Film poster by Michel Landi
|Directed by||Peter Yates|
|Produced by||Philip D'Antoni|
|Screenplay by||Alan R. Trustman
|Based on||Mute Witness
by Robert L. Fish
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Cinematography||William A. Fraker|
|Edited by||Frank P. Keller|
Warner Bros.-Seven Arts
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.-Seven Arts|
|Running time||113 minutes|
Bullitt is a 1968 American action film directed by Peter Yates and produced by Philip D'Antoni. It stars Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Jacqueline Bisset. The screenplay by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner was based on the 1963 novel Mute Witness by Robert L. Fish, writing under the pseudonym Robert L. Pike. Lalo Schifrin wrote the original jazz-inspired score, arranged for brass and percussion. Robert Duvall has a small part as a cab driver who provides information to McQueen.
The film was made by McQueen's Solar Productions company, with his then-partner Robert E. Relyea as executive producer. Released by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts on October 17, 1968, the film was a critical and box office smash, later winning the Academy Award for Best Film Editing (Frank P. Keller) and receiving a nomination for Best Sound. Writers Trustman and Kleiner won a 1969 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Bullitt is notable for its car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco, regarded as one of the most influential in movie history.
In 2007, Bullitt was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2008, the Ford Motor Company produced the Mustang Bullitt model for the 40th anniversary of the film.
Ambitious politician Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) is about to hold a Senate Subcommittee hearing in San Francisco on organized crime in the United States. To improve his political standing, Chalmers plans to present a surprise star witness, Johnny Ross (Pat Renella), a defector from the Organization in Chicago. At Chalmers' request, Ross is put under protective custody for the weekend, until his Monday morning scheduled appearance.
San Francisco police officers Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen), Sergeant Delgetti (Don Gordon) and Detective Carl Stanton (Carl Reindel) are assigned to give Ross around-the-clock protection at the Hotel Daniels, a cheap flophouse near the Embarcadero Freeway that Chalmers selected. Each detective takes a solo shift. Late Saturday night, while Bullitt is home in bed with his girlfriend (Jacqueline Bisset), the desk clerk calls to announce that Chalmers is downstairs. Ross inexplicably unchains the hotel room door. Before his young police protector Stanton can react, a pair of hitmen (Paul Genge and Bill Hickman) burst into the room and shoot Stanton and Ross, seriously wounding both.
At the hospital, Chalmers refuses to address how the killers might have located Ross, and places blame for Ross's injury entirely on Bullitt. A second assassination attempt in the hospital is thwarted by Bullitt, but Ross soon dies of his original injuries. To keep the case on the front burner, Bullitt suppresses news of the death and, with the help of a sympathetic doctor (Georg Stanford Brown), sends the body to the morgue as a John Doe.
Bullitt and Delgetti investigate. They locate the cab driver (Robert Duvall) who drove Ross to the Hotel Daniels, learning that Ross made a long distance call from a pay phone en route. A confidential informant reveals that Ross was caught stealing from the Chicago Mob and is on the run, having fled to San Francisco after escaping an attempted hit. Chalmers serves Bullitt's captain (Simon Oakland) with a writ of habeas corpus to force him to make Bullitt give up Ross, but the lieutenant won't cooperate.
Bullitt spots the Ross hitmen tailing him. He turns the tables, following them instead. He is driving a 1968 Ford Mustang GT in Highland Green color, they are in a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. A wild muscle-car chase through the hilly streets of San Francisco ensues. The high-speed pursuit ends on a highway outside of the city, when the Mustang forces the Charger off the road and into a gas station, causing a fiery explosion that kills the hitmen.
Bullitt and Delgetti face their superiors. They reveal that Ross is dead and that they have one remaining lead: telephone records show that Ross's long-distance call was made to a Dorothy Simmons in a hotel in nearby San Mateo. It is Sunday; the detectives are given until Monday to follow up the lead. With his car out of commission, Bullitt borrows his girlfriend's car and she comes along.
