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#1 Bullitt

A fair detective story and an incredible chase scene shot in the streets of San Francisco. The detective aspect is best described as "police procedural" with the danger of political agenda (Robert Vaughn) and graphic - but realistic - shootings. McQueen wanted to make the police part of the story as accurate as possible - and scenes like the examination of the suitcase in the evidence room are examples of real work that is very necessary to actual police procedure.

Another interesting aspect of the film is the view of life in 1960's California, more specifically San Francisco. The Jazz club scene is one of our favorites - in our opinion real jazz was made only in the 50s and 60s - and this club is a place we'd like to visit. And then there is the brown sport coat and blue turtleneck - a combination that would still be very handsome today.

This movie has what we feel is the best chase scene ever filmed. It was first major chase scene filmed on actual public roads (city and highway). It was extensively staged and mostly shot from the vehicles themselves. The Mustang itself has been a source of discussion and controversy for years - the whereabouts of the original car have been debated and argued over since the movie was made. Ford Motor Company has paid homage to the original car by featuring it in a European commercial, and of course with the (comparatively limp) 1991 and 2008 "Bullitt" Mustangs.

We once drove the length of the chase roads while in S.F. on a business trip! This would be a great drive to plot out and take yourself. Most of the roads and locations are still there. Just be careful of your speeds... and watch out for motorcyclists (spoiler, in case you haven't seen this film yet).

There have been other great chase films, but in our opinion they fall short of this one. The Seven Ups (Roy Scheider) has a great chase that to us exudes the shear desperation of the chase (and ends very badly). The French Connection has a short but erratic chase on city streets. One of the best and more recent was "Ronin", set on back roads in France. These films, and many others, all came after Bullitt and while great chases they didn't invent the car chase concept and are therefore thus just imitators of the real and original chase.

The chase itself is not without errors. The number of hubcaps on the Dodge is a thing of legend, and the placement of prop cars is often repetitive. The camera itself is hit at one point, and a few frames were inexplicably left in the film showing that. The means of "launching" the Dodge are very apparent (look for the bracket on the Mustang). And, unfortunately, the sound track is poor and in need of major work. We can only wonder if it was as bad in the original release, since I never saw it myself back then. We really need the McQueen estate to re-master this film. There is also in all probability some footage that could be included on a future re-release of the DVD.

Be sure to get the DVD  - it has a "making of" documentary with scenes of McQueen practicing his driving on a long-gone SCCA road course outside of S.F.

Starring: Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bissett, Robert Vaughn. Directed by Peter Yates.

Label: Warner Brothers Classics

Year: 1968

Color, 114m

Format: DVD, VHS - NTSC

Available: yes