(first posted 1/31/2013) For lovers of Hollywood car chases, the late 1960s and early 1970s could easily be considered as the pinnacle of believable, high-quality chases.
It was an era before today’s computer-generated chases that defy the laws of physics were conceived: When a movie maker wanted a particular car stunt, they had to pay a person to get in a car and actually do it. Talk about separating the men from the boys.
There was one man whose abilities rose above the rest, but odds are only a few of you have ever heard of Bill Hickman.
Bill Hickman, who was born in 1921, became an actor and stunt man. Although capable of performing all types of stunts, his biggest talent was driving automobiles any way someone wanted.
In the 1950s, Hickman was friends with (and driving instructor to) actor and icon James Dean. Hickman was the driver of Dean’s Ford station wagon (seen here in the background) on the fateful 1955 day when Dean collided with Donald Turnupseed, near Cholame, California (which is referenced in a movie review here). In a subsequent interview, Hickman said he was holding Dean’s body when he expired.
Hickman appeared in many pictures in various roles, yet he is best known for three movies. Let’s zoom out and examine them individually:
Bullitt, 1968: For many, it contains the definitive movie car chase, as Bullitt certainly helped set the standard for realistic car chases. While the internet has an abundant number of articles covering this car chase, it all boils down to a few key points: Hickman was the driver of the ’68 Charger R/T, and he appears on-screen as the driver/hit man. The Charger, powered by a 440 cubic inch V8, was being pursued by actor Steve McQueen, playing the title role while giving chase in his ’68 Mustang GT.
According to various articles, the two Mustangs used required serious reinforcement to withstand the 12-day torture of filming the chase through the hills, curves and traffic of San Francisco. Conversely, the two Chargers required little-to-no reinforcement–and they flat outran the Mustang during filming. The City of San Francisco was quite accommodating to the production of this film, closing many streets during the filming of the chase.
Getting the desired results from the Mustang took three drivers, including McQueen; Hickman was the only driver of the Charger.
The French Connection, 1971: Three years after Bullitt, Hickman was back on the big screen. Besides appearing in a small, non-driving role, he (and others) piloted the ’71 Pontiac LeMans commandeered by Gene Hackman’s “Popeye” Doyle character.
This particular chase is unique, as Doyle is pursuing an elevated train through New York City. There is some debate about whether the bumper-mounted camera was filming at a normal speed, or at a slower speed that would help create a high-speed illusion.
This chase was filmed, in piecemeal fashion, over the course of a couple of weeks. Rumored to be edited to correspond to the dynamics of Santana’s Black Magic Woman, this chase was filmed on streets that were not closed. When the Hackman character hits the car, it was unintentional; actually, Hickman was negotiating the unknown actions of other drivers. However, the introduction of the baby carriage was an intentional part of the chase.
The Seven-Up’s, 1973: In the 1973 movie The Seven-Up’s, Bill Hickman returned, with longer hair, for a role similar to his role in Bullitt. Comparing the chase in The Seven-Up’s to the one in Bullitt is hard to avoid: Both have similar stunts, lack dialogue and background music, and were arranged and produced by the same person.
Hickman is a bad guy piloting a ’73 Pontiac Grand Ville, which is being pursued by Roy Scheider’s Pontiac Ventura. If you found the guy riding shotgun (literally) in Bullitt a bit creepy, he has nothing on the passenger in The Seven-Up’s. After watching these two clips back-to-back, Scheider’s Ventura sounds a lot like McQueen’s Mustang. There’s the same level of adrenaline rush provided by Bullitt, yet this chase comes across as grittier, perhaps due to the grayness of the New York winter or the scene with the children playing.
The climax of this chase was Hickman’s idea, and was his tribute to actress Jayne Mansfield.
All three of these chases are excellent in their realism, even if their continuity of location isn’t always precise. For the chase in The Seven Up’s, the passenger was in the car for the bulk of the filming, and those winces are genuine–an added dimension of realism that simply is not being replicated in current movies. According to one account, the actor who was the passenger in the Charger in Bullitt was so shaken by Hickman’s driving poetry that he begged to be let out of the car. Instead, he was filled with tranquilizers and told to get back to work.
Following his involvement in The Seven Up’s, Hickman transitioned into the role of stunt coordinator. It was a natural progression: Now 52 years of age, he was finally feeling the effects of injuries he suffered in various movies, including How To Stuff A Wild Bikini. As a driver, Hickman’s legacy includes not only his contributions to these three chase movies, but also his ability to perform any driving stunt repeatedly. Nearly 30 years after his death, from cancer, in 1986, Hickman is still bringing delight to moviegoers everywhere.
Thanks for providing some details behind the legend. I’d heard of Bill Hickman, but only from Bullitt. i always found the chase in “French Connection” to be the best I’d ever seen. I also heard that the Mustangs and Chargers were fitted with Konis dialed up to their firmest setting, but in the case of the Charger, it was just the Konis added with the torsion bars torqued up and the addition of skid plates on both cars, and yes, the Mustang GT needed a lot more beefing up.
I played golf with Hickman in stockton california about 30 years ago—-neat guy and his other friend Howard jackson
Great article on one of the best stunt drivers in the business. I’ve read reports describing Hickman in real life as a ‘real whacko’ but I guess with his skill and ability, that’s to be expected.
