Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

The Lady From Shanghai - Magic Mirror Maze

  CitySleuth is more than a little bummed to reach the final location post from this, one of his all-time favorite movies.  The intersecting lives of Elsa the scheming seductress and O'Hara the hapless drifter rendered in innovative high contrast black-and-white cinematography delivered entertainment of the highest order.

Then ...  Inside the Crazy House O'Hara trips and falls down a long slide to the Magic Mirror Maze, a room packed with replicating and distorting mirrors.  Suddenly Elsa appears, admitting she shot Grisby after he messed up her plan to do away with her husband Bannister.  The mirror maze sequence, as illustrated by the composited image below, was a highlight of the movie.

... in 1949 ...  Below, visitors of all ages enjoyed the real Hall of Mirrors in the Fun House at Playland-At-The-Beach (the inspiration for the movie's Crazy House).  The movie however used an elaborate set built at the Columbia Ranch back lot, with more than 100 plate-glass mirrors, some of them two-way to let the camera shoot through them.


  Now it's Bannister's turn to show up - he knows she was planning to have him killed and tells Elsa she would be foolish to fire her gun -  "... these mirrors - it's difficult to tell - you are aiming at me aren't you?  I'm aiming at you, lover!

  Bullets fly and mirrors shatter as they desperately target each other's multiple images.  The dramatic footage includes this chilling view of the ice-cold femme fatale.

  Both Elsa and Bannister are hit.  " I don't wanna die!! " she screams, but die she does.  Bannister too, leaving O'Hara unscathed but in a state of numbed shock.  In this scene, director Welles was unhappy with the studio's addition of crashing background music.  He felt (CitySleuth agrees) that the gunfire and breaking glass alone would be more effective and realistic.


Then ...  He exits the Crazy House.  This was filmed on location at the Fun House at Playland-At-The-Beach during the winter when the amusement park was closed for the season.

... in 1972 ...  23 years later, just before the closing and demolition of the amusement park, this vintage photo was taken of the Fun House, next to the Merry-Go-Round carousel.

... and Now,  the Ocean Beach Condominiums at 825 La Playa Street covers this spot , in the process eliminating the alley that ran between the Fun House and the carousel (map).


Then ...  The camera tracks him, painting a panorama as he continues on.  At far right is the Laff In The Dark ghost ride; the twin tower structure at far left is the entrance to Shoot The Chutes (a boat ride down a steep chute onto a lake) alongside the Great Highway (click the image to enlarge).


... and Now,  the same panorama reveals that condominiums have also replaced this northern block of the park.  The Laff In The Dark location is now the end-of-line turnaround for the 5-Fulton and 31-Balboa Muni bus lines (click the image to enlarge)..


... a vintage aerial ...  the dotted line in the 1940s photo below traces O'Hara's short walk during this final scene.


Then ...  The camera follows O'Hara as he (appropriately for a sailor) heads towards the Pacific Ocean.  The early rising sun behind him casts long shadows, signalling the dawn of a new day, the chance for a fresh start.  His final musings close out the movie ...

  "Well, everybody is somebody's fool.  The only way to stay out of trouble is to grow old, so I   guess I'll concentrate on that.  Maybe I'll live so long that I'll forget her ... maybe I'll die tryin' ".

... and Now,  The condo at 798 Great Highway has usurped the Shoot The Chutes entrance and through traffic no longer runs along this block of Cabrillo Street.  The offshore Seal Rocks formation can be partially seen in both Then and Now images.

The Lady From Shanghai -  Magic Mirror Maze

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