Starsky & Hutch | 2004
Under the opening title, Starsky’s Gran Torino races through one of the city’s scruffy back alleyways – in this case Harlem Place at West 4th Street in LA’s Downtown Skid Row District. If you’ve seen DC's Birds of Prey, this is the same alley onto which Ewan McGregor’s ‘Black Mask’ club opens.
Eight stories above, Dave Starsky (Ben Stiller) is established chasing a bad guy across the rooftop of the venerable 1902 Hellman Building on the northeast corner of 4th Street and Spring Street.
Like many properties in this once rundown area, the Hellman has recently been redeveloped into apartments, as the Old Bank District Lofts.
He leaps from the Hellman across the gap down onto the roof of the Barclay Hotel, 4th Street at Main Street.
The Barclay regularly appears on screen – its rooftop less so. This section of Downtown LA is often passed off as ‘New York’ and the old hotel, once cheap accommodation, is seen in many productions including Armageddon and As Good As It Gets.
Back down to ground level, the chase continues, though not logically, through Harlem Place and back into 4th Street – opposite the Hellman, in front of which that fake newsstand was built.
Hutch (Owen Wilson) demonstrates a radically different approach to law enforcement, ripping off an illegal bookmaker in the guise of conducting an undercover operation. The bookie’s, fronted by ‘Wu Fat Laundry’, is 935 Chung King Road, a pedestrian street running alongside North Hill Street in what’s known as New Chinatown, built in the 30s and 40s.
When he emerges from the rear of the bookie’s, he confusingly on the narrow alleyway which runs behind the opposite side of Chung King Road, and smack into the unexpected arrival of Bay City PD cars.
In time-honoured tradition, this escapade leads to a stern dressing-down from his superior, Captain Doby (Fred Williamson), with loose cannon Hutch being paired up as partner with by-the-book David Starsky as his penalty.
The ‘Bay City Police’ precinct out of which they operate is 1945 South Hill Street, off West Washington Boulevard, just south of Downtown. In reality, this is the Metropolitan Courthouse Building.
Firmly on the other side of the law, drug kingpin Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) is introducing a new and undetectable form of cocaine to a meeting of dealers in a glossy, if seemingly unfinished, high-rise. Well, the block is now completed, as the swanky Elevate Lounge of 811 Wilshire at Flower Street, which houses Takami Restaurant.
Despite his lucrative sideline, Hutch lives in a modest home down in South LA at 1442 Emden Street, alongside the refineries of Wilmington. It’s a real house (and a private home, so do not disturb), which was not blown up – and it’s much smarter than it looks in the film.
As one of the good guys, Hutch of course has his caring side and looks after local kid Willis whom, to Starsky’s annoyance, he insists on collecting from Virginia Road School, 2925 Virginia Road, between West 29th and West 30th Streets in the West Adams district.
Considering he doesn’t boost his salary by robbing bookies, Starsky lives in a very smart home indeed, in Marina del Rey, on the seafront south of Venice Fishing Pier, at 1 Driftwood Street on Ocean Front Walk.
While Hutch is still snoozing, Starsky’s early morning workout routine begins beneath Manhattan Beach Pier, a few miles south in Manhattan Beach. Later in the film, it’s at a hot dog stand set up by the entrance to the pier that Starsky and Hutch inspect the b&w surveillance photos taken of villain Reese.
Their valued street informant Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg) operates from his own club, ‘Huggy’s Place’. This is the exterior of the King Eddy Saloon, 131 East 5th Street, Downtown again, which has been slightly remodelled since filming.
The bar, alongside the King Edward Hotel and which appeared in the original Starsky & Hutch TV pilot, has its own fascinating history as one of LA's quintessential dive bars, a centre of bootlegging during Prohibition and once frequented by writers such as John Fante and Charles Bukowski. It’s had a bit of a makeover in recent years but remains a rare survivor from a lost age.
Just in case ‘Bay City’ begins to look a little too much like Los Angeles, there’s a sudden glimpse of the fictitious city's 'elevated railway' system.
When the two cops get a radio message about the discovery of a body, they’re driving on Mateo Street, east of Downtown toward the LA River. In the background you can see the raised 4th Street road entrance to the 4th Street Bridge. The train that seems to speed across it is entirely digital.
In fact, the 4th Street Bridge is Starsky and Hutch's destination, and on which they perform that hasty u-turn.
‘Pop’s Restaurant’, the cop hangout where the two get a prank radio call from the uniform cops, as they examine the business card from the dead man’s wallet, is an old favourite.
It’s Rae’s Restaurant, 2901 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, a wonderful 50s-style cafe, which previously appeared in Tony Scott’s True Romance as well as Eddie Murphy-Steve Martin satire Bowfinger, 2004’s Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! and Lords of Dogtown.
It’s this business card that leads Starsky and Hutch to visit the wealthy Feldman at his enormous Tudor-style mansion.