Dean’s 550 Spyder famously had the words ‘Little Bastard’ painted on the trunk. This is what Hickman called Dean while Hickman was known as ‘Big Bastard’.
FWIW, the car sounds in The Seven-Ups is, indeed, cribbed from Bullitt (the same guy produced Bullitt, The French Connection, and The Seven-Ups). It’s very distracting. Both cars in Bullitt were 4-speeds, and both cars in The Seven-Ups were automatics. It’s really a shame because if they’d have just used the actual sounds of the Pontiacs in The Seven-Ups (full-throttle automatic kickdowns), it could have been another spectacular chase. But with the Bullitt soundtrack obviously dubbed in, it’s more of a joke.
“Dean’s 550 Spyder famously had the words ‘Little Bastard’ painted on the trunk. This is what Hickman called Dean while Hickman was known as ‘Big Bastard’.”
I knew about the “Little Bastard” not the Big one! BTW I call my silver Miata “the lil Bastard” in Dean’s honor……different spelling as I don’t want to anger the Gods!
Note that in the article Hickman is Dean’s “language coach” lol…….he never said much in any role.
Great point regarding the Seven-Ups chase scene: The constantly screaming fake “Pontiac” noise was downright annoying and distracted me also. They should have removed the air cleaner on the GrandVille since they were destroying it anyway: the moan of a quadrajet on a 455 Pontiac is quite loud and most divine 🙂
Me too. First time I saw that chase I had it on in the background on mute while doing homework. Looked awesome but had no idea what the movie was called. Years later I stumbled across The Seven-Ups on Encore, not realizing it was the same movie. I watched it purely based on the description and the cast. I wasn’t too into it by the time I realized what was about to happen when the Grand ville made its first appearance, When it did I exclaimed “this is that movie!” So I cranked up the surround sound to take in this chase I’ve been dieing to see again…. Almost Instantly I realized Bullitt had been recycled. Soooo disappointing.
It was pretty much like a H.B. Halicki movie. Great car chase visuals, crappy sound and a crappy plot. Best viewed with a fast forward button and rock music on the stereo
The sound track doesnt match the visuals, a common fault with hollywood car chases, cant watch the Bullit chase its been blocked.
Try this link.
A great driver,must keep a look out for the Seven Ups,I’ve never heard of it.
7-ups was cool. About a team of cops who only pursue hardcore fwlon scum eligible for jail term of seven years and up “7 ups”. Look for Actor Richard Lynch as Bill Hickmans Psychotic assistant Hitman
A great contribution to auto-dom. I never knew any of this, but have always remembered the no-nonsense look on the face of the guy driving the car in Bullitt. Now I know that the look on his face was for real and why.
Actor John Aprea played the Winchester pump wielding hitter in Bullitt, he is listed in the credits as simply “killler”, the strange part is that Hickman is listed in the credits as “Phil”, even though he never says a word through the movie and no one ever speaks his name.
I am big Hickman fan, the square jaw and no-nonsense glasses mixed with his menacing glance into the rearview mirror, signified to me, even when I first saw Bullitt as a Sunday afternoon movie on UHF as a kid, that Hickman meant business, then the came the “clack” of the lap belt and it was on.
Hickman was also the driver of Pattons command car in Patton from 1970, no stunts were perfomed though.
After the mayhem on the roadway leaves a motorcyclist laying his bike down and McQueen avoiding him by running off the road into the dirt, the camera goes back to Hickman, a cold, smug look on his face. Only shortly after is the smirk gone as he eyes a rapidly approaching Highland Green Mustang in his rearview mirror. Just classic.
Not one word of dialogue, just the soundtrack of Ford and Mopar and a cool but tense Lalo Schifrin soundtrack as the 2 cars play cat and mouse in the San Francisco traffic. For me, despite the editing errors and the Ford Mustang transmission that somehow had about 9 upshifts to it, this remains the greatest auto chase scene in history, with apologies and respect to Toby Halicki. It was all about McQueen, at the height of his Hollywood Cool Factor and those deadly hitmen in a black Mopar……
Carey Loftin went onto fame too, as the never seen murderous truck driver in the cult classic, Duel. Spielbergs first appearence as Director and arguably one of his best….
Carmine that would be Paul Genge
Great comments by all, but it bears repeating, the grey-haired, shotgun toting hitman in the Charger is *NOT* John Aprea.
The grey-haired hitman is listed as “Mike” in the credits, and was played by an actor named Paul Genge.
Also, do an image search for pics of Paul Genge – you will find dozens of him as the trenchcoat-wearing hitman.
sigh…I miss the seventies; sometimes.
Like that scene from the Seven Ups; never saw it. That Plymouth cop car sure does wallow; so much much for the vaunted firm torsion bars!
It’s not the 70’s you miss, Paul, it’s your mis-spent youth. For what it’s worth, Me, too.
As soon as the cops joined in with the cheap out-of-date iron it was obvious they were doomed.
HUGE Bullitt fan here, also I’ve seen, I think, all of Bill’s films. Get the Collector’s Edition of Bullitt to see them at the track.
“Conversely, the two Chargers required little-to-no reinforcement–and they flat outran the Mustang during filming. ”
Not quite true, STOCK yes.