At the San Mateo hotel, a woman is found strangled in Dorothy Simmons' room. Searching through her luggage, Bullitt and Delgetti discover men's and women's clothing, empty ticket and passport folders, a travel brochure for Rome, and several thousand dollars in travelers cheques made out to Albert Rennick and Dorothy Rennick. Bullitt requests passport information for the Rennicks and a fingerprint check for the dead Ross. His girlfriend is sickened by the violence that Bullitt seems to see as routine. While driving both of them back to Bullitt's home, his girlfriend forces him to pull over to side of the freeway and runs out toward the bay. He catches up with her, whereupon the girlfriend reveals her doubts about continuing with their relationship as she cannot deal with the horror and violence that is a daily part of Bullitt's job.
Chalmers again confronts Bullitt, demanding a signed admission that Ross died while in his custody. Bullitt demurs. A telex of Albert Rennick's passport application arrives. Chalmers is shown that the man he thought was Ross was actually Rennick, a used car salesman from Chicago with no criminal record. Bullitt realizes that the real Ross had used Chalmers to fake his own death by setting up Rennick to be killed in his place, then murdered Rennick's wife to complete the cover-up. Airline reservations for the Rennicks on an evening flight to Rome are discovered by Delgetti.
Bullitt and Delgetti head to the airport to look for Ross traveling as Rennick. They stake out the Rome flight's gate, only to find that Ross has switched to an earlier flight that is already taxiing toward takeoff. Chalmers shows up to lay claim to the real Ross, but fails to establish rapport with Bullitt, who refuses to play politics.
The flight is held up, Ross escapes the plane, and a race on foot across the busy runways of San Francisco airport ensues. Bullitt chases Ross back inside the crowded passenger terminal to a tense cat-and-mouse pursuit among the innocent throng. When Ross bolts and shoots a security guard, Bullitt shoots and kills him. Left behind, empty-handed, is Chalmers, who is driven off in a car with a bumper sticker that reads: "Support Your Local Police." The following morning Bullitt drives home. As he walks up to his apartment, he spots his girlfriend's car. He also looks in on her sleeping in his bedroom but does not wake her.
- Steve McQueen as Frank Bullitt
- Robert Vaughn as Walter Chalmers
- Jacqueline Bisset as Cathy
- Don Gordon as Delgetti
- Simon Oakland as Captain Sam Bennett
- Norman Fell as Captain Baker
- Robert Duvall as Weissberg (taxi driver)
- Georg Stanford Brown as Dr. Willard
- Carl Reindel as Carl Stanton
- Felice Orlandi as Albert Renick
- Vic Tayback as Pete Ross
- Ed Peck as Westcott
- Pat Renella as Johnny Ross
- Paul Genge as Mike
- John Aprea as Killer
- Bill Hickman as Phil
McQueen based the character of Frank Bullitt on San Francisco Inspector Dave Toschi, with whom he worked prior to filming. McQueen even copied Toschi's unique "fast draw" shoulder holster. Toschi later became famous, along with Inspector Bill Armstrong, as the lead San Francisco investigators of the Zodiac Killer murders that began shortly after the release of Bullitt. Toschi is played by Mark Ruffalo in the film Zodiac, in which Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) mentions that "McQueen got the idea for the holster from Toschi".
At the time of the film's release, the car chase scene generated a great amount of excitement. Leonard Maltin has called it a "now-classic car chase, one of the screen's all-time best." Emanuel Levy wrote in 2003 that, "Bullitt contains one of the most exciting car chases in film history, a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood's standards." In his obituary for Peter Yates, Bruce Weber wrote "Mr. Yates’ reputation probably rests most securely on “Bullitt” (1968), his first American film – and indeed, on one particular scene, an extended car chase that instantly became a classic." The editing of this scene likely won editor Frank P. Keller the Academy Award for Best Editing.
Later, producer Philip D'Antoni filmed two more car chases for The French Connection and The Seven-Ups, both set and filmed in New York City. The car chase was later spoofed in the Clint Eastwood film The Dead Pool.
The total time of the scene is 10 minutes and 53 seconds, beginning in the Fisherman's Wharf area at Columbus and Chestnut (although Bullitt first notices the hitmen following his car while driving west on Army, now Cesar Chavez, just after passing under the 101), followed by Midtown shooting on Hyde and Laguna Streets, with shots of Coit Tower and locations around and on Filbert and University Streets. The scene ends outside the city at the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway in Brisbane. The route is geographically impossible if it is assumed to take place in real time.
