The Lineup (film)

The Lineup is a 1958 American film noir version of the police procedural television series of the same name that ran on CBS radio from 1950 until 1953, and on CBS television from 1954 until 1960. The film was directed by Don Siegel. It features a number of scenes shot in locations in San Francisco during the late 1950s including shots of the Embarcadero Freeway (then still under construction) and the Sutro Baths.

The Lineup
Theatrical poster
Directed byDon Siegel
Produced byJaime Del Valle
Screenplay byStirling Silliphant
StarringEli Wallach
Robert Keith
Warner Anderson
Music byMischa Bakaleinikoff
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byAl Clark
Pajemer Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 1, 1958 (1958-06-01) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States


An international drug-smuggling racket plants heroin on unsuspecting American tourists traveling in Asia, so that the dope can pass through customs undetected. Two psychopathic killers, Dancer (Eli Wallach) and Julian (Robert Keith), and their driver McLain (Richard Jaeckel) then collect the contraband, murdering several people along the way. Lt. Ben Guthrie (Warner Anderson) leads the police hunt for the criminals.

The head of the heroin ring is a person known only as "The Man" (Vaughn Taylor)

The story begins when an American tourist disembarking in San Francisco from a cruise ship returning from China has his bag stolen by a cabbie. As the cabbie takes off at high speed, he strikes and kills a police officer. The cab later crashes and the cabbie is killed. A police investigation discloses that the cab driver is a heroin addict, and attention is drawn to a heroin smuggling ring.

Dancer and Julian have instructions to retrieve the heroin from the unsuspecting tourists and deliver it to a drop point at Sutro's Museum (a real San Francisco location until it burned down in 1966) where the bag containing the heroin is to be left inside an antique ship's binnacle. Dancer and Julian are instructed by their contact, Staples, that they must make the drop and be gone before 4:05 PM. But when it turns out that two of the tourists—Dorothy Bradshaw and her young daughter, Cynthia—had unknowingly disposed of the heroin, Dancer and Julian are in a bind: if they drop off the bag with a large portion of the heroin missing, their lives may be in danger. Dancer and Julian decide that instead of leaving the bag and departing the premises by 4:05, Dancer will stay, meet The Man and explain why the shipment is short. Dancer and Julian also kidnap Dorothy and Cynthia and bring them to Sutro's so they can back up the story. They surprise The Man, who turns out to be a cripple in a wheelchair.

But when Dancer meets The Man and explains himself, The Man has an unexpected reaction: he tells Dancer that "nobody ever sees me," and that because Dancer has seen him, "you're dead." It is implied that this is connected with the fact that he is in a wheelchair, and sensitive about his disability. The Man slaps Dancer across the face with the bag and Dancer, enraged, pushes The Man off a balcony, killing him.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco police have spotted the getaway car with Julian, McLain, and the kidnapped Dorothy and Cynthia. When Dancer exits Sutro's, a high speed car chase ensues, filmed in the area of The Embarcadero. When the car becomes trapped at a barrier on the freeway which was under construction, there is a shootout between Dancer and the police.


In the film Warner Anderson and Marshall Reed reprise their roles as Lieutenant Ben Guthrie and Inspector Fred Asher from the TV series. However, Tom Tully's character, Inspector Matt Grebb, is replaced by Inspector Al Quine, played by Emile Meyer. Tully, the T.V. series co-star, was not seen in the film. Anderson, the star of the TV series, is given co-star billing in the movie instead of star billing; star billing was instead given to Wallach, who played the movie's main villain.

The film contains the line, "When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate dishonesty," of which Jonathan Lethem writes that "Bob Dylan heard it…, cleaned it up a little, and inserted it into 'Absolutely Sweet Marie'" (as "To live outside the law you must be honest.").[1]

See also


  1. Jonathan Lethem, "The Ecstasy of Influence", Harper's, February 2007, 59–71. p. 59.
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