Title: Bullitt (1968)
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughan, Felice Orlandi, Jacqueline Bisset & Robert Duvall
Frank Bullitt (McQueen) is a detective in San Francisco. One day he is contacted by a clearly unscrupulous man named Walter Chalmers (Vaughan). Chalmers has a witness named Johnny Ross (Orlandi), whom he wants protected in a hotel room over night, until he can testify in court the next day. Bullitt and his team take turns watching Ross, but while he is out of the room, two men enter and brutally shoot Ross with a shotgun and maim Bullitt’s partner. Ross is rushed to the hospital, where Bullitt shields him from Chalmers. Chalmers is enraged and tries to pressurise Bullitt’s superior into giving up Ross, but Bullitt will not relent. Later the police discover that who they thought was Ross is in fact a used car salesman named Albert Renick, and that the real Ross is still at large. Bullitt must contend with finding Ross while dealing with the increasingly difficult, Chalmers.
The character of Frank Bullitt is probably Steve McQueen’s most iconic role. As he actually looks super cool and he gets to drive an incredibly powerful Mustang (more on that later). McQueen says very little throughout the movie, but lets his actions and style dictate his performance.
Robert Vaughan is perfect as the incredibly sleazy, Walter Chalmers. He initially tries to butter up Bullitt, but Frank sees through him very fast. Vaughan later said that he found the plot confusing, but said it made more sense when they offered him more money. Vaughan once tried to enter politics, but was horrified to discover that many people identified him with his role as the untrustworthy, Chalmers. The rest of the cast features a dubbed Jacqueline Bisset and a pre The Godfather fame, Robert Duvall, who has a small part as a cab driver.
Bullitt is most famous for its ultra intense and realistic car chase through the sloping hills of San Francisco. McQueen’s Mustang takes centre stage here and became an iconic sight. The chase features great camera-work as the action moves from the high density suburban streets to the less populated free-way. Steve McQueen, always an advocator of doing as many of his own stunts as possible, did a lot of the driving. However, famous stunt-driver Bud Ekins did the more complicated scenes.
Bullitt will live on as one of the 1960s most enduring films. It was a huge influence on many films for years after its release and it left us with one of, if not the best car chases of all time. Bullitt won an Oscar for Best Film Editing and Robert Vaughan earned a Bafta nod for Supporting Actor. Bullitt is a very memorable movie.