Two 1968 390 V8 Ford Mustang GT fastbacks (325 hp) with four-speed manual transmissions were used for the chase scene, both loaned by the Ford Motor Company to Warner Bros. as part of a promotional agreement. The Mustangs' engines, brakes and suspensions were heavily modified for the chase by veteran car racer Max Balchowsky. Ford also originally loaned two Galaxie sedans for the chase scenes, but the producers found the cars too heavy for the jumps over the hills of San Francisco. They were replaced with two 1968 375 hp 440 Magnum V8-powered Dodge Chargers. The engines in both Chargers were left largely unmodified, but the suspensions were mildly upgraded to cope with the demands of the stunt work.
The director called for maximum speeds of about 75–80 miles per hour (121–129 km/h), but the cars (including the chase cars filming) at times reached speeds of over 110 miles per hour (180 km/h). Driver's point-of-view shots were used to give the audience a participant's feel of the chase. Filming took three weeks, resulting in 9 minutes and 42 seconds of pursuit, first of Bullitt by the hitmen then the reverse. Because of multiple takes spliced into a single end product, heavy damage on the passenger side of Bullitt's car can be seen much earlier than the incident producing it and the Charger loses five wheel covers, with different ones missing in different shots. Shooting from multiple angles simultaneously and creating a montage from the footage to give the illusion of different streets also resulted in the speeding cars passing the same cars at several different times. At one point the Charger crashes into the camera in one scene and the damaged front fender is noticeable in later scenes. Local authorities did not allow the car chase to be filmed on the Golden Gate Bridge, but did permit it in Midtown locations including the Mission District, and on the outskirts of neighboring Brisbane.
McQueen, an accomplished driver, drove in the close-up scenes, while stunt coordinator Carey Loftin hired stuntman and motorcycle racer Bud Ekins and McQueen's usual stunt driver Loren Janes for the high-speed part of the chase and other dangerous stunts. Ekins, who doubled for McQueen in the The Great Escape sequence where McQueen's character jumps over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle, also lays one down in front of a skidding truck during the Bullitt chase. The Mustang’s interior rear view mirror goes up and down depending on who is driving; when the mirror is up McQueen is visible behind the wheel; when it is down Ekins is driving.
The black Dodge Charger was driven by veteran stunt driver Bill Hickman, who both played one of the hitmen and helped with the chase scene choreography. The other hitman was played by Paul Genge, who had ridden a Dodge off the road to his death in an episode of Perry Mason – "The Case of the Sausalito Sunrise" two years earlier. In a magazine article many years later, one of the drivers involved in the chase sequence remarked that the stock Dodge 440s were so much faster than the Mustang that the drivers had to keep backing off the accelerator to prevent the Dodge from easily pulling away from the Mustang.
One of the two Mustangs was scrapped after filming because of damage and liability concerns, while the other was sold to an employee of Warner Brothers. The car changed hands several times, with McQueen at one point making an unsuccessful attempt to buy it in late 1977. The current state and location of the surviving Mustang is largely unknown, but it is rumored that the Mustang is kept in a barn somewhere in the Ohio River Valley by an unknown owner.
The editing of the car chase by Frank P. Keller likely won Keller the editing Oscar for 1968, and has been included in lists of the "Best Editing Sequences of All-Time". Paul Monaco has written, "The most compelling street footage of 1968, however, appeared in an entirely contrived sequence, with nary a hint of documentary feel about it – the car chase through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt, created from footage shot over nearly five weeks. Billy Fraker, the cinematographer for the film, attributed the success of the chase sequence primarily to the work of the editor, Frank P. Keller. At the time, Keller was credited with cutting the piece in such a superb manner that he made the city of San Francisco a "character" in the film." The editing of the scene was not without difficulties; Ralph Rosenblum wrote in 1979 that "those who care about such things may know that during the filming of the climactic chase scene in Bullitt, an out-of-control car filled with dummies tripped a wire which prematurely sent a costly set up in flames, and that editor Frank Keller salvaged the near-catastrophe with a clever and unusual juxtaposition of images that made the explosion appear to go off on time." This chase scene has also been cited by critics as groundbreaking in its realism and originality. In the release print and the print shown for many years, a scene in which the Charger actually hits the camera causing a red flare on screen, which many feel added to the realism, was edited out on DVD prints to the disappointment of many fans.