“The Charger ran rings around the Mustang. We trimmed the tires down (on the Charger), we practically made them down to bicycle tires to try and handicap Hickman, and Bill just run them.” Carey Loftin also recalls,” we test ran the car at Griffith Park near the Observatory, up a long hill. and if you can run a car real hard up and down that hill it’s working pretty good.”
With external engine mods (Holley carb, headers, ignition):
“The day before the chase scenes were to be filmed, we went up to Santa Rosa and rented the track,”said Balchowsky. “Steve wanted to test the car. A production manager would have cut your throat if you wanted to do something like that. An accident would have ruined the cars, and we were slated for Monday morning, 6:00 a.m. to start shooting. Hickman and Steve were buzzing around the tracks, and it was pretty even. McQueen and Hickman were both tickled with the cars. So, fortunately everything worked out.”
Moral of the story? A stock 390 needs to breath! From the factory they did kinda suck. But that’s why they made the 428CJ, but wasn’t available yet. Or the Charger should have had a 383 for parity. There are so many absurd comments over the years, like “The 440(s) also had two ignition wires pulled, and even with two dead cylinders it still beat the Mustang.” Yikes, the myths still grow 40 years later.
I don’t think Balchowsky used a Holley carb on the Mustang. I recall a quote from where he said that he’d always had good luck with Autolites and simply rejetted (or otherwise modded) the stock 390 carb. Obviously, it didn’t work.
Another good article might be the whereabouts of the only surviving Bullitt car (one of the Mustangs). Most sources seem to feel it’s in a Kentucky barn, rusting away, with the owner steadfastly refusing to even consider any offers for the car, no matter how much they might be. McQueen, himself, tried to buy it before he died but the owner is some kind of hoarding nut. It’s really a shame because it would be great to have someone just document the car to put to rest so many of the rumors about it.
Another interesting tidbit about the Mustang modifications is that it had a special steering wheel created expressly for McQueen, some kind of Nardi wheel with a leather cover.
Actually it DID work. If you watch the DVD extras “Bullitt Steve McQueen’s Commitment to Reality”
you can see the Mustang going toe to toe with the Charger at the track with McQueen and Hickman driving
“Hickman and Steve were buzzing around the tracks, and it was pretty even. McQueen and Hickman were both tickled with the cars. So, fortunately everything worked out.”
Remember this was after the Griffith Park runs and AFTER the mods.
Sounds like you were right about the Ford carb:
“On the Mustang, Mr. Balchowsky recalls, “everybody suggested I put a Holley on the Mustang, it was better than the Ford carburetor. I’ve always had good luck with Fords, and didn’t want to spend money if i didn’t have to putting a Holley on. It ran good, needed just a few little adjustments. I changed the distributor and all, but basically never had the engine apart on the Ford.”
Certainly by 1968 most Hot Rodders knew of the 390’s shortcomings, which is pretty much what Edelbrock kits do now. There were some big carbs in the very early 60s 375 HP 390s. Then 2V and small 4V. I think the carb was only 400 cfm in the 66 390 4V, 600 in the 390 GT, 428CJs were 735 and Edelbrock has them up to 800 cfm for their 390 packages……
I noted that when the two got into their cars, on the race track, neither of them put a seat belt on. However, in the movie, Hickman clearly buckles up just before he takes off after McQueen had been following him. In Sevenups I don’t think I saw seat belts around either driver in the scenes used.
As for Ford carbs the Autolite 4100 would have been used. Yes, in 1966 the 390 used in the Fairlane and Thunderbird was the 1.08 venturi at 480 CFM. The Galaxie 352 used a 1.12 venturi at 600 CFM. Go figure? Come 1967 and 1968 all 390 engines used the 1.12 venturi Autolite. Then the 4100 was phased out for the 4300 as being more smog friendly but harder to tune.
I have maybe a dozen Autolite 2100 and 4100 carbs besides a couple of 4300s. I can rebuild and tune all but the 4300 which I left to Jon at Pony Carb. I did use a Holley 4bbl. out of Ford’s early Performance book way back when and would say the secondaries are a bit better in that vs. the 4100. Yet the 2100 and 4100 are so easy to work on and so reliable that my newer Edelbrock sits on the shelf being harder to work with. Actually they are so easy that my Mopar 360 runs a Autolite 2100 as the stock Holley 2210 has been impossible to get right and that after trying three of them.
For all you bench racers out there (who has a stock one nowadays? and willing to push it?) period mag rags:
1968 Dodge Charger R/T (MT)
440ci/375hp, 3spd manual, 3.23, 0-60 – 6.5, 1/4 mile – 14.9 @ 95mph
1968 Mustang (MT)
390ci/335hp, 3spd manual, 3.25, 0-60 – 7.8, 1/4 mile – 15.20 @ 94mph
Sounds like (guessing) Mustang is up in smoke 0-60
“…The Seven-Up’s to the one in Bullitt is hard to avoid: Both take place in New York City,”
Little typo here, but an amusing one. Long tradition of faking Gotham with someplace easier and cheaper to work with. For whatever reason, I am thinking of a ’90s Jackie Chan movie that takes place in “New York.” The final climactic chase/fight scene is clearly shot somewhere in the Western Canuckleheadi Province. The only giveaways are the er, snowcapped peaks and the um, hovercraft!
You are quite correct. There are times I can look at something countless times and still not see it.
It has been updated; thanks for the catch.