The house was built in 1906 and although it boasts 13 bedrooms, it has a paltry nine bathrooms. It’s 1050 Arden Road in Pasadena, which has previously been seen in Madonna’s Who’s That Girl?, Albert Brooks' 1999 The Muse, Mr Mom, with Michael Keaton, and the The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with Danny Kaye way back in 1947. Incidentally, it’s here that the unfortunate pony suffers an unexpected fate later, at Feldman’s daughter’s bat mitzvah.
The interview with cheerleaders Staci (Carmen Electra) and Holly (Amy Smart) proves a little more enjoyable. The playing field of the ‘Bay City Bobcats’ is Falcon Field of Cerritos College, 11110 Alondra Boulevard in Norwalk, way southeast of LA.
Huggy Bear meets up with the pair among the industrial warehouses of ‘Bay City' with information about a big coke deal about to go down. This is Dock Street, just below 7th Street southeast of Downtown. The huge Alameda Square complex, once warehouses for the goods terminus of the Southern Pacific Railroad and now reborn as ROW DTLA multi-use complex, is where the first nighttime street race in The Fast And The Furious began.
Huggy’s Powder Blue Lincoln, by the way, is Snoop Dogg’s own car which, by a huge coincidence, was precisely what the production team were looking for.
S&H also learn from Huggy that the embroidered jacked belonging to the dead man is the work of Big Earl, a tough mother with a penchant for embroidery who owns a biker bar just out of town.
Cue a quick homage to Easy Rider, with Starsky and Hutch going undercover as a couple of unconvincing bikers called Kansas and Toto.
The bar they find was real enough but it’s since been demolished. It stood on the east side of Old San Gabriel Canyon Road south of the junction with San Gabriel Canyon Road where it crosses the creek (you can see the bridge alongside the bar) in the Azusa Wilderness Park Area, north of Azusa in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
It turns out that Big Earl (an uncredited Will Ferrell) is not available, being locked up in ‘Bay City Correctional Facility’. The prison is Mira Loma Detention Centre, 45100 North 60th West in Lancaster, in the desert north of LA, also seen in 2008’s Hancock, with Will Smith.
The subsequent drug bust at Feldman’s mansion goes horribly wrong, and Captain Doby has no option but to ask for their badges and guns.
Ridden with guilt at letting down the memory of his late mother, a legendary Bay City cop, Starsky tearfully takes a donut to her grave. The plot is in Mountain View Cemetery, 2400 North Fair Oaks, Altadena, east of LA, which went on to become ‘Haddonfield Cemetery’ in Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot of Halloween.
The rift between Starsky and Hutch is healed after Hutch’s home is blown up and they meet up at the bedside of young Willis, who’s been injured in the blast. He’s recovering in St Luke Medical Centre, 2632 East Washington Boulevard, near Altadena Drive, north Pasadena. The facility was closed in February 2002 and is now used exclusively as a movie set, most famously in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol.1.
Reunited, they join forces in a determined bid to take down Feldman by infiltrating his fundraiser banquet, held at the ‘Bay Pines Country Club’. There’s to be a major coke delivery, daringly carried out in plain sight under the noses of the elite of ‘Bay City’.
The country club building is the rear of the Huntington Library and Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, east of Pasadena – and not far from Reese's house.
The Huntington and its grounds have proved an endlessly adaptable location seen in dozens of films, including Coming To America, The Wedding Singer, A Cinderella Story, American Wedding (American Pie 3), Indecent Proposal, The Nutty Professor (1996), Memoirs of a Geisha and Serenity.
The club interior, where the coke is stashed in the boot of one of the cars being auctioned, is a different location altogether. It’s the Gold Banquet Room of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Avenue, a smart Spanish-Italian Renaissance landmark overlooking Pershing Square, Downtown and another frequent movie star.
Built in 1923, the hotel has appeared in many movies and TV shows) over the years, from Beverly Hills Cop and Ghostbusters to In The Line Of Fire, New York, New York, Splash, Independence Day, Species and Daredevil. The Gold Room itself can be seen again in The Sting.
Accessibility problems meant that only one of the seven cars being auctioned is on display.
There’s yet a third location for the subsequent chase across the club’s golf course. This was filmed at Candlewood Country Club, 14000 Telegraph Road in Whittier, though this leads very quickly to the marina where Feldman’s yacht is moored, which is Burton Chace Park, 13650 Mindanao Way back in Marina del Rey, not too far from Starsky’s place.
With Starsky’s beloved Gran Torino lost beneath the waters of the bay, he’s presented with an identical car by a couple of familiar faces, making the obligatory cameo.
Finally, the hill where the car is taken for a test run and makes its signature leap was filmed by a second unit stunt crew as it races down South Cabrillo Avenue between West 22nd and West 21st Streets in San Pedro, before moving on to the concrete bed of the LA River beneath the 4th Street Bridge. Where else would you want to test your new wheels in LA – I mean, Bay City?