The original score was composed by Lalo Schifrin. The tracks on the soundtrack album are alternate versions of those heard in the film, re-recorded at the film producers' insistence for a more "pop" sound.
Box office performance
The film has garnered both critical acclaim and box office success. Produced on a $5.5 million budget, it grossed over $42.3 million in the United States, making it the 5th highest grossing film of 1968.
Bullitt was well received by critics and is considered by some to be one of the best films of 1968. Renata Adler made the film a NYT Critics Pick, calling it a "terrific movie, just right for Steve McQueen –-fast, well acted, written the way people talk." According to Adler, "the ending should satisfy fans from Dragnet to Camus."
In 2004, The New York Times placed the film on its list of The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. In 2011, Time magazine listed it among the "The 15 Greatest Movie Car Chases of All Time," describing it as "the one, the first, the granddaddy, the chase on the top of almost every list," and saying "Bullitt‘s car chase is a reminder that every great such scene is a triumph of editing as much as it is stunt work. Naturally, it won that year's Academy Award for Best Editing". Among 21st century critics, the film currently ranks #28 on Ranker's Ultimate List of the Best Racing Movies. It holds a 97% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, representing positive reviews from 33 of 34 critics as of July 2013, its consensus reading: "Steve McQueen is cool as ice in this thrilling police procedural that also happens to contain the arguably greatest car chase ever."
Awards and honors
The film was nominated for and won several critical awards. Frank P. Keller won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. It was also nominated for Best Sound. Bullitt was nominated for several BAFTA Film Awards, including Best Director for Peter Yates, Best Supporting Actor for Robert Vaughn, Best Cinematography for William A. Fraker, Best Film Editing for Frank P. Keller, and Best Sound Track. Keller won the American Cinema Editors Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film. The film was awarded the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography (William A. Fraker) and the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing – Feature Film. It was successful at the 1970 Laurel Awards, winning Golden Laurel awards for Best Action Drama, Best Action Performance (Steve McQueen) and Best Female New Face (Jacqueline Bisset). In 2000, the Society of Camera Operators awarded Bullitt its "Historical Shot" award to David M. Walsh. Alan Trustman and Harry Kleiner won that year's Edgar Award for Best Mystery Screenplay.
The Ford Mustang name has been closely associated with the film. In 2001, the Ford Motor Company released the Bullitt edition Ford Mustang GT. Another version of the Ford Mustang Bullitt, which is closer to resembling the original film Mustang, was released in 2008. In 2011, Bud Brutsman of Overhaulin' began work on a tribute car with Chad McQueen, son of Steve McQueen, for an episode of Celebrity Rides.
Steve McQueen's likeness as Frank Bullitt was used in two Ford commercials. The first was for the Europe-only 2001 Ford Puma, which featured a special effects montage of McQueen (who died in 1980) driving a new Puma around San Francisco before parking it in a studio apartment garage beside the film Mustang and the motorcycle from The Great Escape. In a 2004 commercial for the 2005 Mustang, special effects are again used to give the illusion McQueen drives the new Mustang after a man receives a Field of Dreams-style epiphany and constructs a racetrack in the middle of a cornfield. The famous chase scene was also recreated and implemented into the 2011 video game Driver: San Francisco.
During the only season of the 2012 TV series Alcatraz Det. Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) drove a green 1968 390 V8 Ford Mustang fastback like Bullitt's. In the series finale she found herself in a 2013 Ford Mustang GT, the modern equivalent of the 1968 fastback, giving chase to a black LX Dodge Charger driven by series antagonist Thomas "Tommy" Madsen (David Hoflin). The sequence played homage to portions of Bullitt's, including Madsen buckling the seatbelt in his Charger before starting and two passes by a green Volkswagen Beetle.
Several items of clothing worn by McQueen's Bullitt received a boost in popularity because of the film: desert boots, a trench coat, a blue turtleneck sweater and, most famously, a brown tweed jacket with elbow patches.
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- Ebert, Roger (December 23, 1968). "Bullitt". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-01-18. ""Bullitt," as everybody has heard by now, also includes a brilliant chase scene. McQueen (doing his own driving) is chased by, and chases, a couple of gangsters up and down San Francisco's hills. They slam into intersections, bounce halfway down the next hill, scrape by half a dozen near-misses, sideswipe each other, and leave your stomach somewhere in the basement for about 11 minutes."