Captain, your humble copy editor must come to Jason’s defense. His original text was correct in stating that both pictures take place in (that is, are set in) NYC.
Esteemed Imperator, I’ve been in your shoes as well as Brother Shafer’s, any hiccups I point out are also done with humility. 🙂
Jackie Chan’s “Rumble in the Bronx” was filmed in Toronto, I think. There is one scene I think where you can actually see a sign that says “Royal Bank” which is a dead giveaway for a Canadian location.
“Rumble in the Bronx” was filmed in Vancouver but others movies was filmed in Toronto, most of the scenes of Police Academy 1-2-3-4 was filmed in Toronto as well as lots of other movies.
I live in Western Connecticut and the chase scenes used in the 7-Up’s were filmed in NYC and the surrounding area…the last part of the chase scene was filmed on the Saw Mill Parkway…which with routes 287/684 which bring traffic up an out of the NYC Metro area into Westchester county-very pretty area and the Saw Mill Parkway is a major challenge to drive but what a beautiful drive it is..
Agreed on the Saw Mill…… that and the Merritt (SR-15) were my favorite drives when commuting between NYC and Beantown. did for for 12 months in my 5.0 Mustang convertible….
what a fun fun drive but a complete challenge.
If Bill Hickman wasn’t the best, he makes the top five. I would also nominate H.B. Halicki and Cary Loftin.
Also, Bullitt was San Francisco, not New York. Otherwise, great writeup.
Another nominee to mention would be French stuntdriver Rémy Julienne who was stuntman of 180 movies including being Roger Moore stunt double in James Bond’s “A View to a kill” where he did the stunt where Bond drived the Renault 11/Encore in a car chase who was smashed and cut in half. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9BRm9d7yqA
That Frenchman also did the mini scenes in the original Italian job.
a brilliant film for many reasons!
Great article. I still love watching those chase clips on youtube, although, with the 1973 Pontiac Grand Ville used in the Seven-Up’s, one could call it an aircraft-carrier chase.
In the Seven Up’s, the Grand Ville hits the opening door of a parked Opel. Supposedly the door almost landed among the film crew, and could have killed one of them if it had.
I would like to know exactly what injury he suffered on the set of How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. A dangerous stunt with…Annette Funicello? That’s worth a whole ‘nother article.
He fell off a ladder or platform. Had it been with Annette, you would have seen a completely different article!
I just watched “The Seven Ups” over the weekend – i knew it was a good chase scene, but I never realized it was the same driver as in “Bullit”. Good to know.
Nice backgrounder on the automotive side of two and a half (not a big fan of the Seven Ups, aside from the chase) of my favorite films.
Setting aside the driving for a moment, I’ve always been fascinated how, without saying a word, Hickman in Bullitt is a veritable icon of the businessman hitter. There may or may not actually be persons quite like that in real life, but he certainly sells the part.
Suit, glasses, tie, shotgun, Charger, scowl.
a bit like the dude in sunglasses, sportsjacket and gloves about to climb into a ’68 Grand Prix in those illustrations a few weeks ago.
“…….the two Chargers required little-to-no reinforcement….”
The Mustang and Charger both required replacing and welding in parts.
” “I hardly had to anything to the Dodge’s engine, but what I was worried about was the strength of the front end.” To shore up the front, Balchowsky revised the torsion bars, beefed up the control arms and added heavy duty shocks. As with the Mustang, all parts were ‘fluxed. For the rear end, Balchowsky told us, “I got some special rear springs, what you call a high spring rate, a flat without any arch in it, and using that spring the car would stay low. It’s similar to the same springs they use in police cars, which makes a good combination. We had to weld reinforcements under the arms and stuff on the Dodge. ”
vs the Mustang
“To beef up the Mustang, Balchowsky started with the suspension, reinforcing the shock towers, adding crossmembers and reinforcements, exchanging the springs for replacements with higher deflection rates and replacing the stock shocks with Konis. ”
I came across an article that mentioned the original hitman car was to be a Fairlane. That was roundly vetoed by someone involved with production.
“As for the cars, Max Balchowsky tells us, “I suggested they get a 390 GT. I had suggested using a Mustang, and a Dodge Charger, or else there would be too may Fords in the picture. I thought we’d mix up the cars.”
nice link, thanks for sharing.
Great write up on a great stunt guy. I knew a lot of these facts about Bullitt but not the back story on Hickman. I miss the days of real car chases and actual stunts. CG is fine in sci-fi movies or Lord of the Rings, but car stunts need to looks realistic in my opinion and the CG car chase scenes are just not believable to me.
There were some good car chases in the 80’s too. The car chase in the move Short Time with Dabney Colman comes to mind. Lots of obviously staged stunts, but at least they were real stunts. Fans of the Dodge Diplomat will love it.
Probably one of the best 80’s vintage chases comes from 1985’s To Live and Die in L.A. with William Petersen of CSI fame.
I just checked that one out and wow…it was pretty good. It was cool listening to the very distinct whine of that 80’s Ford at WOT and of course the Quadrajet on the Impala. The sound of that Ford did it for me…
Its a bit wheesy, but it was 1985, the cop car spec Impala was a real 9C1 It think, with the bucket seats and radio delete, plus a coupe of bonus Malibu sedans thrown in at the end, I think there was a Dodge St.Regis too.
