By Brad Hathaway, Sausalito Historical Society
Scenes shot in and around Sausalito for eight feature films will be screened at the Historical Society fund raiser at the Sausalito Yacht Club on the 16th of this month. Sausalito City Librarian Abbot Chambers has assembled the clips into a half hour of city highlights.
We've discussed two of the films before in columns for the MarinScope. We looked at Orson Welles' "The Lady from Shanghai," with its specially constructed wharf in front of the old "Walhalla," in the March 19, 2013 issue. "Dear Brigitte," in which Jimmy Stewart lived on a Sausalito houseboat, was the topic in the September 4, 2014 column.
Here's a sneak peek at some of the others. If you are tempted to rent a DVD or stream some of these, be warned that the use of Sausalito as a picturesque locale for one or more scenes doesn't guarantee a good picture.
Undoubtedly the worst movie in the bunch is something called "Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine." It was intended as a parody of the James Bond series, especially "Goldfinger" which came out a little over a year before its 1965 release. Its star, Vincent Price, said that the sequel, "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs" was an even worse film. I find that hard to believe, but I'm not willing to sit through the second one just to find out.
Skipping the first hour and twenty-two minutes of this one hour and twenty-eight-minute movie leaves you the chance to see the two and a half minutes filmed in Sausalito from the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge to a beach supposedly below the "Missile Range Firing Area." It is a chase scene with Vincent Price driving a cable car across the bridge and down Bridgeway. (You can't make these things up!) The sequence is so inane that it isn't worth watching even for the glimpses of Sausalito.
Competing for the title of worst movie in the bunch, however, is the 1973 Disney movie "Superdad" in which Bob Crane, taking a break from television's "Hogan's Heroes," tries to involve himself in his daughter's life and save her from an engagement to a rough hippie from - you guessed it -- Sausalito.
As with Vincent Price's film, the Sausalito scenes come close to the end. You can safely skip the first hour and seventeen minutes and then enjoy about five minutes of better photographed scenes in the houseboat community featuring the ferry Vallejo, the Owl and other iconic floating structures.
Beware, there are two movies out there with nearly identical titles: "Killer Elite" and "The Killer Elite." Only one has scenes in Sausalito, so if you rent or stream the wrong one, you will sit through 116 minutes of poorly motivated chase scenes, clumsy fights and a variety of not-too-clever methods of dispatching enemies while waiting for the glimpses of our town that never come. I found this out the hard way. This is the 2011 movie "Killer Elite" - without the "The" - starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro -- but not Sausalito.
Unfortunately, the other "Killer Elite" -- the one with the "The" -- isn't a lot better as a shoot-em-up movie. Still, it takes place mostly in the bay area and has a number of scenes in Sausalito, including a fight on the top deck of a houseboat on the recognizable dock at Yellow Ferry Harbor -- you even see Yellow Ferry itself in the background.
This is the 1975 movie starring James Caan and Robert Duvall which was directed by Sam Peckinpah, known for such gems as "The Wild Bunch." Its fidelity to the geography of our area is spotty from the start. The movie opens with Caan and Duvall making a getaway driving west on the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. There are close up shots that appear to have been filmed while driving east bound. But the real killer comes when they exit from the bridge. It is the northern exit from the Golden Gate Bridge! I guess Peckinpah didn't think there would be too many Marin-savvy movie goers in his audience.
The final battle takes place in the "Rust Bucket Fleet" in Suisun Bay which had a whole lot more rust buckets in mothballs in the 1970s than it does today. True to the strange attitude toward geography, however, our heroes sail away from the National Defense Reserve Fleet but are shown heading east under the Benicia-Martinez Bridge -- wrong again!
It is particularly interesting to compare and contrast the Sausalito scenes from the 1980 movie "Serial" to those in "Impact" filmed thirty years earlier. They both take place between the ferry terminal and Bridgeway at Vina del Mar Plaza.
Both movies feature their Sausalito scenes early on, but I found the earlier film intriguing enough to want to watch the entire thing. It is a mystery staring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines and Charles Coburn.
Librarian Chambers, by removing these Sausalito scenes from the films in which they appeared, will have saved the revelers at the Sausalito Historical Society fund raiser from the pain of watching the entirety of these movies while enjoying the parts that are in our town!