Samuel Fuller

Samuel Fuller

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White Dog Review


Excellent
In the granite-headed world of Sam Fuller, hysteria reigns supreme and sentimentality is an emotion as rare as uranium. As Fuller famously posited, "Film is a battleground" with characters banging their heads into one another like enraged rams, with the "victor" succeeding into oblivion or madness.

Racism has always been a red-hot button obsession of Fuller's ever-present like a festering ooze in his films from Run of the Arrow to The Crimson Kimono to China Gate to the rabid Shock Corridor. But in no other Fuller film has racism been depicted in a such a raw-boned and festering way as in Fuller's final Hollywood film, White Dog, barely released by Paramount in 1982 amid false charges of racism against Fuller by the NAACP.

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Forty Guns Review


Very Good
A Western that's thoroughly urban in its outlook, Sam Fuller's Forty Guns was made at the height of his most fertile filmmaking period in the 1950s - he released China Gate and Run of the Arrow the same year - and represents a studio director working at the peak of his form: fast, vicious, and cutting all necessary corners. The forty guns of the title are the passel of mercenaries backing up Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), a rancher who's the unofficial boss of a whole Arizona county and packs more of a wallop on her own than all her hired guns. At this stage, a few years past her bombshell prime, Stanwyck still cuts a mean, black-clad figure whipping her white horse into the horizon. (No stunt rider for this actress.)

Justice arrives in the laconic form of Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan), the federal marshal who comes to town with his two brothers, Wes (Gene Barry, grizzled) and Chico (Robert Dix, resembling a young Robert Vaughn), ready to clean things up. This interferes with the desire of Jessica's wastrel brother Brockie (John Ericson) to do things like get drunk and terrorize the town with the forty guns, and so the big showdown is set up. Jessica gets stuck right in the middle, torn between wanting to protect little Brockie and falling in love with Griff, a legendary gunslinger who's just about as granite-hewn as she is; an impressive feat.

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House Of Bamboo Review


OK
The limits of the lengths to which dazzling camerawork and curled-lip noir bluster can make up for thoroughly ham-fisted dialogue are tested in Sam Fuller's 1955 gangster picture, House of Bamboo. It's the familiar tradeoff with Fuller's scripts (though here he was working off one mostly written by Harry Kleiner): They're hard-boiled as all hell, but given just the slightest mistake in mood or pacing, the whole can seem so ridiculous as to be laughable. This film never quite gets to the laughable point, but by the end it's not far off.

As the first American feature to be shot in Japan after WWII (its home-grown film industry had been trucking right along since not long after the peace treaty was signed), House of Bamboo makes the most out of its setting, and its spell-binding Cinemascope compositions make up most of the reasons to see it. The film opens on a supply train puffing across a snowy landscape that's hijacked by a gang of thieves who are more than happy to garrote the Japanese and U.S. guards on board before making off with the loot, .50-caliber machine guns. It's a sharply executed piece of work and ends with a hammer blow: achingly beautiful Mount Fuji, as shot between the boots of a dead soldier.

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I Shot Jesse James Review


OK
Very dated but passable feature about the not-so-glamorous death of Jesse James, and the man who shot him in the back (Robert Ford). Interesting mainly because it's Samuel Fuller's first film, showing off a few of his trademark touches -- but not enough to make the movie stand on its own.

The Big Red One Review


Good
The cult of Samuel Fuller, while abated somewhat in recent years (if for no other reason than a lack of new films to carp about), is still in full force in most corners of filmdom, and for good reason. Unlike the precious auteurs of the latter part of the century, with their idealistic rages against the monolith of Hollywood, Fuller was a guy who knew how to work within the system, for a time at least, and make movies both his way and in a way that would get the suits to pay for them. While Fuller's heyday was the 1950s and '60s, his last hurrah (with the exception of a couple smaller film and TV projects) didn't come until 1980, when he was almost 70 years old. The Big Red One was meant to be the culmination of a life's work, an epic story that would allow Fuller to use his ugly experiences as a veteran to puncture the hallowed fictions of World War II cinema, while still delivering a rock 'em, sock 'em Lee Marvin war movie.

It didn't come to pass.

Continue reading: The Big Red One Review

Pickup On South Street Review


OK
It's probably blasphemy, but I'll say it anyway: Pickup on South Street is simply an unremarkable film noir.

Samuel Fuller, best known for his masterful psycho-ward thriller Shock Corridor, made Pickup because he (per his interview on the new Criterion DVD) wanted to get inside the mind of the pickpocket, show how he lives, and really show the audience what he's all about. That's an admirable goal, and the film's opening scenes -- wherein a seedy-looking Richard Widmark is spied plying his trade on a subway -- give us about all the insight anyone really needs into the pickpocket life.

Continue reading: Pickup On South Street Review

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Samuel Fuller Movies

Forty Guns Movie Review

Forty Guns Movie Review

A Western that's thoroughly urban in its outlook, Sam Fuller's Forty Guns was made at...

House of Bamboo Movie Review

House of Bamboo Movie Review

The limits of the lengths to which dazzling camerawork and curled-lip noir bluster can make...

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The Big Red One Movie Review

The Big Red One Movie Review

The cult of Samuel Fuller, while abated somewhat in recent years (if for no other...

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