Cast & Crew
After a cruise ship docks in San Francisco, a porter snatches one of the passenger's suitcases and tosses it into a waiting cab, which then speeds away. When the cab driver accidentally runs over a police officer and then crashes into a barricade, Lt. Ben Guthrie and Inspector Al Quine of the San Francisco Police Department are called in to investigate. Their first step is to question Philip Dressler, the man whose suitcase was stolen. As Dressler is describing the bag's contents, which includes a statue that he bought in Hong Kong, word comes that the dead cab driver has been identified as a felon who served time for driving the getaway car in an armed robbery. At the police lab, the suitcase recovered from the cab is examined and heroin is found hidden inside the statue. Suspecting that Dressler may be involved, Ben decides to put him under surveillance. When the custom's inspector informs Ben that drug traffickers have been using unsuspecting tourists to smuggle their wares into the United States, Ben asks Dressler to attend a police lineup of the ship's porters to try and identify the man who snatched his bag. After Dressler fails to recognize the thief, Ben and Al proceed to the cab driver's apartment, where they find a hypodermic needle and conclude that the man was a drug addict. When they notice two dates circled on the man's calendar, Ben realizes that the robbery occurred on the first date and that the other is tomorrow's date. Ben then concludes that a shipment must be scheduled for the following day. Meanwhile, Dancer and Julian, two psychopathic hired killers, land in San Francisco and go to a secluded motel. Soon after, Sandy McLain arrives and introduces himself as their new "wheelman." After a porter's body is found floating in the bay, and the autopsy reveals that the man was given a lethal injection of drugs, Dressler is summoned to the morgue to identify the body. Meanwhile, McLain drives Dancer and Julian to the docks where they are to meet their contact. As Julian waits inside the car, Dancer meets Staples, their contact, who explains that two groups of passengers and one crew member are unwittingly transporting the drugs. Watching the passengers debark from a recently docked cruise ship, Staples points out the Sanders family, who are unaware that the flatware they just bought is filled with heroin; Dorothy Bradshaw and her little daughter Cindy, whose porcelain doll contains a cache of heroin; and Larry Warner, who has been asked to deliver a statue of a horse. After providing Dancer with the addresses of all three groups, Staples instructs him to collect the drugs and drive to Sutro's Museum, an amusement park, where he is to place them in a hidden compartment in the ship's pinnacle at 4 p.m. McLain then drives Dancer and Julian to the Seamen's Club where Warner is staying. There, Dancer states that he has come to pick up the statue, after which Warner invites him to join him in the steam room. When Warner reveals that he found the heroin hidden inside the statue, and demands $1,000 for its return, Dancer pulls out the gun he has encased in his towel and shoots him. As Dancer goes upstairs to Warner's room to claim the statue, two sailors notice Julian waiting for him in the hallway. After the killers climb back into the cab, Dancer tells Julian, who is fascinated with recording and analyzing their victims' last words, that Warner uttered "why be greedy?" before dying. Ben is summoned after Warner's body is discovered in the steam room, and the sailors provide him with an accurate description of Julian. Dancer proceeds to the Sanders mansion, where he is met by the houseboy. When the houseboy refuses to relinquish his employer's flatware, Dancer threatens him. The frightened houseboy tries to flee, but is cut down by a bullet from Dancer's gun. As Dancer places the flatware in the car, he reports that the servant's last words were "Mr. Sanders." At the St. Francis Hotel, where the Bradshaws are staying, Dancer learns that Dorothy and her daughter have gone to the aquarium. McLain drives Dancer there, where Dancer approaches Dorothy and persuades her to accept a ride back to the hotel. As they leave, a police officer recognizes Julian from the sailors' description and notifies headquarters of the license plate number of his car. In her hotel room, Cindy shows them her new doll. When Julian reaches up the doll's skirts to retrieve the heroin, he finds it gone, prompting an enraged Dancer to tear the figurine to pieces. Dancer then frightens the girl into admitting that she sprinkled the "powder" she found on the doll's face. Dancer is about to shoot both mother and daughter when Julian warns him that they need the women to substantiate the story about the missing drugs. After forcing the women in the cab, they drive to Sutro's and Dancer goes inside to explain the situation to their employer. As the clock nears 4 p.m., Dancer waits by the telescopes and eyes the ship's pinnacle, watching for his contact. Outside, a police officer spots McLain's car and issues an alert. As schoolgirls swarm around the telescopes and Dancer, a man in a wheelchair slides open a panel in the ship's pinnacle. Dancer then walks over to explain the loss of the drugs. When the man impassively replies "you're dead," Dancer flies into a rage and pushes the man's wheelchair over the railing to the ice rink below. Al and Ben arrive at Sutro's just as Dancer jumps into the cab and speeds away. With the police in pursuit, McLain recklessly careens through hairpin turns until he reaches the end of a partially built freeway and comes to a screeching halt. The crazed Dancer then slugs Julian and tells him that their employer's last words were "they'll get you." When Julian tries to surrender to the police, Dancer shoots him, then seizes Cindy to use as a shield. After releasing the girl, Dancer jumps onto the freeway railing and falls to his death after being struck by a police bullet.
