Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Filtering by Tag: Potrero Hill

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 (mapthey 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.


The Laughing Policeman - A Tip From The Angels

    Leads are few and far between in this case but an arrested drug dealer anxious to soften his sentence on a third strike passes on the name of the bus victim who had lured Jake's partner onto the massacre bus - a Gus Niles who sported a distinctive eagle tattoo.  But they still don't know who the bus killer was and their search for someone who might have been asking around for an automatic weapon, aka "grease gun', takes them to another quid pro quo meeting at a Hell's Angels hangout, known to the police as a source of weapons.

Then ... Driving up Texas Street they breast 19th Street in the Potrero Hill neighborhood (map).  The city glitters in the background and in the center of this view the 6th Street and King Street exits mark the end of the incoming 280 freeway.

... and Now,  the freeway is almost hidden by one of the many Lower Potrero Hill projects currently under construction.

... recently ...  in 2014 the freeway from here was still clearly visible, a closer match to the movie view above.


Then ...  one of the bikers glances this way and that and, the coast being clear, beckons them in.

... and Now,  this is 605 Texas Street, a couple of blocks south of the top of the hill above (map).  Other than the added security gate on the front door it still looks the same.


Then ... a short passage leads them into the living room where a picture of a scantily clad female reclining on a Harley catches Larsen's eye.  Always the ladies man.

... and Now,  Déjà vu!  CitySleuth is nothing if not nostalgic and was delighted to find the room to be completely unchanged, including the built-in storage area.


Then ... the biker grabs a bottle of liquor from the kitchen to add lubrication to the negotiations.

... and Now,  the current owner had heard about the filming when buying the house two years after the movie came out and told CitySleuth that the kitchen remained exactly as above for another thirty years until it was remodeled into this current layout.


Then ... The visit wasn't a complete waste - the Angels tell them that prior to the bus massacre someone with an eagle tattoo had been around looking for a grease gun.  The detectives leave and, in this shot of them reversing out, the background reveals three of the adjacent houses.

... and Now,  those houses too have seen little change in over forty years.


Then ... They head back the way they came, up Texas Street.

... and Now,  as they leave Larsen reflects on what they have just learned... "Terrific... our John Doe now has a name, Gus Niles.  Now we know that Gus Niles was looking for a grease gun.  We also know that he was a victim on the bus, shot by a grease gun.  Now that ain't complicated at all is it?"


The Conversation - A Breakthrough

Then ...  Back at his workshop Caul continues to tweak the recorded conversation.  He's particularly frustrated by one garbled comment that he can't quite make out but after running it through a customized filter, bingo! ... the words suddenly become coherent.

... and Now,  this location, Suite 360, 1616 16th Street in Potrero Hill, has been described in detail in an earlier post.  In the matching shot today at the back corner of the Dara Rosenfeld Design studio the two major alterations are the partitioning wall incongruously terminating mid-window and the earthquake-protecting steelwork.


    In his mind's eye he pictures the moment as he hears the words ... "He'll kill us if he got the chance".  His worst fears are realized; the lives of this young couple are in danger!


Then ...  What to do?  He's consumed with guilt and so, a practicing catholic, he seeks the confessional to tell the priest he has sinned, he has put lives at risk and what's more not for the first time.

... and Now,  this was filmed in St. Patrick’s Church at 756 Mission Street (map).  We see in this recent matching photo that Caul's confessional is still in the same spot but Saints Rita, Therese and Anne have reversed their positions after moving along one pillar to make way for the mounted loudspeakers.


    The English Gothic styled church faces Yerba Buena Gardens.  St. Patrick’s was founded in 1851 but this building dates to 1914.  Dwarfed as it is by the Art Deco styled 'Jukebox' Marriott Marquis Hotel and other high-rises the once-classic structure now looks at best forlorn and at worst completely incongruous.


The Conversation - Harry Caul's Workshop

Then ...  Caul crosses a set of Western Pacific railroad tracks in what is now the Showplace Square (aka Design) District on the north edge of the Potrero Hill neighborhood.  He is on his way to his workshop in the old brick warehouse on the right (map).  In this south-facing view 16th Street crosses ahead of him at the stop sign and the tracks ahead end at 18th Street at the base of Potrero Hill.  In 1962 a tunnel that originally took the trains under the hill was filled in after catching fire and causing sinkholes above it.

... and Now,  quite a few changes.  The railway line has been discontinued; the tracks are gone and this section has become a parking lot reserved for the surrounding business tenants.  Straight ahead a modern building straddles the old line and the huge storage tank on top of Potrero Hill has been removed.


  Fortunately for us the warehouse lives on at 1616 16th Street - built in 1912, it remains unchanged from the outside.  It was designed by G Albert Landsburgh, best known for his luxury cinemas and theaters up and down the west coast, and the early occupant was the Schlesinger and Bender winery and distillery.  The arrow shows us where Caul's workshop was, tucked into the corner of the top (3rd) floor.  The arrow also points to a window which was bricked up when the movie was filmed - it still is today.  (Click the images for a closer look).  Note too the gable-shaped windows on the 16th Street side - we will see them later from the inside.


Then ...  A documentary on the filming of the movie provided this image of Caul emerging from a freight elevator at the top floor.

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... and Now,  that elevator has since been walled off but the same call button is still there.

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Then ...  He steps out of the elevator into a wide open, unpartitioned space.  Note the dividing brick wall on the right with door-suspension hardware bolted to it at a filled-in doorway ...

... and Now,  this space has since been partitioned into offices and corridors.  On that brick wall the hardware now supports a sliding door and the doorway has been opened up to allow access to the other side.  The overhead lamps on the other hand seem to be the same ones.  The added steelwork was installed for seismic protection.

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  As Caul walks towards the far corner where his workshop is set up we can't help but admire director Coppola's location choice.   The array of floor-to-ceiling posts casts radial shadows across the dramatic side-lit space, the whole effect enhanced further by the sunlit gable-shaped windows along the 16th street wall.  It's a great shot which cannot be duplicated now that the floor has been subdivided into offices.


Then ...  The workshop is where Caul creates state-of-the-art electronic gear custom designed for his nefarious work - back then and perhaps even now this type of sophisticated equipment was not commercially available.  The bricked-in window seen earlier from the exterior is right of center next to the picture on the wall.

... and Now,  the studios of Dara Rosenfeld Design and Weisbach Architectural Design now share this space at 1616 16th Street, Suite 360. Here too, added steelwork reassures today’s occupants.

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  The bricked-in window is clearly visible in this shot as Caul and his assistant Stan (John Cazale) repeatedly play back the recording, constantly tweaking the equipment to boost the garbled voices over the background noise.  Slowly but surely the conversation begins to emerge ...


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