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It's not all about the most famous car chase scene in cinematic history, but that one extended scene does make Bullitt one of those rites of passage every serious movie fan must experience at some point in his/her life. This really is an unusual film in many ways; as much as it influenced scores of future films in the tough, gritty cop genre, it's still unique. More modern-day maverick cops spend half their time playing the fool, destroying half their cities, throwing random hissy fits, and posturing a lot. Steve McQueen didn't have to posture because he was the real deal. He could have gone through this entire movie without uttering a single word and still been hailed by fans and critics alike.

Bullitt sports an amazing cast: alongside Steve McQueen you have the lovely Jacqueline Bissett, Robert Vaughn, Robert Duvall, Norman "Mr. Roper" Fell, Victor "Mel" Tayback, and plenty of other actors I'm not familiar with serving up sustained dramatic brilliance. Let's hope they never try to remake this classic, especially since this movie's style would never pass muster at any Hollywood studio of the 21st century. Bullitt doesn't come right out and explain everything to you at the beginning, nor does it take the time to explicitly identify important clues as the investigation progresses. You can go several minutes at a time without hearing a word of dialogue. It's not a difficult movie to follow, but you do need to pay attention as a viewer. A few scenes seem superfluous, but I think that sort of adds even more to the Bullitt mystique. The final scene, for example, is quite subdued and unlike anything you'll find preceding any closing credits today.

As far as the story goes, Lieutenant Bullitt (McQueen) is assigned to guard a Mob witness set to testify against his old buddies. Walter Chalmers, a local prosecutor with political ambitions (Robert Vaughn, who's a natural at portraying sleazy politicos) is frothing at the mouth at the thought of all the publicity he'll get when his witness blows the lid on some major league players in organized crime. It turns out that the secret hiding place isn't a secret after all, and everything pretty much goes to heck, leaving the star witness fighting for his life while Bullitt finds himself in the crosshairs of an unhappy Chalmers. Already detecting the faint but undeniable odor of a rat, Bullitt truly takes charge of the whole investigation, even as Chalmers pressures the higher-ups in the police department to give Bullitt's lease several long, hard yanks. Now, as the action begins to ratchet up minute by minute, the plot gets curiouser and curiouser - and Bullitt's job more dangerous. The famous car chase up and down the streets of San Francisco is the highlight of the movie, but there's plenty of action all the way to the end.

The secret of the car chase's success is realism: no music, just tires squalling and engines revving (even if they're not always in perfect synch), with a great mix of external shots and point-of-view shots from inside Bullitt's Mustang, putting you right there zooming up and down the steep hills of San Francisco. The editing of this scene brought home an Oscar, and it's as thrilling today as it was in 1968 - despite the fact that several continuity errors are easily detected in the editing (that little green Doodlebug just keeps popping up, doesn't it?).

It's hard to really describe this film for others, although I can point out that, in terms of the action, it rejects melodrama in favor of authenticity. On the face of things, it sounds like a movie that shouldn't be all that special - but it is (at least for men; I'm not sure the movie will appeal to a lot of female viewers). The best way I can explain why this is so is to say this: Steve McQueen is the man.
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on October 4, 2007
An absolute classic that is worth the watch. The HD transfer is top quality. You feel like you are watching a film from just last year, not 1968. The special features are little light on this movie. The HD DVD version does include two very long documentaries, one of the career or Steve McQueen and a must see HNK production about film editing that shows clips from almost every Oscar winning movie (for editing) from the early 40's to present. The clips presented in beautiful 1080p, and the included interviews with legendary Directors makes it a standout.

