It always surprises me how our perception of place is colored by movies. San Francisco is such an iconic city that it’s easily recognizable when on the big screen. However, sometimes the reality is altered a bit. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium figured prominently as “The Cetacean Institute” in Star Trek IV. However, their outdoor tide pool was digitally enhanced to become a huge whale enclosure.
Alfred Hitchcock set two of his most famous movies in the area. As mentioned before, The Birds was set in Bodega Bay, north of the city. We had planned to visit, but the guide books said that apart from the shoreline, it was unrecognizable as movie setting. The main reason we didn’t continue was because we were tired, and there wasn’t much likelihood of finding dinner there.
The other Hitchcock movie is Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart. Many of the San Francisco locations are relatively unchanged, and can be recognized n the movie. Muir Woods, the Golden Gate area, and even several of the streets remain basically the same. However, the most prominent landmark, San Juan Bautista, is quite different. In the movie there is a tall bell tower that serves as an important plot point. Turns out it’s completely fictional. On our visit yesterday, I actually looked for it. The actual bell tower wouldn’t quite work for what the movie needed.