A look at shock auteur Samuel Fuller's most memorable work

Pickup On South Street

In Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou (1965), director Samuel Fuller can be glimpsed at a cocktail party, describing his medium with a raspy snarl: ”Film is like a battleground … love, hate, action, violence, death — in one word, emotions.”

In two words: pulp pioneer. Fuller, who died Oct. 30 at 86, was a ground-level influence on filmmakers as diverse as Francois Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, and Wim Wenders. While his most mainstream film was 1980’s The Big Red One — based on his own World War II experiences and starring Lee Marvin — it was Fuller’s energetically tawdry ’50s and ’60s films that endeared him to filmgoers burnt out on Hollywood blandness.

Low budgets inspired Fuller: If, as reported, he used midgets in Shock Corridor to make the sets look bigger, the effect only increased the film’s fever-dream weirdness. ”It’s not the headline that counts,” the former newspaperman once recalled, ”but how hard you shout it.” Here are three of his best barbaric yawps on video:

— PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) Pickpocket Richard Widmark lifts top secret microfilm from a purse on the subway. As cynical and sentimental as tabloid copy, it’s one of the great film noirs.

— SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963) Demented near-camp, in which a reporter goes undercover in a mental hospital and loses his marbles, natch.

— THE NAKED KISS (1965) It opens with a bald prostitute beating the bejesus out of the camera. It becomes a trashily moving look at society’s outcasts.

Pickup On South Street
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