Bullitt (1968) will be showing on August 9th (Friday) 4:00 PM EST on Turner Classic Movies as part of the Summer Under the Stars Steve McQueen day. Here are my top 10 reasons why I think you should watch this fantastic film.
1. The fantastic car chase through the streets of San Francisco - I do enjoy a good car chase scene and this one does not disappoint. The exciting twists and turns and jumps along San Francisco's hilly and windy streets are perfect for this scene. And there is a nice big finale that is just oh so satisfying. I could watch this car chase over and over again and never be bored. While there was a stunt driver for some of the difficult maneuvers, Steve McQueen does a lot of the driving himself. There is also a really good airport chase scene too.
2. Steve McQueen - This is the ideal type of role for Steve McQueen. McQueen was especially good at performances in which there was limited dialogue because his efforts were better spent being cool, commanding the screen, racing cars and doing other physical work. This film was produced by McQueen's production company Solar Productions in conjunction with Warner Bros. and Seven Arts. So it's got the special Steve McQueen touch.
3. Confusing Plot - The plot is convoluted and confusing and pretty typical for a 1960's detective movie. Why is this a good thing? Because it gives you the opportunity to sit back, relax and take in the movie without having to preoccupy yourself with the plot details on your first viewing. With repeat viewings, the story starts to make more sense. And because of the convoluted nature of the plot, you find something new with each viewing that you didn't quite catch before. This film just begs to be watched over and over again.
4. Robert Vaughn - He is so wonderfully despicable in this film. According to IMDB, Vaughn didn't want to do the film. McQueen had his heart set on having Vaugh in the film and Warner Bros. kept offering more and more money until Vaughn said yes. Looking back on the film, Robert Vaughn said it was one of his best performances. Vaughn's character Walter Chambers is the polar opposite of McQueen's Frank Bullitt. Chambers's style is a lot more formal and conservative and his motivations are more political. Bullitt just wants to get the bad guy.
5. Steve McQueen's Style - Turtleneck, gun holster, sports coat, dark trousers and Chukka boots (or brown suede boots depending on which fashion guru you talk to). Gentleman, take special note of McQueen's outfits in this. He's casual and while his outfits may seem understated at first glance, they stand out from all the rest.
6. Young Jacqueline Bisset & Robert Duvall - Jacqueline Bisset is so young in this that she's barely recognizable! Bisset plays Cathy, Bullitt's architect girlfriend. Her role is small but very important. She represents the innocence and the emotion that Bullitt is missing in his life. Watch for Robert Duvall . He has a small role as a taxi driver who feeds Bullitt some useful information.
7. 1960s San Francisco - If you want to see what 1960s San Francisco looked like, watch this film! There are lots of great shots and views, especially during the car chase scene.
8. Realism - On location shooting, McQueen doing his own stunts, real life doctors and nurses in hospital scenes. This is not a glossed up Hollywood production. This is a gritty detective film.
9. Lalo Schifrin's Score - I have a difficult time writing about music so I don't often discuss soundtracks or scores on this blog. Lalo Schifrin is an Argentinian musician and composer with a long history of composing music for TV and film. The score for Bullitt is especially good. What I like about the score is that it complements the film very well. I think contemporary films are often weighed down with too much music. Bullitt has moments of silence and moments when the score is needed to build tension or excitement.
10. Cinematography, Film Editing and Direction - This film was beautifully shot. It's directed by Peter Yates and the cinematography is by William A. Fraker. Film Editor Frank P. Keller won the film's only Academy Award for Best Film Editing! The editing and cinematography is especially noticeable in the car chase scene. There is one particular shot I love of Bullitt wearing sunglasses and looking in a rear view mirror. If you watch the movie, look for it. It's classic!
So there you have it. Clear off your schedule or rev up your DVR and make sure to watch Bullitt (1968). If you miss it on TCM, the film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.
A special thanks to my husband Carlos who helped me with this post!