MUTE WITNESS is the novel upon which the Steve McQueen film BULLITT was based. One of my all time favorite McQueen vehicles(yes, I said that), if not his best, I lost count long ago how many times I’ve watched it.
It’s been quite a few years since I read this one, the first novel, of three, that featured Lt. Clancy, the only name in the novel. In looking around for this post, I learned it was originally intended that Spencer Tracy was to play the role and play it pretty much straight from the novel. When he passed away, McQueen moved into the role and the changes began.
They pretty much stuck with the plot of the film. A mobster is murdered while being guarded by the cops. The officious D.A.(played by Robert Vaughn) is miffed when the cop hides the body, allowing everyone to believe he’s still alive as he hunts for the killer.
As I mentioned earlier, Lt. Clancy(no other name) is the name of the cop instead of the McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. The action is moved from New York to San Francisco for the movie. There’s one subplot dropped for the movie. Clancy is pretty much a loner in the novel and Jacqueline Bisset plays the invented girl friend in the movie.
And there’s no car chase in the novel. That was to ham up the movie and was used as the way to deal with the killers which was in the subplot dropped from the novel.
This was more of a mystery than an action piece. The book seems to be out of print and copies are hard to find and expensive. There are copies of the British movie edition(retitled Bullitt) reasonably priced for a used copy. The best deal though is here for the Kindle.
The editing of the car chase scene is a fantastic piece of work that won Frank Keller the editing Oscar despite a few amusing things. Scenes were shot from several angles simultaneously, resulting in the same dark green Volkswagen appearing four times and, though I have yet to spot it, a Thunderbird three times. I’ve always maintained that five hubcaps came off the Charger during the chase, though others disagree, while admitting scenes at various points show different hubcaps missing. Two of each car were used in the shooting that took four weeks.
My favorite shot is when Bullitt has used his knowledge of the streets to lose the Charger and the two hoods are driving around looking for him. A shot of the rear view mirror shows McQueen’s Mustang topping the hill behind them now.
The driver in the scenes was the actual stunt driver that did the driving, which resulted in him doing the same for a chase in THE FRENCH CONNECTION.
Finally, you just know I had to include the car chase. This was the best clip I could find, slightly edited and with different music. Just click on the Watch on You line.
I had some thoughts of including BULLITT on Todd Mason’s Overlooked Movies Tuesday, not so much overlooked as ignored by the younger moviegoers of today. You know, if it wasn’t made it the last ten years, it’s no good. I have a nephew, who’s thirty-one, something of a Mustang enthusiast, that I thought might like it. “Meh, Fast and Furious was better.”
For more forgotten books, go to Patti Abbott over at her blog, Pattinase.