XL Popcorn – Pickup On South Street

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 802/1007Title: Pickup on South Street
Director: Samuel Fuller
Year: 1953
Country: USA

Despite my self-imposed moratorium on 1940s movies before I catch up on the larger decades, it’s good to know that I am still able to indulge in a good film noir as long as I delve into the early 1950s. And this was a good one, even if the central love story was underdeveloped and ultimately stuff of nonsense. Then again, these weird quickly forming attachments are very much a noir trope so I can’t bitch too hard about it.

Being released in 1953, Pickup on South Street was very much if the time where it was “better to be dead than Red” with McCarthyism in full force. There is no grey area here about the role of the Communist subversives in this film, they are traitors and are willing to kill and beat up on women in order to get away and betray their country. It’s laid on a bit thick here, but replace communists with gangsters and you have many other noir films in the canon.

At the centre of things you have a pickpocket who manages to steal official secrets from a woman who is unaware that her boyfriend is a communist and has been using her to as a go-between for his acts of treason. However, it isn’t these characters that made this film stick in my mind, but Thelma Ritter in her exceptional performance of a source of underworld information who has grown tired of the life and just wants to save up enough dough to not be given a pauper’s burial. She is one of the great unawarded actresses of her era and this film shows just why she got six nominations at the Oscars. The final speech she gives before she is shockingly shot in the head, well that whole scene left me completely cold and was a bellwether for the rest of the violence that was to follow.

This is not a film I had heard of before picking it up today, but this will definitely have some things that will stay with me and sustain me before I can delve back into the 1930s and 1940s. It’s a cliche that they don’t make them like this anymore, but they just don’t and it’s a real loss.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.