Possibly the Best Use of San Francisco in a Film, Ever

  |   Art, History, Video   |   5 Comments

Possibly the Best Use of San Francisco in a Film, Ever

Sure, we’ve got Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Streets of San Francisco, and Trauma. But hot damn, if this isn’t the awesomest use of a San Francisco setting for a film sequence I’ve seen yet…

It’s from the 1958 noir, The Lineup, and I challenge you to watch to the end of this 9-minute collection of clips. I promise you, if you haven’t seen it before, the reward is tremendous.

Not only do you get to see the outside and inside of the Sutro Baths just 8 years before they burned down during demolition, but what’s happening in these shots is downright fascinating. I won’t spoil it except to say it involves one terribly sketchy Eli Wallach, a mysterious dude in a wheelchair, a cop, a blimp, and nuns.

Oh, and a climactic act of violence that has to be seen to be believed.

Part of me now wants to see the whole movie, but part of me just wants to hold in my memory the jarring assembly of clips below as a unified and complete work in itself. Check it out:

Sutro Baths Fire, 1966, San Francisco
Sutro Baths fire, 1966. Photo Copyright Brad Schram

(Video Spotted @)

  • Sutro Baths footage from 1958 film, “The Lineup” | Richmond District Blog of San Francisco ( | Mar 10, 2010 at 10:50 am

    […] Spots Unknown came across a great assembly of clips from the 1958 film “The Lineup” that take place at Sutro Baths. At that time, it was called “Sutro’s” and the pools had been covered over with ice rinks. Sutro’s burned down just 8 years later in 1966. […]

  • RichmondSFBlog | Mar 10, 2010 at 10:53 am

    What a great find! I love seeing old footage like this since Sutro Baths was gone by the time I was born.

  • elle woods | Mar 10, 2010 at 11:24 am

    i was at vertigo bar in the TL last night and they were screening the film. ’twas quite lovely. we should do a series of film nights of these…

  • julie | Mar 17, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    The Lineup is hands down my favorite on location SF films (The Sniper and DOA being tied for close second). Lucky for us, Warner Bros. released The Lineup on DVD last fall as part of a film noir boxed set so you can now rent it/buy it. The entire movie is worth watching and there are tons of great SF locales. Also, The Sniper is filmed almost entirely in North Beach and SOMA and is also in the boxed set.

  • Michelle Castro | Apr 22, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Another not-so-known old film that uses a SF locale is a Film Noir thriller entitled “Woman On The Run”. It’s great climactic-ending scene was filmed during a night shoot at SF’s infamous Playland-At-The-Beach. which thrived right alongside of the Sutro Baths. It’s a good movie, and it’s cool to see this vibrant amusement park in it’s heyday. The film is included on a 2 DVD set entitled “Midnight Mysteries Collection” put out in 2009 by Pop Flix. The DVD also includes 3 Edward G. Robinson flicks (“Scarlet Street” ,” The RedHouse”, and Orson Welles’ classic Film Noir “The Stranger”, as well as the films “The Scar” and “Inner Sanctum” for your long weekend viewing pleasure.