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There are bad cops and there are good cops - and then there’s Bullitt. 

Year: 1968 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Frank Bullitt (McQueen) is a San Francisco cop hired by Chalmers(Vaughn), a politician with ambition, to guard a Mafia informant. When Bullitt’s friend is shot and the witness is left at death’s door by two hit men who seem to know exactly where the witness was hiding he begins a search for both the killer and the leak. However he must keep the witness alive long enough to make sure the killers return. Chalmers has no interest in the injured policeman or the killers, only in the hearings that will catapult him into the public eye and wants to shut down Bullitt’s investigation.

Bullitt is a man whose response to a world filled with death and deception is an invariable, ice-cold, quick-witted and unflagging devotion to duty. Because of this he has shut himself off from other human beings, including his beautiful girlfriend Jacqueline Bisset. He expresses himself first through action, then with a minimum of tersely spoken dialogue.

Dirty Harry, Lethal Weapon and Blade Runner all owe a huge debt to Bullitt, which defined the cop against the system movie. Unlike its imitators the central figure is not a cynical man, he merely does what he feels he must. McQueen brings an earthy reality to what is probably his best role, whilst Lalo Schfirrin (mission impossible) provides an excellent jazzy score.

However what the film is best known for it’s legendary car chase, regarded as the best ever filmed. The director called for speeds of about 75-80 mph, but the cars reached speeds of over 110 mph on the undulating streets of San Francisco. Filming of the chase scene took three weeks, resulting in 9 minutes and 42 seconds of breathtaking footage which every action film since has attempted, and failed, to equal.

David Goody

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Screenings of this film:

1999/2000 Spring Term (35mm)