The Organization (1971) is the last installment of a three part cops ‘n’ crime series starring Sidney Poitier (remember him?) as the detective Virgil Tibbs. You’d think that a movie about the drug trade (heroin) in San Francisco would insinuate that the city is dirty and full of criminals. So maybe that’s partly true, but for the most part, it proves that we have been obsessed with BART even before it opened to the public. Come again?
The first several minutes of the film show a perfectly orchestrated heist in which the group of robbers seizes about $8 million in heroin from a fronting company. (And you thought the city’s cash crop was weed.) Anyhoo, it turns out that all these robbers have sob stories related to heroin, whether it’s a sibling who died from addiction or that they themselves were once involved in selling. They come to Tibbs asking for protection, as it happens that the guy from the company whom they kidnapped was killed by someone else minutes after they broke into the building. Presumably, they don’t want to sell the drugs; they want to prevent the heroin from reaching their precious streets (or, er, the Tenderloin).
And how do they get Tibbs? They accuse the San Francisco police of being soft on drugs. Zing!
Eventually, we realize that those really really white men in suits over at the FiDi actually earn their top dollars from running the city’s drug trade. They come out of the woodwork as news of the heroin bust surfaces. Who knew?
But back to my original point: BART. The climactic scene (as shown above in the video clip) takes place in a tunnel around the Montgomery stop. As in they run through the tunnel. Dramatically.
Maybe this was the inspiration for last week’s BART sprinter, Dion Jackson. Jackson ran through the tunnel from the 16th and Mission station, fleeing from police.
Or it could have been the TV series The Streets of San Francisco that inspired our BART jogger. TSoSS premiered in 1972, after The Organization, and also featured a dramatic chase scene. With Michael Douglas. And guns. In the 16th and Mission station. Ooh. Beware of that electric third rail, boys!
Either way, both the TV show and the film prove that in our collective social conscious, we want to run through that tunnel. It’s like getting stuck in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland (which always happens, am I right?) and suddenly seeing everything slowed down. And the magic sorta disappears. It’s just a dark room with a lot of mechanical doo-hickeys. And Freud, well, Freud would have a field day with this tunnel imagery: running through the tunnel to escape whoever’s chasing you is like seeking comfort in the mother. Really in the mother. So San Franciscans just want to bone their moms. QED.
Starring San Francisco is Appeal events editor, Christine Borden’s, take on the city’s cinematic past to illuminate today. Have a locally-set film you’d like to see featured? Tell her at firstname.lastname@example.org.