BBC Radio 4, 24 October 2009
Bullitt will always be remembered for the 1968 film version
starring Steve McQueen, that contains one of the greatest - if not the greatest - car-chase in Hollywood history.
Pauline Harris' radio version returned to the original novel to tell the tale of
a hard-boiled New York cop (Jason Isaacs), assigned to protect a Mafioso from possible harm. Inevitably Clancy fails in his
task, as his charge is apparently shot dead; the subsequent story tells of the cop's efforts to recover his reputation while
solving the case. With its plural identities, numerous plot twists and surprise ending, Bullitt is a good example
of a 1960s cop thriller in which atmosphere - a hot stifling June night - assumes paramount importance. Clancy himself came
across in Isaacs' performance as a typical hard-boiled cop, confiding his thoughts to listeners in sub-Marlovian (Philip,
not Christopher) language. Surrounding him was a positive array of low-lifes, including a sadistic lawyer Chalmers (Kerry
Shale), a long-suffering sidekick (Lou Hirsch) and an ineffectual doctor (John Biggins). Throughout the production the incessant
clack-clacking of an old-fashioned typewriter could be heard, as if Clancy were setting down his reflections while recounting
them to the listeners. In spite of tiredness and frustration, he eventually came up trumps by solving the crime and thereby
preventing Chalmers from charging him with negligence.
Bullitt proved diverting entertainment for a Saturday afternoon, even if
I could not escape the feeling that Raymond Chandler did this kind of thing far better in the 1930s and 1940s.