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Sunday June 23rd 2024

The Getaway | 1972

The Getaway filming location: Sunset Station, San Antonio
The Getaway location: Doc and Carol almost lose the cash at the luggage locker: Sunset Station, San Antonio | Photograph: wikimedia / Tony Kent

Top credentials, with Walter Hill adapting a Jim Thompson story for Sam Peckinpah, and filmed on atmospheric Texas locations. Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) is paroled from prison with a little help from corrupt Beynon (Ben Johnson), on condition that he repays the favour by pulling a bank job.

He’s released from Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, also known as Huntsville Unit, 815 12th Street, Huntsville, on I-45, about 70 miles north of Houston, Texas.

Doc meets up with Beynon on board an ostentatious boat, gliding lazily along the River Walk in San Antonio, where he’s given details of the heist.

Also known as Paseo del Río, the River Walk is a network of walkways, lined by bars, shops and restaurants, along the banks of the San Antonio River, one level below the streets of the city’s downtown district.

The target is the ‘First Bank of Beacon City’, which was an empty bank building in the centre of San Marcos, a town between San Antonio and Austin.

The property remained empty for years afterwards but, great news, it’s been restored as restaurant, even incorporating many of the original bank features into its design. It’s now the The Vault, 100 Hopkins Street at the northwest corner of Guadalupe Street, on the Square.

It hardly comes as a surprise that the heist goes bloodily awry. Cool professionals Doc and his wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) get away with half a million dollars, but partner Rudy (Al Lettieri) – left for dead – is on their trail.

There’s a bit of a glitch when an opportunist trickster (Richard Bright – Al Neri from The Godfather) manages to lift the caseful of banknotes from the luggage locker of a railroad station in which it’s been temporarily stashed. He thinks he’s struck it lucky, but you don’t walk away with half a million of McQueen’s money so easily.

The beautiful old Amtrak terminus is Sunset Station, 1174 East Commerce Street in San Antonio, another striking renovation job. The waiting room seen in the film, known dramatically as ‘The Building of 1,000 Lights’, with its ornate vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and grand staircase has been restored as an elegant events space.

Briefly stopping at Fabens, way over in far West Texas near Ciudad Juarez on the Mexican border, to get a new radio for the car, Doc sees his face on the TV news. He quickly equips himself with a shotgun and shoots up a cop car on the southwest side of FabensMain Street, between Island Road and 1st Street SE.

They’re recognised again, by the staff of a drive-in burger joint when they stop to get a bite to eat. Unfortunately, the streamlined, 50s-style neon-lit Oasis, one of several in El Paso, hasn’t fared as well as the earlier locations, and was torn down shortly after filming.

Another El Paso casualty is the old Laughlin Hotel. Already closed and scheduled for demolition, the production was able to take a few liberties during the spectacular slo-mo shoot out, as Rudy and Beynon’s associates catch up with Doc and Carol.

The hotel stood on the northwest corner East Franklin Avenue and North Santa Fe Street, but the whole area has been completely redeveloped. You can see the start of that process through the window of the hotel lobby, with the futuristic El Paso Convention And Performing Arts Center already taking shape on South Santa Fe Street.

They’re driven off along West Missouri Avenue, past the El Paso Scottish Rite Temple – one of the few remaining unchanged buildings – and into North Santa Fe Street, by sympathetic old timer (Slim Pickens), on the way to a new start in Mexico.