Ditto, always liked that chase, the whole movie was pretty good actually. Though the in car dialogue was really cheesy. “get out of the way!!!”
I just watched the chase scene from “To Live and Die in L.A.” and I still think it was one of the best next to “Bullit”.
If you haven’t had enough McQueen trivia yet, try this. McQueen’s off-road motorcycle riding buddy, Bud Ekins, was the guy who dropped the bike during the Bullitt chase scene. He was also the stunt double for McQueen in The Great Escape where McQueen attempts jumping the border with the barbed wire fence.
The French Connection took up where Bullitt left off by using a clever bit of psychology-they showed a car wreck with bloody and mangled bodies being extracted from the crash vehicles before the big chase scene began. Kinda imprinted you with the consequences of wild and crazy driving.
Back to Bullitt. I think the fastest car in the movie had to be the green VW bug in the chase scene. How many times did Hickman and McQueen pass that thing? Three or four times?
Bullitt is in my permanent DVD collection. Now, if I could only figure out how McQueen did that double-double clutch upshift. And what kind of gearbox did the Mustang have? Seven speed, eight speed?
Yup, that Bug (’67?) and the 68 white firebird.. Fastest cars in the movie. 🙂
I heard the sound was added later, from a small block GT40 w/o syncros?
I’ve read that too somewhere. Makes sense since there is no reason to be double clutching a street Mustang.
This is a tough one. On the surface, dubbing in the sounds of a GT40 being double-clutched seems like what happened. I think Bullitt even won the Academy Award for Sound Editing.
But there’s the final part of the chase scene where, when watching the Mustang from the rear when he’s trying to catch up to the Charger, double puffs of blue smoke can clearly be seen coming from the tailpipes of the Mustang. What’s more, they’re timed ‘exactly’ to the sound of the double-clutching. Plus, the Mustang did have a different exhaust system (McQueen said it was straight-thru, so it would have been loud).
The bottom line is that if, in fact, they used the sound of a GT40, someone did an absolutely amazing job of timing the sound of the shifting with that of the Mustang, which does look like it’s being double-clutched, maybe so it would line up with the dubbing.
I just logged in to make a comment on the green Beetle, but figured someone would get there first (seeing as I’m late to the party!). Oddly I didn’t notice the Beetle’s repeated appearance when I watched the DVD a while ago – but as a Jag Mk X/420G fan, I did notice them drive past the same (parked) 420G several times!
Although Hickman doesn’t say a word, his eyes say “Oh, shit!” when he sees Steve McQueen’s Mustang in the Charger’s rear-view mirror.
And to echo geeber’s comment, watching Hickman pilot that enormous Grand Ville through the streets of New York is like watching somebody flying a battleship.
My favorite part about the Bullitt and 7UP chase scenes are the fact that the directors felt no need to add dialogue.
Every time I see the Bullitt chase, I find myself bobbing my head in the parts where the cars catch air and land hard — the in-car filming puts me right there in the back seat with those guys. Incredible.
Its such a perfect set up, when McQueen looks out the windshield of the Mustang and sees the Charger across the street and you hear him latch his lap belt.
The tense Lalo Schiffrin sound track starts and the Mustangs starter turns over
The little red round tailights on the Charger as it brakes going under the overpass.
Hickman looses the Mustang and the Chargers 440 gargles up the hill
Then the Mustangs grille shows up the rear view mirror
Hickman glances in the rear view mirror and he latches his lap belt nice and tight.
and BAM, the chase explodes on to the screen.
I still wince and feel every hit the suspensions take when they go over the hills.
The reving and popping of the exhausts on the cars as they throttle up and down.
I am still amazed by awful bent over right front wheel on the Mustang at the end of the chase
The long stuck car horn on the Charger and the hitmen start burning and the screen goes blurry, that image always stays with me.
There are many car chases but there is only one Bullitt.
I couldn’t agree more. My favorite part of the whole sequence is the shot of the Mustang exhaust pipes as he blips the throttle during the 3-4 shift. It gives me goose bumps.
Yes! I have a 65 coupe that I have been working on for years, and McQueen rowing through the gears, double clutching and goosing the throttle is my motovation. If I were lucky enough to to have a classic Charger, I’m sure that some of Hickman’s upshifts and downshifts would work just as well. That soundtrack is just perfection.
I would add my heart dropping into my stomach as they run downhill and arrive at a level cross street…. its uncanny.
I like the bit where the Mustang appears in the Charger’s mirror
My feelings exactly. I love how you can feel your stomach bouncing up and down as they fly over the cross streets down hill. When Bullitt overshoots that right turn and has to reverse it, that axle hop and tire squeal always makes me smile. Also, the tire chirp as he shifts into 2nd pulling away from the motorcycle spill–awesome.
The tire smoking, axle hopping, back up shot is one of my favorite parts.
I’ve driven the street with all the jumps (it’s Taylor or Chestnut; I forget which), and I had my foot on the brake the entire time. It’s scary steep at 25 MPH, much less however fast they were driving. I also peeled out at the intersection where Hickman makes his escape. Not quite the same in a rented Oldsmobile Intrigue.
I drove a rented purple Intrepid through San Fran, and yeah, most normal cars couldn’t withstand some of that punishment, going over a rise with enough speed to just barely feel a little lift produces a brutal impact on the suspension, I tried it once, just to say I did it, but I slowed down my Bullitt inspired driving after that.
