seat with a clear view of Camerero the second phase of the pursuit - the bus chase - is about to begin.