Let’s cut to the Frisco chase
Fifty years after Steve McQueen’s Mustang took to the hills, this city is still the star of the big screen, says Kathy Arnold
With the bonnet of the sleek silver Mustang pointing to the sky, I changed gear and headed up oh-so-steep Taylor Street. Once over the crest, San Francisco Bay glittered in the distance. But with the “down” as precipitous as the “up”, there was no time to “ooh” and “aah”. Concentration was required as I followed the screeching-tyre route of Steve McQueen, as he played cat-andmouse with the bad guys in the 1968 film Bullitt.
That 11-minute chase was more than exciting: it was revolutionary. “There were so many firsts in the film,” California-based stunt driver Rocky Capella had told me when I was researching the route. “There were over-the-shoulder, hand-held shots from the back seat, getting close-ups of the actors actually driving. And, when everyone else was speeding up films artificially, McQueen and his stunt double drove that dark green Mustang flat out at some crazy speeds.” No wonder, even after 50 years, that chase still sets the gold standard.
The footage was shot on vertiginous streets all across San Francisco, ending with a spectacular crash outside the city limits. Splicing it all together won Bullitt an Oscar for editing. Behind the wheel of my modern Mustang, I kept my speed sedate: unlike McQueen, I had to watch for cross traffic ffic and absent-minded tourists. But I had a ball, especially on Lombard rd Street, nicknamed the “Crookedest est Street in the World”. Here, flower beds double as chicanes and crowds wait to snap photographs – but not just t of me. I was in a long queue of cars, taking king it in turn to slalom carefully down own the snakelike curves.
But San Francisco has more than Bullitt in its portfolio. o. The roller-coaster hills, the cable ble cars and the Golden Gate Bridge have long inspired d directors; and no one fell under its spell more than Alfred Hitchcock. This year ar also marks the 60th anniversary of Vertigo, his s psychological thriller starring James Stewart and Kim Novak.
Many consider this to be Hitchcock’s visual love e letter to the city. For the
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