A purple intrepid in SF?
Must have been a popular guy that weekend. 🙂
Dark purple, hey it was still a base rental Intrepid, not like it was a Miata or anything, so at best people thought we were wild gay tourists from Des Plains.
Lets not get started on what is a “Gay” car. Google 420 Castro………surprisingly normal cars! A lot of small SUV/CUVs.
And I do drive a Miata, and no you won’t find many (if any) New VW convertibles either.
Richard Lynch is Hickman’s passenger in The Seven-Ups. I think he has one of the best villain faces of all time. He was an interesting man in his own right:
“Was fluent in Swahili, Russian, Spanish, German and Italian.
In 1967 after taking LSD (acid), he set himself on fire in Central Park behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art near Cleopatra’s Needle. After recuperation, he bravely and candidly spoke about it in an anti-drug documentary. He then made use of his scarred face to play sinister-looking characters in horror films.
Was sharing an apartment with actor Don Calfa at the time of his LSD fueled accident.
Found dead in his home in Palm Springs, California on June 19, 2012 by actress Carol Vogel. She had not heard from him for several days and went to check on him. Finding his front door ajar, she entered and found him on his kitchen floor.
His body was donated to medical science.”
Thanks for the bit of trivia about Richard Lynch; his face looked familiar but I couldn’t
place it. I saw him in several movies where he always played the heavy-I wondered
about the scars he carried, now I know the rest of the story.
While it probably was not as intense as the movies above, Hickman also drove the Beetle in the “Love Bug” movies which I am sure was different piloting a WV at speed than a Charger, Pontiac, or Mark III.
Yes, thats right, I remember seeing him as one of the drivers of the other race cars in the ELDORADO race at the end of the movie.
I thought Loftin did most of the Herbie driving (in the racing scenes) in The Love Bug? At least that’s what is posted on http://lovebugfans.net/faq.htm. Other sources do confirm Loftin did all the stunt choreography on the film.
One of the regular posters there used to own “H2,” which was the car used in most of the racing scenes – equipped with a Porsche 356 engine, dual shocks and a number of other suspension mods. There’s a story that Dean Jones took Buddy Hackett for a lap in the car at speed, and Hackett refused to ever ride with Jones again!
How ‘come nobody mentioned the place at about 3:15 in “Bullet” where the Charger goes around a corner and hit something (might have been the camera). You can see the damage to the driver’s-side front fender.
The story on the Charger taking out the camera (which was hidden in a mailbox) is that smaller tires had been put on the car in an effort to handicap it so the Mustang could keep up. Hickman wasn’t used to it and lost control.
McQueen was driving when he, instead, completely overshot the same corner, resulting in the famous tire-smoking, single-track reverse shot. It’s also the shot that convinced the movie makers to take McQueen out of the Mustang and replace him with Bud Elkins or Carey Loftin for the remaining chase scenes where McQueen couldn’t be easily identified.
What is the name of the actor who is the passenger in the charger in the movie, Bullitt?
the actor who played the shotgunner and passanger in the charger in bullitt, was named paul genge. he was a veteran character actor and can be seen as the communist spy and courier in the fbi story. also a host of tv work in the 60’s and 70’s. don’t confuse him with the actor named aprea who is listed as the killer in bullitts credits. his character in bullitt is mike, “ice pick mike”. hope this mess helps. e. lehe
Last year we stopped by and saw the surviving Bullitt Dodge Charger:
It looks fantastic after Arnold Welch restored the car.
Yes, the point of view shots from the front bumper of the Pontiac LeMans in THE FRENCH CONNECTION are undercranked to enhance the illusion of speed (the cameras rolled at 20 frames per second as opposed to the normal speed of 24 fps), The two ways I know this are cinematographer Owen Roizman said so in American Cinematographer magazine back in 1972, and as you can see in the clip above there’s a an idling blue Ford (at 3:30 in above clip) whose exhaust pipe spouts smoke way too rapidly.
How about another classic (this time ’90s) chase film? Ronin with Bobby DiNiro. Audi A8s, Benz 450 6.9, etc. Just fantastic high-speed driving through the south of France, plus an absolutely terrifying run through downtown Paris. I’d put it up there with Bullitt, 7-ups and French Connection. Maybe even better in some regards. You know those German super sedans HAD to handle a lot better than old Detroit iron.
/\ This. Ronin is easily equal, and we aren’t just talking one chase either; a lot of the plot revolves around the ability to ambush/flee.
I like Ronin too except for Robert DeNiro’s “driving” style. His yanking on the wheel is not convincing to me.
The Bourne Identity is my favorite for both: plot and car chases.
I’m very glad the OP remembered the 7-Ups. It was a great movie and one of Roy Scheiders best parts from that era. He was underused in the French Connection but I think at the time Hackman was the bigger star. Bill Hickman was the Man!
Great piece. I confess to not ever realizing the villan drivers in Bullitt and 7-Ups were the same guy. A slap the forhead moment to be sure.
There was a movie out about 5-10 years ago called “Drive” that contains an very cool homage to the famous “Bullitt” chase. The film’s protagonist, played by Ryan Gosling, is a freelance wheel man who takes a job he probably shouldn’t have. It is a bit of an “art film” and not for everyone, but there are 2 superb chase scenes. The first one is part of the opening sequence and it is more of an evasion than a chase. Very slick. The second is a dual between a previous generation Mustang GT and a Chrysler 300 SRT. The nod to “Bullitt” is unmistakable, right down to the Blue Oval’s triumph over the Mopar. Worth a look.
