Although it made its’ debut in the U.S. two months prior, Warner Brothers movie “Bullitt” starring actor Steve McQueen debuts the movie in Sweden on December 19th, 1968. The movie by many critics is viewed as one of the best action-movies that was ever made but not for the reasons that one would think. Usually, a critic gives this type of compliment to a film because the script and/or special effects are excellent, the plot can be followed easily, the dialogue is superb and plenty of explosions for the audience to enjoy.
However, the script and special effects were not great, the plot was impossible to comprehend, the dialogue was horrible and the explosions happened apparently in a different movie. The reason for the high praise was a seven-minute car chase that went through the San Francisco streets. Moviegoers stated and multiple polls that the car pursuit was the greatest in the history of film!
The movie portrays McQueen as a San Francisco police lieutenant name Frank Bullitt who is tasked with making sure a government witness testifies in a mob trial. Unfortunately, Bullitt fails as the witness is killed and now it is up to him to track down the hit men who were responsible. Driving his 1968 “Highland Green” Ford Mustang GT 390 fastback, he notices in traffic their vehicle which is a black 1968 R/T Dodge Charger. The driver notices Frank’s car which signals that the chase has now begun!
Anyone who knows about the San Francisco area understands that the car chase is an improbable one considering as it jumps from neighborhood to neighborhood and from street to street. The two vehicles are racing up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco as well as passing several far-flung landmarks that include the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway, Potrero Hill and Russian Hill; while the director of the movie really wanted a scene on the Golden Gate Bridge, the city would not give permission to do so. Interestingly, the chase is void of interruption from the dialogue or music; the audience hears only the firing of a Winchester rifle used by the assassin, the clutching and revving of the engines and the squealing and whining of tires.
Three weeks was needed in order to film the chase sequence. Vehicles that were on loan from Ford, stunt coordinators had to work with two exact Mustangs and two exact Chargers needed to be modified in order to stay close with the Dodge cars since they were more powerful. Careful movie watchers would notice that different hub caps were missing and replaced at different intervals during the scene.
The reason for that was during the filming, six hubcaps in total came off of the Charger. While McQueen is considered to be an accomplished driver and actually participated in some of the driving, motorcycle racer and stunt driver Bud Ekins took over during the riskiest maneuvers.
However, careful viewers will note that when the rearview mirror of the Mustang is visible, McQueen can be seen driving; Ekins is the one driving when the mirror cannot be seen. A fitting tribute occurred in 2001 when Ford produced a new Mustang model that was called the Bullitt GT; roughly 6,500 cars were manufactured.