It was this week in 1968 that a movie featuring the greatest old school (no CGI) car chase ever filmed was released. The Menzoid speaks of Bullitt, which boasted three stars: Steve McQueen, a Dodge Charger R/T, and a Ford Mustang GT.
Indeed, the great chase unfolds ever-so-slowly, almost seductively. It begins with a black Charger inching into view, a shark stalking its prey. Meanwhile, Detective-Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen), is seated behind the wheel of a dark green ’68 Ford Mustang GT. He is the intended target of the two assassins occupying the despicable Dodge. In the background, ominous music plays. Like the car chase about to erupt, the soundtrack also starts off subtlety, eventually building to a crescendo. In the meantime, the ebony Charger nonchalantly follows the emerald Mustang along the serpentine streets of San Francisco.
Yet, unbeknown to the hitmen – and the audience – Frank Bullitt is indeed aware he’s being tailed. So when the driver of the Charger hangs a right at an intersection and expects to see the Mustang’s taillights, instead, he’s greeted by an empty vista. The Charger’s driver – dressed to match his car (thick black-rimmed eyeglasses, black trench coat and black gloves) – is silently yet noticeably rattled. Somehow, Bullitt has given him the slip.
The Charger continues to slowly cruise San Francisco’s hilly, winding roads. The hitmen look right and left for that elusive Ford. Then, suddenly, the missing Mustang is spotted – in the Charger’s rear-view mirror. The hunted is poised to become the hunter.
So begins the iconic car chase scene in Bullitt, first released 44 years ago. Although less than eight minutes, it doesn’t really roar into high gear until the two-minute mark. That’s when the camera zooms in to reveal the Charger’s agitated driver diligently fastening his seatbelt. (Translation: Time for some serious driving.) Sure enough, he floors the accelerator. At this precise moment, the background music ends as the howl of a Hemi unleashed appropriates the film’s soundtrack. Smoke gushes from the Charger’s wheel wells as it makes a rubber-incinerating left-turn from the right lane. This time around, it is the Dodge aiming to give the Mustang the slip.
Wow! The last time The Menzoid saw motoring like that Lady Menzoid was rushing to the mall to take advantage of the Smores sale at the Laura Secord Factory Outlet!
In any event, the chase is on as the two iconic muscle cars sometimes go airborne while navigating San Franciscan roads that resemble rollercoaster tracks.
Yet, the beauty of the Bullitt chase is how all the subtle elements merge together in such perfect harmony. For starters, there’s a complete absence of dialogue. The entire audio component consists of two minutes of edgy music followed by five minutes of roaring V8s and banshee-like shrieks of rubber-on-asphalt. Even when a death-defying close call occurs, frustration or fright is conveyed by a facial expression or hand gesture. Then there’s the inherent beauty of the city by the bay, which serves as the backdrop. And finally, there is the knowledge that almost half century after it was filmed, you know that the likes of Al Gore and David Suzuki must weep aloud upon witnessing such an egregious carbon footprint created by old school Detroit iron.
Like The Menzoid said: Best. Car Chase. Ever.