Point Blank, 1967


John Boorman


visit the film locations

San Francisco: Flights: San Francisco International Airport

Tourist info: San Francisco tourism

Visit: Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Cruises: the official source for tickets to Alcatraz Island.

Visit: Fort Point, Marine Drive (tel: 415.556.1693)

Los Angeles: Flights: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Stay at: the Huntley Hotel, 1111 2nd Street, at California Avenue, Santa Monica (tel: 310.394.5454)


John Boorman had only one feature film to his credit before directing Point Blank – the Dave Clark Five movie Catch Us If You Can (known as Having A Wild Weekend in the US)

The most famous appearance of Fort Point, at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, is in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

In the area

Curson Terrace is close to the Wattles Mansion, featured in Rain Man.

Point Blank location: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay

Point Blank location: the opening money drop: Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay

Photograph: iStockphoto / Nickolay Stanev

Not the greatest moneyspinner on release, but with its surreal flourishes and carefully controlled colour scheme, John Boorman’s dreamlike thriller was hugely influential and has gained a deserved cult status over the years.

It kicks off with the double cross and shooting of Walker (Lee Marvin) during a money drop in the exercise yard of a deserted Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay.

Point Blank was the first feature to be shot on the island (Birdman of Alcatraz, made in 1962, was filmed on studio sets). It’s been followed by Don Siegel‘s Escape From Alcatraz, with Clint Eastwood, Murder In the First and, of course, Michael Bay’s The Rock.

Walker is shot – but is what follows a revenge drama, a ghost story or a dying man’s dream?

The novel is set entirely in San Francisco, but for the film, Walker’s quest for the $93,000 owed to him, leads down the coast to Los Angeles.

The well-guarded penthouse of double-crossing, one-time friend Mal Reese (John Vernon) is atop the Huntley Hotel, 1111 2nd Street, at California Avenue in Santa Monica.

Built in 1966 – and so brand spanking new at the time of filming – the Huntley has recently been given a major designer makeover (with a piranha fish theme in the lobby), but city regulations have fortunately prevented major alterations to the structure. Although Reese’s penthouse was added for the movie, the hotel now really is topped with a Penthouse Restaurant, giving 360° views over the city, and reached by that wonderful glass elevator.

Look out for a very young Sid Haig (Rob Zombie’s Captain Spaulding) as one of Reese’s guards, and Kathleen Freeman (The Blues Brothers’ Penguin) as a socialite at the fundraiser.

Walker is sent – ostensibly to collect his money – at the storm drain of the concrete bed of the LA River, east of downtown, beneath the 6th Street Viaduct. You might remember this as the spot where the giant ants emerge in Them! or the site of the car race in Grease.

Built in 1932 and two thirds of a mile long, the 6th Street Viaduct is the youngest of the monumental bridges crossing the river here, and possibly the most impressive – even being used as a landing strip in S.W.A.T..

There’s a sniper waiting on the Gothic Revival 4th Street Viaduct immediately to the north – but Walker is naturally prepared for this.

With two members of the mysterious Organisation out of the way, Walker turns his attention to Brewster (Carroll O’Connor), who arrives in L A at Santa Monica Airport.

Brewster’s extensive ranch-style estate is a private home at 7655 Curson Terrace, on a bluff overlooking Hollywood Boulevard, with fantastic views across the city. Described as ‘Japanese-Alpine’, there’s little to see from the road, the property was luxurious enough to have been rented by The Beatles during their 1966 tour.

Point Blank location: Fort Point, San Francisco

Point Blank location: the final money drop: Fort Point, San Francisco Bay

Photograph: iStockphoto / Datmore

There seems to be a bit of a cheat at the end, with another money drop in San Francisco.

“The drop has changed, but the run is still the same” covers the fact that the final scene takes place not on Alcatraz, but inside Fort Point, at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The fort, built as part of a defense system to protect the Bay at the height of the Gold Rush, came close to demolition in the 30s with the bridge’s construction. A vast supporting arch was built to straddle the fort, which finally became a National Historic Site in 1970, and is open for tours.

The exterior of the fort achieved screen immortality as the site of Kim Novak’s plunge into the bay in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo.

The film comes full circle as the final shot pans up from the fort, back to a view of Alcatraz Island.

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