There was something a bit too contrived and polished about the Drive chase for me, just like the action sequences in most newer movies for that matter. And I actually liked a lot of the artsy fartsyness rest of the movie, the chase took me out of it – which I find ironic, critics used to pan movies citing that exact reason if a car so much as peels out at some point, but I guess Ryan Gosling and synthpop gives the totally unnecessary reverse 180s, bad sound effects and unrealistic flips in that chase a pass.
The Driver with with Ryan O’ Neil is a far better film. Basically similar plot, artsy, and way better chases.
I don’t know if it was intentional, but this is a timely repost because the second, supposedly destroyed Mustang stunt car was recently found in Mexico. While in poor shape, the VIN has been confirmed as the real thing.
Now, if only that whacko who’s letting the remaining car rot in a barn would die so it can be shown. While harsh, it’s the only way it’s ever going to be seen again.
I honestly can’t blame the guy, there’s probably a dozen or so obnoxious high roller car flippers constantly berating him to sell the car to them for a fraction of it will be worth when they get done with it. It’s his car, if I was him and people were actually wishing me dead on the internet so it can be returned to it’s rightful owner(who is that these days exactly???), I’d crush the damn thing as my last living act.
Or take it to San Francisco and drive the bejeezus out of it, leaving it a smoldering wreck at the side of the road. Sick, I know.
Dutch 1960, that was already attempted, it survived. LoL
Two years before ‘Bullitt’, Hickman’s partner, Paul Genge played a thug in the 1966 Perry Mason episode “The Sausalito Sunrise’. The episode starts where Paul, and another guy in a ’59 Dodge, try to kidnap a woman from an art gallery. Then Paul takes a couple of shots at her when she escapes. Later, Paul and his buddy are killed when the Dodge goes off a cliff during a chase, while attempting a truck hijacking.
I wonder if the producers of Bullitt saw that episode?
For a change, Paul Genge also played a California highway patrolman in the 1967 cult film ‘Hotrods to Hell’.
Happy Motoring, Mark
Wait, how does that add up? If Hickman was driving, then Hickman collided with Turnupseed. If Dean was driving, then Hickman wasn’t the driver of Dean’s car.
(…and if Hickman was so amazing, why’d he hit Turnupseed?)
Dean was driving his Porsche when he collided with Turnupseed. Hickman was following several minutes behind in Dean’s station wagon.
I found the James Dean link very interesting so I had to dig more. Turns out I had read about the “Cholame Y” just last week, when a young lady lost her life in a crash there. In a few weeks my wife and daughter will be staying in Paso Robles while visiting my other daughter at Cal Poly – more links to the James Dean crash.
That’s what I like about this site – many of the posts lead me down other rabbit holes!
If your wife and daughter(s) are stuck for something to do in Paso Robles, it might be worth a drive to Cholame to check out the James Dean death site, as well as the small memorial at the nearby, run-down restaurant. Be advised, it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s not particularly far away, either, although much of the highway is two-lane (with occasional passing sections). IIRC, about 45 minutes or so from Paso Robles.
I know that I`ll probably get a lot of heat for this comment, but here it goes. “Bullitt’ and the ‘7 Up’ s were rather standard issue crime thrillers. The only thing that made these movies stand out were the car chases, but they were excellent-and unforgettable . IMHO, the ‘French Connection’ and ‘The Italian Job’-the original have the best car chases ever. As for the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, if you can`t say anything good………..or if you`ve seen one…………Well, you get it.
You’ll get no argument from me. In the context of actually good movies, both Bullitt and The Seven-Ups are pretty mediocre fair, with only the A-list stars keeping them from being completely forgotten. But that’s almost always the case where a movie’s primary claim to fame has something to do with cars.
There are a few decent ‘car’ movies, such as The French Connection, To Live and Die in LA, Two-Lane Blacktop, American Graffiti, The Blue Brothers, The Italian Jobor even the cult-classic Vanishing Point. But those are all exceptions and a movie where cars play a major part are generally just a gimmick which lend little to a movie’s quality.
Of course, I guess the latest edition of The Fast and the Furious franchise recently had something like the biggest opening weekend of any movie, ever, so what do I know?
Worldwide box office tells the full story about the success of the Fast and Furious franchise. Domestic performance is less than 1/10th of that, breaking records in emerging markets new to Hollywood blockbusters isn’t really that impressive, because the key to making an international hit is to dumb the plot and dialogue waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down to make it translate to everyone in the most seamless way possible, relying completely on mindblowingly unrealistic special effects to wow audiences, supported by cliche plots and motivations and of course wooden acting from mostly bad actors whose facial expressions rarely even match their English lines anyway.
I agree that The Seven Ups and Bullitt have forgettable story’s, but they’re really not bad movies by any means, the acting is solid, and lighting and direction are superb by the standards of the day, and unlike the F&F franchise they have a realistic grit to them, so the chases don’t seem near as contrived as some. Compare these two to H.B. Halicki’s original Gone in 60 Seconds, and they look Godfathers Part I and II by comparison. All they just lack the story and suspense The French Connection and the aeformentioned To Live and Die in L.A.(one of my all time favorites) have, those movies would be just as good even if there wasn’t a car chase in them, it’s almost unfair to even compare.
