Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Reblogged » Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur: To Have A Soul

Reblogged » To Have A Soul over at Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur.

Yesterday, Michael Parent, writing for Anomalous Material, included the underrated film Bullitt by the late Peter Yates in his fine The Top 10 Films of the Year 1968 piece. In reaction to that, you might be thinking: “Wait. Every Steve McQueen fans knows what a cool flick this is. How can you say it’s underrated?”. Well, I’ve come to believe that it’s trivialized because of that fact. The film continues to be dismissed as just a 60s cool star-vehicle (yes, the car reference was intentional, folks) for McQueen.

Like MP, I insist it is more than that. As well, my blogging colleague John DuMond captured it keenly in a comment from his relevant post back in May:

“Agreed, Bullitt is great film making on every level. It really brought the genre into (what was then) the modern age. Prior to Bullitt, police procedurals had a 1940s-1950s flavor to them.”

Nailed it. Both Michael’s and John’s articles got me thinking why I’m of the belief Bullitt remains more than a pastiche of McQueen’s cool blues and a classic car chase. IMO, nothing distinguishes it better than one astute look at the film by a writer here in Los Angeles. The one who regularly pens some extraordinary film essays on his blog, the wonderfully titled  Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur, wrote an appreciation of the film following the passing of Peter Yates last year:

“Bullitt buying groceries. For some reason, that’s what I always think of. In the middle of this film with one of the most celebrated car chases ever put on celluloid, as well as a few other pretty damn great sequences as well, I always find myself thinking about those tiny moments of behavior from Steve McQueen that we get to witness throughout as we do nothing more than observe the man who is Bullitt. Patting down his hair, that gesture of grateful thanks to that nurse who brings him some food and that glare in his eyes every time he stares down Robert Vaughn. And of course that way he stacks up those TV dinners in the tiny shop across the street from his apartment, not paying any attention to what they are but he knows that he’ll need to eat something when not dealing with the annoyance of the whole Johnny Ross case or dallying with Jacqueline Bisset during nights out.”

If you’ve enjoyed this flick, or maybe not as much as others, I heartily recommend reading Peter Avellino‘s (aka Mr. Peel) stellar assessment of a film that too often gets kicked to the curb with faint praise.

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11 Responses to “Reblogged » Mr. Peel’s Sardine Liqueur: To Have A Soul”

  1. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael, Michael and company:

    Excellent article!

    The details make the movie.

    I always get a kick out of Steve McQueen starting the day in geeky pajamas. Shivering while he sits on his bed waiting for his immersion unit instant coffee. While Don Gordon’s Delgetti noisily reads the paper Only to see McQueen later as the coolest man alive riding in the back of Robert Duvall’s cab!

    McQueen did a lot more reacting than acting in ‘Bullitt’. The same kind of cool I felt between him and Robert Vaughn here. That I felt with McQueen and Edward G. Robinson’s Lancey Howard in ‘The Cincinnati Kid’ two years earlier.

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    • le0pard13

      “The details make the movie.”

      Oh, yes they do. Good that you bring up those geeky pajamas of Bullitt’s. I’d recall that very morning scene when I saw Gene Hackman’s in ‘The French Connection’ a few years later, in fact. And Robert Duvall, of all people, as the cabbie! Man, this film is loaded with a bunch of scenes that show Yates’ craft. Good call on ‘The Cincinnati Kid’, too. Love that Norman Jewison film. Thanks so much for another of your deft comment, Kevin.

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  2. John DuMond

    Thank you for the link, sir.

    From what I’ve read, McQueen took a lot of his lines out of the script. He thought his character would come across better if he was less chatty. He was right. A perfect example is when he gets chewed out by Chalmers (Robert Vaughn) in the hospital. The original script had Bullitt delivering a scathing lecture. Instead, he delivered this iconic line:

    “Look, you work your side of the street, and I’ll work mine.”

    I can’t imagine how it could have been any better than that.

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    • le0pard13

      You’re quite welcome, my friend. Loved the point you made about the film last May. Great info, too! Oh, yeah. I can’t imagine a chatty Bullitt at all since this film came out. Many thanks, John.

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  3. ruth

    I’ve only seen the car chase in Bullit, ahah. Somehow I’m not too fond of McQueen after seeing him in The Getaway.

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    • le0pard13

      McQueen much more charismatic in things like ‘Bullitt’ or the ‘Cincinatti Kid’ than he was in ‘The Getaway’. Also, his Cooler King from ‘The Great Escape’ is another that shouldn’t be missed. Thanks Ruth.

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