Tag Archives: Samuel Fuller

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.

XL Popcorn – Shock Corridor

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 745/1007Title: Shock Corridor
Director: Samuel Fuller
Year: 1963
Country: USA

It’s been nearly a month since I last watched a film for the 1001 list, which is probably the longest break I have had for nearly 5 years. In the interim, I’ve been re-watching some films with the hub that he had never seen before, but since those weren’t written up it feels like I am slightly out of practice. Given that I watched Shock Corridor, this may not be the time to be getting used to blog writing again.

Just before I get started: I completely understand that, due to greater understanding of and sensitivity around mental health, we don’t see films like Shock Corridor being made anymore. By having a partially melodramatic film set in a mental hospital there are a number of things that just feel a bit wrong through today’s lens. The depiction of ECT and the women in the ‘nymphomaniac ward’ being the most obvious examples that come to mind.

Those things taken aside, because this film is 56 years old, Shock Corridor is a very well-made psychological thriller. In it we see Johnny, a journalist, infiltrate a mental hospital as a patient so that he can write a Pulitzer Prize-winning article where he uncovers the identity of the man that recently murdered an patient. With the help of a psychiatrist and his girlfriend (who poses as his sister) he is able to convince people that he is mentally unstable and has incestuous urges. However, his newfound environment starts taking a toll on his own mental health, thus making his hunt for the killer all the more difficult.

Whilst a substantial proportion of the line-readings in Shock Corridor are delivered through the medium of shouting, there is a great amount of character development here. We really get to know and understand the three patients that were witness to the murder. All three of them are heartbreaking, but it was the first one (a soldier that was brainwashed during the Korean war and then, upon return, was shunned by his community to the point that he now imagines himself to be a Civil War general) that actually made me tear up. The way that James Best portrays this patient as he goes in and out of his delusion was so sensitively done.

Another interesting thing to note was the use of colour. Shock Corridor is predominantly a black and white movie, but the moments when the patients are remembering things that are true (and so are in conflict with their delusions) are rendered in colour. It makes for such an interesting contrast to the rest of the film and actually helps to highlight the point that these are truths we are seeing… which is subverted in one of the final scenes of the film.

With this I am now 10 films away from the 75% mark. I will soon (health willing) be crossing off a bunch of these soon when the hub goes to the Netherlands for a family visit, so hopefully that landmark will come sooner rather than later.