Conflict between police sleuthing and political expediency is the essence of Bullitt, an extremely well-made crime melodrama [from Robert L. Pike’s novel Mute Witness] filmed in Frisco. Steve McQueen delivers a very strong performance as a detective seeking a man whom Robert Vaughn, ambitious politico, would exploit for selfish motives. Good scripting and excellent direction by Peter Yates maintain deliberately low-key but mounting suspense.
Arrival in Frisco of a Chi hood cues assignment of McQueen, plus assistants Don Gordon and Carol Reindel, to protect his life until headline-hunting Vaughn produces him dramatically before a senate crime committee. Hood’s death, at the hands of Paul Genge, provokes the primary dramatic conflict: Vaughn wants a live witness, while McQueen is interested in apprehending the killer.
Simon Oakland, McQueen’s superior, lets him pursue the case independently, while Vaughn, with aid from another senior detective, Norman Fell, is after independent sleuth’s scalp.
1968: Best Editing.
Nomination: Best Sound