Reel SF

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

San Francisco movie locations from classic films

Vertigo - Mission San Juan Bautista

  Madeleine remembers more of her dreams. When she tells Scottie of a bell tower in "an old Spanish village" he realizes she is describing the historic mission at San Juan Bautista - he wastes no time driving her there, 90 miles south of San Francisco, in her Jaguar.

Then ...  As they near the mission they pass several very large rocks.

... and Now,  below is the same view. This is Highway 101 but they are approaching the mission from the south, opposite from the expected direction (map).  the only other difference is seasonal - this photo was taken in spring versus in the fall above.


Then ...  When they are 1 mile south of the 156 East turnoff, still heading on Highway 101 North, they pass through this narrow tree-lined stretch of road.  Some viewers have wondered if Scottie was driving on the wrong side of the road here but no, this is the one-way section of a divided freeway - Highway 101 South runs parallel, 100 feet over to the left.

... and Now,  in over half a century the only changes other than seasonal have been a paved shoulder and an added safety barrier.


Then ...  The Jaguar, now heading south on Highway 101 as it should be, turns into 156 East, the mission exit - San Juan Bautista is 3 miles ahead.

... and Now,  today this exit has been made redundant by an adjacent flyover but viewed from the median strip (below) the mission monument is still there, minus its cross, next to the original road, now closed off.


Then ...  They arrive at the mission (map) which is dominated by a tall bell tower  ... or is it?

... and Now, in the recent photo below there's no sign of that tower - just a small one at the far end at right, barely visible from this angle.  So what gives?

... the original tower ...  When Hitchcock first visited the mission there was indeed a tower, but not as tall, there since 1868 and seen below in this vintage image.  When he returned to film the movie it was gone, removed in 1949 because of termite and dry rot damage.  Undeterred, he recreated it, using a matte painting for the exterior view in the 'Then' image above, and a studio mockup for the interior scenes.

... and Now, below is a closer look at the mission's current bell tower.

Click in this box to search this site ...