I can forgive the “Frisco” in the title of the 1956 crime drama ‘Hell on Frisco Bay’ because it makes the film sound more dramatic. It’s only two and a half stars on the must-see list, but the movie is still fun to watch, and has interesting San Francisco locations. Alan Ladd looks old and tired, Joanne Dru is as pretty as she was in Red River’ and Eddy G. is….. Eddy G. Although, this has to be one of the most despicable characters Robinson has ever played.
Ladd plays a police officer released from prison after serving five years on a manslaughter charge he was framed for. Off the force now, he’s on a hunt to find the real killer. Like, we don’t know who it will turn out to be? Here, he follows a floozy, on the east side of Telegraph Hill at Vallejo St. at Hodges Alley, to a suspect played by a relatively unknown at the time, Rod Taylor.
There’s an interesting shot of a cable car at California and Powell Streets on Nob Hill. On the right is the old Crest Garage, demolished in 2018, and on the left is a liquor store where the Fairmont Hotel parking garage is now.
In the film’s denouement the real killer turns out to be Edward G. Robinson. Surprise!!! He takes Ladd’s wife, Joanne Dru, hostage, and tries to escape by boat on Al Scoma Way at the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon. Behind Robinson and Dru you can see Pier 45, and the little chapel is where the gray building used to be.
As Ladd approaches, Dru breaks free and Eddy G. Jumps into a speed boat, followed by Ladd. The film crew placed the name AMATO on the building in the background. This was Robinson’s name in the film, and the building was his warehouse.
As Dru watches the police approach the alley from Jefferson Street, she tells them what’s happening. If you look close at the AMATO building, you can still see the checkerboard window on the warehouse behind the white truck.
In a fist fight as the boat races out of control around San Francisco Bay, they’re almost bisected by a tugboat, tanker, and naval vessel before Ladd knocks Robinson from the boat. Realizing he’s headed toward the second tower on the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge, he jumps free.
The boat crashes into the Bay Bridge tower, and Alan and Joanne reunite. In a similar view near the crash area today, you can still see the Hills Brothers Building, but no longer the Pacific Telephone Building, once the largest building south of Market Street.