William Beaudine Jr.
Inspector John Kane S.f.p.d.
Jaime Del Valle
As cold-blooded and efficient as its two central hitmen - Dancer (Eli Wallach) and his mentor, Julian (Robert Keith) - The Lineup (1958), directed by Don Siegel, is a departure from the film noirs of the forties with most of the action taking place in exotic locales in the glaring sunlight instead of atmospherically lit studio sets. The film is also a warm-up for Siegel's later remake of The Killers in 1964 in which two contract killers become too curious about "The Man" who hired them for the job and become liabilities. Siegel's The Killers was originally made for television but was released theatrically instead because of its violent content. The Lineup is no less brutal in its depiction of Dancer and Julian's methods, especially for the fifties, but it was actually inspired by the popular Dragnet-like TV series The Lineup, which ran from 1954 to 1960. Like the series, Siegel's film was set in San Francisco but it was a complete departure from the series format and only a few of the show's regular players were featured in the film with the focus clearly on the hired killers.
In his autobiography, A Siegel Film, the director recalls his struggle with the producers - Frank Cooper and Jaime Del Valle - over changing the title: "Frank Cooper was an agent who also put together deals - a deal-maker, not a picture-maker. Jaime Del Valle was strictly a television producer. Lineup was his first feature. I got him to hire Stirling Silliphant to write the screenplay. Stirling was enormously talented, with many years of experience. He not only wrote fast, he frequently wrote two scripts, for different producers, at the same time...We both felt strongly that it was a fatal mistake to use the title The Lineup. Most people would confuse it with the series, which they were seeing each week on TV. We felt a title like 'The Chase' would fit the picture and entice people into the theatre." Copper and Del Valle prevailed, however, saying that Columbia Studios had approved the title, believing that the successful TV series would guarantee an equal success for the feature film.
The Lineup is a prime example of Siegel's creative approach to the B-movie genre film which is what he specialized in until the early sixties when he graduated to A pictures such as Hell Is for Heroes (1962) and Madigan (1968). His skill at expertly staged action sequences was well known and the white knuckle finale to The Lineup is especially memorable. Siegel said, "I try to make escapes and chases as hairy as I can. A near-miss is more exciting than one that's too far. That chase was difficult and dangerous to do. Years later, when I returned to San Francisco to shoot Dirty Harry , a police sergeant came up to me and pointed at his grey hair, 'You did that to me when we worked with you on The Lineup. I'll never get over that chase. How we didn't kill anybody, I'll never know.' And I didn't know myself. The shot in which the car comes to a sudden stop at the edge of the unfinished freeway was no trick shot. There was a five-storey sheer drop. We were photographing the action from the fifth-storey window of the city's YMCA. The stuntman who drove the car, Guy Way, had to be part insane. His girlfriend, doubling the mother [in the film], was in the car with him. She was hysterical for days after the shot. Dick [Richard] Jaeckel was doubled by Way; the rest were doubled by other professional stuntpeople. There was no way we could protect them...Way knew what he was doing, but I was nervous as the San Francisco police. If a tyre blew, or he slid too fast, they were all dead."
When Siegel first screened a rough cut of the chase sequence without sound for Del Valle, however, the producer stunned him with his response, "Not very exciting, is it?" Siegel recalled, "I pulled myself together and realized I had made a stupid mistake. There was nothing wrong with the film. What was wrong was running it without any sound. I had the editor carefully cut in sound effects and occasionally dialogue, consisting of the mother and daughter screaming, Julian yelling and Dancer enjoying it, laughing maniacally. I ran it again for Del Valle. This time, when the lights came on, he shook my hand in congratulations. His palm was wet with sweat."