If you own a HD-DVD player, don't skip this title just because it's an old movie. Bullitt is a must watch, edge of your seat action movie, that stands the test of time.
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on June 27, 2004
"Bullitt" is highly regarded by many for either "the chase", or the drama.
The good and the bad: True, there is a high-speed car chase in part through the hilly streets of San Francisco. Is it "the best ever" chase? Depends on how you look at it. Plus - It was very high speed. Plus - It had a cool-looking Mustang fastback vs a big GTO. Negative - They pass the same VW 4 times, and another car 2 times (why? if not intentional, then very poor continuity) Negative - double-shifting or not, there are about 97 too many gear changes, and some of those are at top speed on the flat stretch near the end. Neg - the bad guys lose too many hubcaps. Still, it's fairly exciting. However, though not car vs car, I think the chase in "The French Connection" is as good if not better.
As for the drama, some of it seemed a bit drawn out. Lt. Frank Bullitt is supposed to protect the state's witness "Ross" against the Chicago "Organization". Ross and one cop are shot, and Ross is later killed in the hospital, where Bullitt is hanging out. Bullitt does not want the prosecutor who gave him the assignment (Robert Vaughan) to know Ross died, so he will have time to find the killers. Turns out Ross may not be who the cops think he is, and this leads to a good foot-chase across the airport runways and the airport itself.
Some of the police procedure as portrayed in the movie is rather shoddy - such as handling a lot of evidence, then asking for it to be fingerprinted, etc.
The pretty: Bullitt has a girlfriend played by Jaqueline Bisset, who gives him grief for his callous attitude. This sets up the final scene of the movie where Bullitt ambiguously questions his existence. Otherwise, her appearance in the movie is useless.
Good acting by McQueen and Vaughan. Look for Robert Duval, Georg Sanford Brown, Norman fell, Simon Oakland and a few other names.
The jazzy score by Lalo Schifrin sounds like a bad TV movie. Wide-screen movie has decent picture and sound quality. DVD extras include a short behind the scenes documentary, text-based cast/crew/location info, list of awards, and a trailer.
In short - Not the best cop movie, not the best McQueen movie, and not the best chase. Watchable but not a stand out.
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on June 4, 2004
1968's Bullitt is best known for its classic car chase scene that is still considered by many to the best of all time. The movie is worth watching for that scene alone as Steve McQueen's fastback Mustang chases down a Dodge Charger for a tense ten minutes through the streets of San Francisco. Even without that memorable scene, Bullitt is a classic 60's film. Mr. McQueen's performance as steely police detective Frank Bullitt is one of his best and the forerunner of the anti-heroes that would dominate films of the 70's. The plot revolves around a seemingly routine job for Bullitt and his men to protect a mob informant (Pat Renella) who is set to testify before a Senate subcommittee. When two hitmen break into the safe house and fatally wound the informant and injury another detective, Bullitt begins to have questions and takes up investigating the case on his own with the help of fellow detective Delgetti (Don Gordon). Fighting them at every turn is ruthless and ambitious senator Chalmers played with unctuous smarm by Robert Vaughan. Jacqueline Bissett co-stars in one of her first roles as Bullitt's girlfriend and Robert Duvall has a bit part as a cabbie. Director Peter Yates crafts a gritty look to the film and editor Frank Keller won the Academy Award for his superb work.
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This is my favorite McQueen film because from beginning to end, he remains in character as Frank Bullitt, a taciturn but thorough police detective in San Francisco who relentlessly solves not one but several crimes. All of the supporting cast's performances are outstanding, notably those of Robert Vaughn (Walter Chalmers), Norman Fell (Baker), Don Ross (Delgetti) and Simon Oakland (Captain Bennett). Director Peter Yates introduced in this film a car chase which remains the industry standard, approximated by few others such as in The French Connection. The film is based on Robert L. Pike's novel Mute Witness. The key witness (allegedly Johnny Ross) is mute because he is dead. The central power play involves stoical Bullitt and careerist Chalmers. Bullitt is just doing his job whereas Chalmers has a political agenda which guides and informs his displeasure with Bullitt's unorthodox methods. As Bullitt's love interest Cathy, Jacqueline Bisset is only secondary to the plot which proceeds through moments of violence and strategic evasions before its ultimate resolution at the San Francisco International Airport. Also noteworthy is Robert Duvall's brief but indelible appearance as cab driver Weissberg. This film has Snap, Crackle, and Pop.
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on April 25, 2004
Director Peter Yates paradoxically mixes a documentary feel with glossy textures to create a the ultimate zen police drama. Although mostly known for its thrilling chase scene (and the throaty rumble of McQueen's Shelby Cobra) Yates makes some some interesting statements about urban cop life. The acting is superb. The score by Lalo Shiffren is wonderfully evocative of '60's San Francisco. Note the scenes shot through glass, from the opening credits through to the trapping of the killer in the revolving glass door. Yates is preoccupied with showing us human beings through windows, through windshields, through their reflections. By putting human nature "under glass" he's reminding us that appearance is always manipulated by film directors, even if it's only through the glass lens of the camera. A remarkable film.
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This film, has been till now the major achievement of Peter Yates, there are several reasons for this statement, a dazzling direction, the charismatic presence of Steve Mc Queen playing the role of an emblematic anti hero cop , the best car chase ever filmed in San Francisco, the spectacular beauty and talented Jacqueline Bisset, the presence of a raising promise as Robert Duvall, the sinister character of Robert Vaughn as the corrupt senator, supported by a fine script without any hole, plentty of suspense and multiple reflections, this film has generated many similar films but without its shinning power and dynamical force.
Do you need any adittional reason to acquire this one?
Don't miss, you don't have any excuse. You'll be always rewarded.
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on December 21, 2008
Steve McQueen being just too cool for words, but actually putting in a totally convincing performance. Despite one of the most adrenaline fuelled car chases in cinema history, there is some great acting in this film. If you love classic 60s cinema then this is a must.
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on September 13, 2002
this movie is great because of the realism applied to
police, hospital, and morgue procedures, not theatrical thats
what makes it good, not to mention the awesome chase scene one of the first of its of kind, and one that all scenes are measured against, not a whole lot of action,not much violence,
nudity, or profanity makes this a great movie for younger audiences, the plot is great, and mcqueen is awesome. this is a
must for any steve mcqueen fan or anyone that appreciates a realistic approach to movie making and anyone who can appreciate a awesome chase scene with two of the best muscle cars around
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on February 29, 2004
I love this movie as do most reviewers have seen it dozens of times since original release but would like to clarify the famous san francisco street driving scenes..the actual jumpinng,driving stuntwork was done by BUD ELKINS who also did the motorcycle jump in the GREAT ESCAPE.this was due to filming insurance directives..this can be verified in the book FRENCH KISS WITH DEATH THE MAKING OF LE MANS MOVIE..a great book with numerous unpublished photos full bio and movie history re STEVE MCQUEEN I bought thru amazon 3 yrs ago...also great photos of MONACO WRISTWATCH
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