Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Vertigo - Rooftop Chase

  To get the 'Now' photos for this post CitySleuth found the site, sneaked (snuck?) onto the roof, talked his way onto the penthouse patio across the street where Hitchcock had set up his camera, and went to the Fairmont Hotel Tower to get a reverse overview photo.  Where there's a will ...

  In the dramatic nighttime opening sequence detective John 'Scottie' Ferguson (James Stewart) trails a policeman chasing a suspect across a series of rooftops...

Then ...  Scottie climbs onto the rooftop via the fire escape ladder.  This scene was filmed at Paramount Studios using a rear-projection of the view south across Washington filmed from the roof of 1302 Taylor.  A large building dominates the skyline behind him.

... and Now,  the background building is the Brocklebank Apartments, featured later in the movie, and behind it is the Fairmont Hotel Tower, not yet built when Vertigo was filmed.  At far left is another newer building, 555 California, originally the Bank of America Building.


 Then ...  The chase was filmed on location by a camera panning right to left from Washington Street across the rooftops of 1302 to 1360 Taylor (map).  The Brocklebank apartments is at far right and Coit Tower at far left.  The white building dead center is the U.S. Appraisers building at 630 Sansome.  The Spanish Colonial roofline facades of the buildings in the lower foreground helped CitySleuth pinpoint this location.

... and Now,  for this shot Hitchcock set up his camera across Taylor Street.  Today the Appraisers Building is one of the few recognizable buildings in the densely rebuilt Financial District.


    The arrow points to where the camera was set up - on the penthouse patio of 1329 Taylor.

    From street level: below left is 1329 Taylor - the flag marks where the camera was.  At right opposite is the Taylor Street rooftop block - note those same Spanish Colonial roofline facades.

  And finally, a reverse view of the entire location showing (1) where Scottie climbs on the roof, (2) where Hitchcock set up the camera and (3) the route traversed during the chase.


Then ...  The suspect jumps between rooftops followed by the policeman and then Scottie.  But he can't hold on and the audience holds its breath as he slides down.  This footage was filmed in the studio using a rear-projection of the east view filmed from the rooftop of 1360 Taylor.

... and Now,  in this matching shot several of the fore- and mid-ground buildings are unchanged.


    He ends up hanging perilously on a gutter.  His police buddy holds out a helping hand but slips and falls to his death.  How Scottie is rescued is never explained, a trademark Hitchcock McGuffin, but the experience leaves him with a serious case of acrophobia - the dread feeling of vertigo.  


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