Heart of the City Archives

What's next, the "Dignity Memorial" Marching Band?

Balboa fest opens trove of SF cinema, trivia
by Hank Donat

A couple of weeks ago I reported that North Beach neighbors hate the new parking sign at the Green Street Mortuary. Now it looks as though matters have gone from bad to worse in a City where classic signs are symbols of the community. Now the mortuary has altered its main sign, covering over a 60 year-old neon gem.

The mortuary's parent company Dignity Memorial has a thing for black and for its own logo. North Beach denizens have a thing for neighborhood preservation. Memo to Dignity: Take a look at some works from the late jazz photographer/filmmaker Jerry Stoll. The mortuary sign appears in at least a few of Stoll's pieces. After you've finished doing that, change the sign back. A grateful City will thank you.

On to "The Reel San Francisco." Gary Meyer brings many of the best made-in-SF film to the Balboa Theatre, 3630 Blaboa Avenue, for a film festival from April 16-May 11. The opening feature is Steve McQueen's legendary cop drama Bullitt. You may have seen those auto insurance commercials that use footage from The French Connection and Speed to depict the insurance needs of citizens who suffer damages in the wake of unbelievable accidents. The ads' producer must be salivating over the scenes in Bullitt, which reinvented the cinema car chase with hair-raising action in 1968.

Blake Edwards' 1962 thriller Experiment in Terror bows at the Balboa on April 28. A key location is the garage at 100 St. Germain Avenue in Twin Peaks, where the asthmatic stalker played by Ross Martin terrorizes bank teller Lee Remick. Here's a bit of trivia: San Francisco actually has two notorious cinema garages and one from television. Separate kidnappings occur in the garages at 2230 Sacramento St. in Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot, and at 2000 Broadway in "The Streets of San Francisco" Episode #42, Chapel of the Damned. Honorable mention: Herbie the Love Bug takes a flying leap from the Downtown Center Garage, O'Farrell and Mason streets.

The Reel San Francisco brings Harold and Maude back to the screen April 29 and 30. For trivia on Hal Ashby's 1971 black comedy about a suicidal 20 year-old and his 79 year-old girlfriend, visit geocities.com/RainForest/5862/harold.htm. Cole Valley resident Mike Sullivan runs the site, a nexus for all things Harold and all things Maude.

Joan Crawford lives in blissful ignorance with new love Jack Palance at 2800 Scott Street in David Miller's Sudden Fear, appearing at the Balboa April 25 and 26. In the nail-biting 1952 noir thriller, Crawford makes a mad dash from the Scott Street location to the Tamalpais Building, 1201 Greenwich, in just twenty minutes in order to head off a murderer. (It may be possible, but not in those shoes!)

May 11 brings Janis, a compilation film featuring Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Kosmic Blues Band, and the Fill Tilt Boogie Band. Joplin lived in apartment #3 at 112 Lyon Street in the Haight, when she recorded the "Cheap Thrills" album in 1967. The hard drinking rock star who died in Los Angeles of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 on October 4, 1970 was evicted from the Lyon Street apartment she shared with Country Joe McDonald but not for drug use nor for any untoward behavior. Janis was evicted for having a pet, her collie mix George, in violation of the terms of her lease.

Woman on the Run, a lost noir classic from 1950 that has returned for festival screenings in recent years, runs the weekend of May 1. The film follows Ann Sheridan as the noir heroin who searches for her estranged husband in all corners of the City. Woman on the Run is the very best San Francisco movie that you probably haven't seen. A seaside stand-in for Playland dominates the climax. Film experts and history buffs disagree on the actual location, but Laughing Sal is the real deal.

Recently I was talking with some young, politically active gay people who actually asked, "Who's Harvey Milk?" It was one of those painfully hard to believe moments like the time my kid sister asked me if I knew that Annie Lennox "used be in some duo." Don't let this happen to you! "The Times of Harvey Milk," is director Rob Epstein's Oscar winning documentary on the rise of Milk as San Francisco's first openly gay Supervisor and the almost unbearably painful aftermath of Milk's assassination on November 27, 1978. Epstein introduces the film at the 7:00 screening on May 5.

In "The Conversation," April 21-22, a mystery unfolds at Union Square as more and more of a taped Conversation is revealed. Gene Hackman is a surveillance expert obsessed with a case. Francis Ford Coppola directed the 1974 thriller, an Oscar nominee that year for Best Picture. Cindy Williams, Teri Garr, Frederic Forrest, and Harrison Ford also have interesting roles in this very interesting film, one of the best of 1970s. Observe the mime during the Union Square sequences. That's Robert Shields, whose career rose to the world stage from this venue.

For more information on "The Reel San Francisco" at the Balboa Theatre, visit BalboaMovies.com.

Welcome to MisterSF.com. Please visit the site often to keep in touch with San Francisco, for your own amusement, and to use the Local Joints section as a portal for independent businesses. Keep your money in the neighborhoods... Watch this space for observations, interviews and more from around town. All other sections of MisterSF.com are also updated continually, so come back and watch us grow!

Contact MisterSF.com

Copyright 2005 Hank Donat
mistersf.com home