I recently read Jack Finney’s novel, The Body Snatchers and was hit by the idea of a “Body Snatchers Tour of Northern California.” You see, the novel (at least the 1978 version I read — part of The Stephen King Horror Library) was set in Mill Valley, a town in Marin County just north of San Francisco. The 1956 movie is set in Santa Mira, Calif. (which I haven’t been able to confirm if it is real or not), which is also in Marin County. And, the 1978 film, starring Donald Sutherland, is set in San Francisco.
When Finney wrote The Body Snatchers, Mill Valley was an out-of-the way town, but today it is much more accessible. Interesting places to see include:
- Point Bonita Lighthouse – built in 1855 on a hill, the lighthouse ended up being useless because the light it shed was about the same level as the fog that rolls into that area. So a new one, further out to sea was built to replace it in 1877. Light houses are always a good stop for a genre traveler because of their inherent moodiness.
- Angel Island – a picturesque island that has a history in immigration
Genre Movies filmed in Mill Valley:
- Jack (1996) – Robin Williams plays a boy in a man’s body. Yes, this is pushing it, but it is a sweet film that really is more fantasy than reality. The graduation scene was shot in Mill Valley.
- Juko’s Time Machine (2009) – currently in post production, this movie is sort of a romantic comedy time-travel story. Some scenes were filmed in Mill Valley.
San Francisco Tour Stops
- 1227 Montgomery Street, Telegraph Hill – used for Matthew Bennell’s (Donald Sutherland) house
- 720 Steiner Street, Hayes Valley – used for Geoffrey Howell’s (Art Hindle) house
- Alamo Square, Hayes Valley – the scene where the first “flower” is found was shot here
- Chinatown – An intersection of Chinatown is featured in the scene where Matthew Bennell drops his clothing off at the dry cleaners. He walks along Grant past the Four Seasons Restaurant (731 Grant) and through the intersection.
- Powell & Market Streets – Matthew Bennell made emergency calls from a telephone booth that was located here
- San Francisco Health Department, 101 Grove Street, Civic Center – Matthew Bennell and Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) both worked at the Health Department
For a more detailed Body Snatchers San Francisco Tour, check out www.zurdogo.com/tours/bodysnat.html
If you wanted to take your tour to Southern California, you very well could. The 1958 film was shot in a variety of locations around Los Angeles.
The 2007 movie update, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, moved the location to the East coast, setting it in the Washington, D.C. area. Locations used include spots in Washington, DC; Baltimore, Md., and Los Angeles, Calif.