Bullitt is a 1968 American dramatic thriller film directed by Peter Yates and produced by Philip D'Antoni. It starred Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Jacqueline Bisset. The screenplay by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner was based on the 1963 novel Mute Witness by Robert L. Fish, using the pseudonym Robert L. Pike. Lalo Schifrin wrote the original jazz-inspired score, arranged for brass and percussion. Robert Duvall has a small part as a cab driver who provides information to McQueen.
The film was made by McQueen's Solar Productions company, with his then-partner Robert E. Relyea as executive producer. Released by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts on October 17, 1968, the film was a critical and box office smash, later winning the Academy Award for Best Film Editing (Frank P. Keller) and receiving a nomination for Best Sound. Writers Trustman and Kleiner won a 1969 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Bullitt is notable for its car chase scene, with driving of the Mustang actually performed by McQueen, a very accomplished amateur race car/motorcycle driver, through the streets of San Francisco, regarded as one of the most influential car chase sequences in movie history.
In 2007, Bullitt was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2008, the Ford Motor Company produced the Mustang Bullitt model for the 40th anniversary of the film. The Bullitt nameplate on the steering wheel honored the movie that made the Mustang one of the most popular cars of the 1960s and 1970s. The green color was also brought back for the anniversary edition.
Detective Bullitt creating significant smoke (amid massive wheel tramp) during the climactic chase scene.At the time of the film's release, the car chase scene generated a great amount of excitement. Leonard Maltin has called it a "now-classic car chase, one of the screen's all-time best." Emanuel Levy wrote in 2003 that, "Bullitt contains one of the most exciting car chases in film history, a sequence that revolutionized Hollywood's standards." In his obituary for Peter Yates, Bruce Weber wrote "Mr. Yates’s reputation probably rests most securely on “Bullitt” (1968), his first American film — and indeed, on one particular scene, an extended car chase that instantly became a classic." The editing of this scene likely won editor Frank P. Keller the Academy Award for Best Editing
Later, producer Philip D'Antoni filmed 2 more car chases for The French Connection and The Seven-Ups, both set and filmed in New York City.
The total time of the scene is 10 minutes and 53 seconds, and it began in the Mission District area near and on Divisidero Street, followed by Midtown shooting on Hyde Street and Laguna Street, with shots of Coit Tower and locations around and on Filbert and University Streets. The scene ends at the Guadalupe Canyon Parkway in Brisbane, out of the city.
Two 1968 390 CID V8 Ford Mustangs (325 bhp) with 4-speed manual transmission were used for the chase scene, both owned by Ford Motor Company and part of a promotional loan agreement with Warner Bros. The Mustangs' engines, brakes and suspensions were heavily modified for the chase by veteran car racer Max Balchowsky. Ford Motor Company had also originally loaned two Ford Galaxie sedans that were intended to be used in the chase scenes, but the producers found the cars entirely too heavy to put through jumps over the hills of San Francisco without the cars' suspensions being severely damaged. The Galaxie sedans were replaced with two 1968 440 CID/375 bhp Dodge Chargers (3-speed automatic transmission) that were bought outright from Glendale Dodge in Glendale, California. The engines in both Chargers were left largely unmodified, but the suspension was mildly upgraded to cope with the demands of the stunt work.
The director called for speeds of about 75–80 mph (120–130 km/h), but the cars (including the ones containing the cameras) reached speeds of over 110 mph (175 km/h) on surface streets. Driver's point-of-view angles were used to give the audience the "feel" of the ride as the cars jumped the hills. Filming the chase scene took three weeks, resulting in 9 minutes and 42 seconds of film. During this film sequence, the Charger loses five wheel covers and has different ones missing in different shots. As a result of shooting from multiple angles simultaneously, and some angles' footage used at different times to give the illusion of different streets, the speeding cars can be seen passing the same green Volkswagen Beetle four different times, and the same blue Chevelle Malibu S.S.396 with a black vinyl top three times. The Charger also crashes into the camera in one scene and the damaged front fender is noticeable in later scenes. After the Charger hits a parked car, it disappears for a split second from the screen before the scene is changed. The San Francisco authorities did not let the filmmakers film the car chase on the Golden Gate Bridge, but they did permit the passage to be filmed in Midtown locations including the Mission District, and in neighboring Brisbane, on the city's outskirts.
Steve McQueen was an accomplished driver and drove in the close-up scenes, but contrary to myth he only drove in about 10% of the chase in the film. The stunt coordinator, Carey Loftin, hired famed stuntman and motorcycle racer Bud Ekins, and McQueen's usual stunt driver Loren Janes, to do the dangerous stunts in the Mustang. Ekins is also the stunt man who lays down his bike in front of a skidding truck during the chase (Ekins also doubled for McQueen in the sequence of The Great Escape in which McQueen's character jumps over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle). The Mustang’s interior rear view mirror goes up and down depending on who is driving; when the mirror is up (visible) McQueen is behind the wheel, and when it is down (not visible) Ekins is driving. The black Dodge Charger was driven by Bill Hickman, who also played one of the hitmen and helped with the choreography of the chase scene. The other hitman was played by Paul Genge who had played another character who rode a Dodge off the road to his death in an episode of Perry Mason - "The Case of the Sausalito Sunrise" 2 years earlier.
Of the two Mustangs, one was scrapped after filming due to liability concerns and the surviving backup car was sold to an employee of Warner Brothers' editing department. The car changed hands several times, and Steve McQueen at one point made an unsuccessful attempt to buy it. Currently in non-working condition, the Mustang is rumored to have been kept in a barn in the Ohio River Valley by an anonymous owner.