12 Monkeys | 1995
Terry Gilliam’s dizzyingly time-shifting, Philadelphia-set sci-fi, based on Chris Marker’s experimental film, La Jetée, has James Cole (Bruce Willis) sent back in time, first appearing outside a wintery City Hall, Penn Square between Broad and Market Streets.
The asylum where he’s subsequently incarcerated is Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, 22nd Street at Fairmount Avenue. When Charles Dickens visited the USA, he declared that there were two things he wanted to see: Niagara Falls was one, thither was the Eastern State Pen.
This – radical in its day – architectural wonder, a central hub with seven ‘spokes’ radiating outwards, was the brainchild of the Quaker movement, a humane alternative to the corrupt, disease-ridden dumping grounds that served as prisons in the 19th century. The guiding principle was solitary confinement.
With only the Bible, a little daily work and no human contact whatsoever (even meals were served through holes in the wall so the prisoner could have no contact with the warder), the inmate, freed from temptation, would revert to a natural state of innocence. In fact, they mostly went mad.
One who survived intact was Al Capone, who resided here for eight months in 1929, in a tastefully decorated cell, with a desk, music and all the luxuries a crime boss could afford. You can see his restored cell on the prison tour. The Eastern State can also be seen in Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (which shares several locations with Twelve Monkeys) and Return to Paradise (1998), with Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche and Joaquin Phoenix.
Other Philly locations include the homeless enclave where Cole battles with vicious vagrants, which is the old, abandoned Met Theatre, Broad Street at Poplar, in a poor area north of Philadelphia city centre.
Also used is the once-majestic, now graffiti-covered Greek Revival Ridgway Library, 901 South Broad Street at Carpenter Street. The library, which had been abandoned for 30 years when the film was made, has since won several awards for adaptive re-use since being renovated to house the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. The vast underground chamber is Philadelphia’s abandoned Delaware Power Station, where the floodgates were opened for the first time in years.
The ‘University lecture hall’ is the Memorial Hall, North Concourse Drive, in West Fairmount Park, part of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 on Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards the Schuylkill River.
The ‘airport’, seen in the recurring dream, is not an airport at all, but Philadelphia’s spanking new Convention Center between 11th and 13th and at Market Street. There are daily tours.
And the vast department store, where Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) buys wigs, is another screen veteran. Wanamaker’s Department Store, Market Street at 13th Street was the location for 1987's fantasy, Mannequin.
The 'future prison' is Philadelphia’s Richmond Power Station.
Most of the other locations can be found in Baltimore. The elegant home of Dr Goines (Christopher Plummer), the scientist father of animal activist Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), is the Garrett Jacobs Mansion, 11 West Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, and home to the Engineers Club. It’s featured again in Barry Levinson’s Diner.
The ‘Engineering Room’ in which Cole is interrogated, is the No.4 Turbine Basement of the Westport Power Plant on the shores of the Patapsco River in Baltimore.
A Baltimore landmark you might recognise is the deco cinema where Cole and Railly sit through a 24-hour Hitchcock Fest, which is the Senator Theatre, 5904 York Road, where Elijah Wood watches King of the Rocket Men in Barry Levinson’s Avalon.