Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953) is tough and punchy; Fuller used his newspaper reporting skills to really get to the heart of life on the street, including some terrific-sounding slang. But above all, it the most physical of 1950s films noir. The opening scene shows a skilled pickpocket (Richard Widmark) lifting a package from the purse of a sensual woman (Jean Peters) in a sultry, sweaty subway, and it's almost like slow, silent sex. 20th Century Fox released it, and the Criterion Collection deemed it worthy of a DVD release in 2004. (See Luc Sante's great liner notes essay here.)

Behind the Scenes

Director Sam Fuller (1912-1997) was one of the greatest of all writer/directors. By the time he was a teenager, he was working as a hard crime reporter for a New York newspaper. He enlisted in the U.S. army and served in the 1st Infantry Division during WWII. Fuller had already written some stories (he called them "yarns") for the movies, and during the war, his novel The Dark Page was published. Upon returning home, he went to work writing screenplays again, but quickly grew tired of other directors mangling his work. In 1949, he made his directorial debut with the ultra-low-budget I Shot Jesse James (1949). Through the 1950s and 1960s, he directed a series of "B" films, thrillers, war films, Westerns, etc. Some critics described their slam-bang action and dialogue as being "like headlines."
categories Columns, Cinematical