Just as memorable as the climactic car chase in The Lineup is Eli Wallach's chilling portrayal of Dancer, a role that he had reservations about accepting and later regretted. In his autobiography, The Good, the Bad and Me, Wallach recalled "I first met Siegel at the plush Columbia Pictures office in New York, where he told me he wanted me to play the role of Dancer, a sadistic professional killer..."The guy has to kill five people in one day," I said. "That's not for me; I'm not that sadistic." "Oh, it's only a movie," he said. "Besides, you'll enjoy San Francisco." "All right, "I said, then added as a joke, "But I want ten grand a killing."
Wallach, who was primarily a stage and television actor at this point in his career, had only appeared in one film prior to The Lineup and it was Baby Doll (1956), directed by the great Elia Kazan. Siegel stated in a later interview that he believed The Lineup "was quite a come-down for him [Wallach]. He couldn't believe the pace of our shooting, he couldn't believe it could possibly be any good. He had just finished working with Elia Kazan. We're about as far apart as two directors can be, if for no other reason than Elia can afford to take his time and I can't."
Wallach confirmed Siegel's observations, writing in his autobiography: "During the filming, I wasn't happy and he sensed it. I felt I'd made a Faustian deal. I was compromising. The money seemed more important than the challenge of acting in a worthwhile project." When Wallach later attended the premiere of The Lineup with his wife, actress Anne Jackson, he was particularly put off by the scene in which he terrorizes the little girl and her mother. "I want that doll!" I snarled, and the child began to cry. I opened my attaché case - click! click! And as I reached in to get the gun, Anne whispered, "If you shoot that woman, I'll never talk to you again." "I've had it!" I thought. Did making movies mean that I would only play villains - a vengeful Sicilian [in Baby Doll], a hired killer? "Why am I playing these oddball characters?" I wondered. A good Catholic sees his priest and confesses. Even as a non-Catholic I had to find a way to atone for my behavior."
Siegel's initial fears that the film's title would hurt its box office potential proved to be true and The Lineup generated very few ticket sales and was dismissed by most critics as an undistinguished crime drama. Despite Wallach's low opinion of the film, The Lineup is now acknowledged by such respected film scholars as David Thomson to be "very influential" in the development of the noir genre and Blake Lucas in the reference work Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style wrote that "the final chase, although half of it takes place before a back-projection screen, is more visually precise than many spectacular chases in recent films."
Producer: Jaime Del Valle
Director: Don Siegel
Screenplay: Stirling Silliphant
Cinematography: Hal Mohr
Film Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: Ross Bellah
Music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff
Cast: Eli Wallach (Dancer), Robert Keith (Julian), Warner Anderson (Lt. Ben Guthrie), Richard Jaeckel (Sandy McLain), Mary LaRoche (Dorothy Bradshaw), William Leslie (Larry Warner).
by Jeff Stafford
A Siegel Film: An Autobiography by Don Siegel
The Good, the Bad and Me by Eli Wallach
Underworld USA by Colin McArthur
Who the Devil Made It? by Peter Bogdanovich
Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style edited by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward
The film ends with the following written acknowledgment: "We are grateful to the San Francisco Police Department whose cooperation made this production possible." As noted in the Variety review, location filming was done at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the St. Francis Hotel, Nob Hill, Sutro's Museum and the Opera House, all in San Francisco, CA. The CBS television series The Lineup ran from January 1, 1954 -January 20, 1960. It was produced by Jaime del Valle and Frank Cooper, who also worked on the production of the film.
Don Siegel directed the pilot of the series, which starred Warner Anderson as "Lt. Ben Guthrie," the role Anderson recreated in the film. The popular, San Francisco-based series also starred Tom Tully as "Matt Grebb," a character not in the film. Other actors who recreated roles from the television series include Marshall Reed as "Inspector Fred Asher" and William Leslie as "Inspector Dan Delaney." In his autobiography, Siegel said that he was opposed to titling the film The Lineup because he was afraid that audiences would confuse it with the television series. Siegel also said that the car chase was filmed on location on the construction site of an unfinished freeway in San Francisco.
Released in United States Summer June 1958
Released in United States Summer June 1958