The plot in Bullitt is actually pretty good as a mystery/crime drama. Plus there’s the smoking hot Jacqueline Bissett as Steve McQueen’s girlfriend.
Roger Corman’s 1955 The Fast And The Furious starring John Ireland and Dorothy Malone is by far a better movie than any of the modern versions. And lots of cool CC’s and racing scenes to boot. And it was just a low budget ‘B’ movie.
A+. The new Furious ‘franchise’ pretty much epitomizes everything that`s wrong with today`s ‘movies’. No character development, glorified violence, loud,deafening music, improbable stunts, and way, way too much CGI effects. The only reason they make sooooo much money is because of the 12.00 price they charge you to see it at some faceless multiplex and new international overseas markets in Asia and Russia that are beginning to open up. But don`t worry! Three months from now, it will be available on DVD. And yes, there will be MANY more sequels to follow.
Hickman was without a doubt one of the best, but Cary Loftin could pull off incredible stunts in 18 wheelers. I think I would have to give him the nod.
‘To Live And Die in L.A.’ may have my favorite chase scene, even if the cars are not that exciting.
This post inspired me to re-watch The French Connection. Top quality gritty crime thriller, and an absolute car-spotters dream. Starts with a delight of French cars in Marseilles, and then just endless scenes of classic US cars, mixed in with some nice imports. IMCDB is a very good companin to watching this movie http://www.imcdb.org/movie_67116-The-French-Connection.html
A really good watch, Gene Hackman is worth the entry price on his own!
Another Bullitt flashback: a very early appearance by a young Bob Duvall, piloting a ’67 Ford Custom taxi with Frank Bullitt in the back seat, retracing the antagonists’ steps prior to the setup murder of the mob informant in the flophouse.
Great tribute to a legendary stunt driver.
I interviewed Bullitt’s stunt coordinator Carey Loftin for a radio feature in 1988 on the 20th anniversary of the movie. He described Hickman as having “a knot for a head.” Don’t quite recall now what exactly the remark meant but he did tell me Hickman was one of the best stunt drivers in Hollywood at the time.
My radio interview came after an article published in the May, 1988 issue of Muscle Car Review written by Susan Encinas. She interviewed Loftin and kindly gave me his home telephone which is still written in pencil on the first page of the article. Yes, I’ve kept that issue of the magazine after all these years. Big fan of the movie.
In the Seven Ups movie, the garage they leave from appears to be the same one they start the rally from in the movie The Gumball Rally.
For those Bullitt fans I just ran across this video on Youtube. Bullitt 1968 vs. Bullitt 2013 where scenes filmed in 1968 are shown in 2013. Of course most all are still there with many of them having been by myself with having lived there from 88-98. I remember sitting in Enricos back in the 70’s. There was even a year in the early 90’s where there was a large Mustang gathering in The City. I was there in my 68 Mustang and we all drove much of the original movie route.
Can’t remember how to embed.
There was a very nice homage on Alcatraz the same year. And the short-haired girl driving the Mustang (wearing a turtleneck sweater, yet) was hot. There were some very nice touches, like having a period-correct green Beetle appearing a couple of times, just like in the original.
It’s too bad they couldn’t have gotten a more menacing guy, wearing old sixties-style glasses, to drive the Charger, along with a panicky hitman passenger.
I saw Bullitt for the first time in a movie theater during it’s initial release. The chase scene almost made me car sick.
A few years later I watched it at the local drive-in seated in my ’67 Mustang. My car also had a black interior like the one in the film. It was a neat point of view for the chase scene. In fact, it was a little freaky looking out two Mustang windshields at the same time.
I read in an interview with Steve McQueen that they were surprised at the in car effect, given the focal lens they were using. The specific scene that seemed to lift audience members out of their seats was the perspective from the back seats of the cars as they’re going down the steepest hill.
Today kids are amazed by the fast & furious, always makes me laugh.
The chase in the seven-ups and Roy Scheider hitting the semi at full speed, you see the car’s body jump and the roof rimple like a sheet of paper, I nearly got a heart attack as a kid seeing the movie in the cinema as did everyone.
Then the truck driver runs to the wrecked Pontiac and pulls away the windshield and we see a Roy Scheider who ducked away on time.
For me this is still the best car chase ever.
The fact that Roy’s character survived the crash unhurt is as incredible as today’s CGI blockbusters.
OTOH, even if the sound effects were recycled from ‘Bullitt’, I’ll take any of those old-school, on-location, gritty car chases over Hollywood’s computerized renditions.
Happy Motoring, Mark
There’s a short ‘making of’ film that often accompanied movies back in the day where the actual stunt is shown with the stunt driver being helped out of the car after the crash. It’s actually pretty similar to the film when Roy Scheider is helped out of the wreck by the truck driver.
You mean they actually had a driver inside the car for that crash? Crazy!
Couldn’t find the ‘making of’ short that showed the stunt with the actual stuntman being helped out of the Ventura after the Mansfield-style crash. Maybe it’s an extra on one of the DVDs.
FWIW, there’s at least one online version of the chase that has a different soundtrack. It’s amazing how much better it makes it without the obvious Bullitt car sounds.