Although Bernal Heights has earned many a claim to Hollywood fame, my favorite is the role our neghborhood played in Bullitt, the 1968 Steve McQueen classic. It’s a great flick, but the most famous part, of course, is the epic car chase that screeches and sprawls around the street of San Francisco.
Bernal Heights plays a starring role here, because the chase itself gets underway just on the other side of US 101, near the intersection of Bayshore and Marin (near the site of the current car wash). The vroom-vroom action begins at the intersection Army/Cesar Chavez and Precita Avenue, when two goons driving a Dodge Charger try to put the move on McQueen in his Ford Mustang. This screen grab shows the very moment when the chase gets underway:
Notice Bernal Hill making a cameo in the background, looking green and properly manicured. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this moment in the film is how little this corner of the neighborhood has changed in the last 40 years:
Fun stuff. From here the chase heads up York Street before turning onto Peralta, and from there it careens around San Francisco without rhyme or reason, as McQueen screeches around the corner in one part of town – only to reemerge in another. neighborhood, miles away.
The chase is a fun ride, and if you want to see it again, you can watch the thing right here. But for our purposes, the following video is also pretty cool; it’s a then-and now re-creation of the chase that allows you to follow along frame-by-frame to see how the City (and Bernal Heights) looked then, compared to how it looks now.
Hat Tip: @burritojustice