Bullitt (1968)

Bullitt (1968), directed by Peter Yates.

Ah: jazz flute was big that year.

This moody action thriller -- if that makes sense -- is one of everyone's favorites from the period. The famous car chase is still raw and exciting, looking less standardized and choreographed than later attempts. The rollercoaster point-of-view during chases is still impressive.

The cops and crooks are all serious people. I like that there is relatively little handholding in the plot; you have to pick up who's who and what's happening without much explanation. It relies on a trick beginning: a thug we see briefly in Chicago is not necessarily the same thug in San Francisco.

The insubordinate cop, doing whatever it takes, has become a cliche, but it was less so when this was made and Steve McQueen just owns it: speaking as little as possible, expressing with his eyes, stoic but still human. As much as I like Dirty Harry (1971) (same studio, same city, another Lalo Schifrin soundtrack!) this film outclasses it in many ways.

Real, before the formula became worn out. The congested crowds do not behave like movie extras. Watch and listen to the doctors and nurses in the surgery: none of the phony polish of later films. Watch the police procedures: this is no fantasy land where rules and command structure don't count. The law has to be obeyed, reports filed and everything made right on Monday morning.

Jacqueline Bisset, age 24, is awfully pretty, like a late 60s dream of the perfect girlfriend. Her one extended speech is a preachy little lecture that I would have omitted. The writers did well at not reciting the plot aloud apart from that bit.

Realistic and gritty but still cool with gorgeous SF locations. Love the music.

I wonder if early exposure to this influenced my work habits. I've always thought Bullitt's "You work your side of the street and I'll work mine" comeback to be good advice, but others -- like his ambitious prosecutor and various bosses of mine -- may not agree.

My wife had not seen this before and she immediately started asking about other McQueen pictures.

Available on Blu-ray.