- Maltin, Leonard, ed. (2004). Leonard Maltin's 2004 Movie and Video Guide. Penguin Group. p. 195. "Taut action-film makes great use of San Francisco locations, especially in now-classic car chase, one of the screen's all-time best; Oscar-winning editing by Frank Keller."
- Levy, Emanuel (2008). "Bullitt". emanuellevy.com. Retrieved 2010-11-06.
- Weber, Bruce (January 11, 2011). "Peter Yates, Filmmaker, Is Dead at 81". The New York Times.
- "National Film Registry 2007". loc.gov. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- Steve McQueen – The Making Of Bullitt, 1968 Warner Bros. promotional short film.
- Graysmith, Robert. (1986). Zodiac, p. 96. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-89895-9
- IMDB The Zodiac
- Hartl, John. "Top 10 car chase movies". msnbc.com. Retrieved 2010-11-07. "Bullitt (1968). Philip D’Antoni, who went on to produce The French Connection, warmed up for it with this Steve McQueen crime drama, set in San Francisco, where the steep hills seem to yearn for cars to go sailing over them. The director, Peter Yates, makes the most of the locations, especially during a gravity-defying chase sequence that earned an Oscar for its editor, Frank P. Keller."
- Brebner, Anne; Morrison, John (February 23, 2011). "Aspect Ratio – February 2011". Blip.tv. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
- Wojdyla, Ben (January 11, 2008). "Bullitt Chase Sequence Mapped, Proves a Tough Route". Jalopnik.com. Retrieved 2014-03-06.
- Myers, Marc (2011-01-26). "Chasing the Ghosts of 'Bullitt'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
- Encinas, Susan (March 1987). "THE GREATEST CHASE OF ALL". Muscle Car Review.
- Stone, Matt (2007). McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon. Minneapolis, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7603-38957. "One of the Mustangs was so badly damaged during filming it was judged unrepairable and scrapped. The second, chassis 8R02S125559, was sold to a Warner Brothers employee after filming was completed."
- TheMustangSource.com | Mustangs in Movies: Bullitt from bradbarnett.net
- Dirks, Tim. "Best Film Editing Sequences of All-Time, From the Silents to the Present: Part 5". filmsite.org. AMC Corp.
- Monaco, Paul (2003). Harpole, Charles, ed. The Sixties. History of the American Cinema 8. University of California Press. p. 99. ISBN 0-520-23804-4.
- Rosenblum, Ralph; Karen, Robert (1979). When the Shooting Stops ... The Cutting Begins. Viking Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-670-75991-0.
- "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made – Reviews – Movies – New York Times". Nytimes.com. 2003-04-29. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "Greatest Films of 1968". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "The Best Movies of 1968 by Rank". Films101.com. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1968". IMDb.com. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- Adler, Renata (October 18, 1968). "Bullitt (1968)". NYT Critics' Pick. The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- Cruz, Gilbert (May 5, 2011). "The 15 Greatest Movie Car Chases of All Time". Time. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- "Bullitt Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "Bullitt Awards and Nominations". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- "The 41st Academy Awards (1969) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- The Auto Channel – Ford Mustang Bullitt (2001)
- 2008 Ford Mustang Bullitt – First Test from Motor Trend
- McQueen's '68 "Bullitt" Mustang Tribute Build from BoldRide.com
- "A Word from Our Sponsors... Steve McQueen Drives a Puma". TheCathodeRayChoob.com. WordPress. March 4, 2009. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- AutoBlog – Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Ad Revealed from autoblog.com
- Bonhams Lot 100 From The Chad McQueen Collection: The Bullitt Jacket Retrieved 22 Mar 2014. In 1968's Bullitt, McQueen made the most unlikely items extremely fashionable – desert boots, a trench coat, a blue turtleneck sweater and a brown tweed jacket. Only McQueen could make those clothing items ... global trends... The jacket, much like the man, occupies a very special place in cinematic history, it is unquestionably one of the most important pieces of film –and McQueen memorabilia extant.
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- Bullitt at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Bullitt at the Internet Movie Database
- Bullitt at AllMovie
- Bullitt at the Internet Movie Cars Database
- Bullitt at Box Office Mojo
- Bullitt at Rotten Tomatoes