On Location: Michael Douglas in "The Game"


Welcome to "On Location," a micro-feature taking you to little-known cinematic locations of SF and taking a look at the films shot in the city by the bay over the years.

You can already see the gleam in borderline San Francisco obsessee David Fincher's eye as he makes his first trip to the Bay in the Michael Douglas vehicle The Game, exactly ten years before return in 2007 for his period epic Zodiac. It seems there's something about our foggy city that speaks to Fincher. There's certainly something about it that speaks to Michael Douglas, or--more accurately--he speaks to. Imperious as ever and playing the haughty power broker as he has so many times before, he barks addresses into the camera and at henpecked cabbies: 2210 Broadway, 239 Potrero Hill, 1019 Montgomery.  

Like "the game" of the title, Fincher's film is a San Francisco shell game, bouncing around the city between locations in the city and places-that-aren't at a dizzying clip. 1019 Montgomery, for instance, is supposedly the location of Consumer Recreation Services, the shady alternate reality gaming company behind the machinations that Douglas is subject to (which neatly prefigures the bay's own alternate reality experience), but is actually a residential address. Shot in an office building in Los Angeles but eerily resembling San Francisco's own psychic ziggurat, the TransAmerica Building, it seems reasonable that the headquarters of CRS would be somewhere on Montgomery. But upon closer inspection, like many of the things in the film, it simply isn't.

There are also some excellent tricks of the tongue to be had for those in the know: After an altercation during which one character loses her job, Douglas apologizes and offers to get her another one… at The City Club, ironically the real location of the restaurant from which she's just been fired. There's a bit of old money in the film, from the former mention of the downtown stronghold of power to his housekeeper, Ilsa, played by once-rising idol Carroll Baker (Baby Doll, Something Wild), who lends a little sprinkle of Vertigo, having once herself been the sort of platinum-haired matinee goddesses of which Kim Novak had been a prime specimen.

Along the ride, power points like the Broadway Tunnel, Hotel Nikko and the Ritz-Carlton also make token appearances. The film ends outside the chi chi Palace Hotel, the location of Douglas' big pratfall through their faceted glass roof and into the opulent dining room where we finally find that it was all… just… a game (spoiler alert?). The Palace also featured prominently in WIlliam Friedkin's Jade. If you look closely while Michael Douglas talks to Claire at the movie's close, you can see the sign for the popular downtown happy hour spot House of Shields glowing in the background as the camera pans out.