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Sam Fuller


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Sam Fuller is one of my heroes. There is a great documentary about him called The Typewriter, The Rifle and the Movie Camera. I am hoping TCM can get the rights to play it. It is amazing and narrated/hosted by Quentin Tarantino and Tim Robbins, but has everyone from Martin Scorsese to Jim Jarmusch commenting on how much Sam Fuller's films mean to them.


The best part about it is when Quentin and Robbins go into Fuller's garage where many movie props and other memorabilia is stored. They even get to hold the "Steel Helmet".


I recently bought from the TCM website the box set called The First Films Of Samuel Fuller, which includes the Steel Helmet, I shot Jesse James and The Baron of Arizona. It is a must have for Fuller fans.


Did you know that there is a character named Griff in all of his films. You find out why in this documentary. Fuller was a journalist, a writer, a soldier and a film maker. I am also a journalist, writer, soldier and film maker. I was stoked that John Sayles picked Park Row by Fuller as one of his films when he was guest programmer last week. I had never seen that film and now it is in my collection. I also recently picked up Shark on video for a dollar. I had the Steel Helmet on VHS way before the DVD set came out. Up until then, the video was worth 50 bucks online. I bought it for 2 at some garage sale.


One of my favorite Sam Fuller films is 40 Guns with Barbara Stanwyck. Every Stanwyck fan needs to see that film. There are foreshadows of Victoria Barkley in her scenes.


Anyway here is my thread on Sam Fuller---





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Kim -- We've had our Fuller moments on other threads, but thank you for starting a thread on one of the more iconoclastic and independent American directors of the second half of the 20th century. In that category, he is right there with Welles and Cassavetes.


Perhaps we're channelling each other -- about a month ago, I bought *Shark* for a buck on VHS. Given what Fuller said about it in his autobiography (A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking), I expected not to like it, but I was pleasantly surprised. Far from his best, but a good yarn.


Seeing *Park Row* on TCM was exciting -- I had not seen it before. Last week, I finally got around to seeing I Shot Jesse James and, next Monday, I'm hoping to see for the first time Verboten! on the big screen.


Forty Guns (probably 2nd only to Alan Barron's *Blast of Silence* for my favorite opening sequence), The Steel Helmet and Fixed Bayonets are closely grouped near the top of my Fuller list -- *Pickup on South Street* is at the top. Scorsese in-joke: In The King of Comedy, there is a scene where Lewis arrives at home after an encounter with DeNiro; Lewis glances at his TV and *Pickup on South Street* is on. I take the homage as Scorsese's pointing out that both films deal with the frailty of self-identity.


I'm now reading Sam Fuller: Film Is a Battleground (Lee Server).


Message was edited by: ChiO


Message was edited by: ChiO

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Here's a brief review of Forty Guns I wrote in 2005 after watching the film on import dvd. It's been released in the US since then, by the way.



Samuel Fuller's 40 Guns (1958)


"This is direct cinema, uncritizable, unreproachable, given cinema, rather than assimilated, digested or reflected upon. I always come away from Samuel Fuller films both admiring and jealous. I like to take lessons in filmmaking"

Francois Truffaut, 1960.


Barbara Stanwyck stars as an authoritative rancher who rules an Arizona county with her private posse of hired guns, hence the title of this 80-minute western from the maverick director. A new marshall arrives, accompanied by his two brothers, to set things straight. The cattle queen develops passionate feelings for him, but her hothead brother and their differing purposes stand in the way.

What an exciting film to watch. Fuller knows how to utilize the CinemaScope frame for maximum artistic expression. Several scenes are unforgettable, such as the one in which the protagonists bond through a tornado. All the evidence needed to explain Nouvelle Vague directors' devotion for Fuller is here. I am convinced Sergio Leone copied his trademark widescreen close-up of a duelling man's eyes from 40 Guns. Fuller eschews voice-overs and expository scenes causing some viewers to feel temporarily "lost" or to feel Fuller favors style over narrative clarity. For instance, it's not immediately apparent that the men riding into town with the marshall in the opening scene are his brothers, and only mid-way through the film do we understand the extent of Stanwyck's control over what goes on in the town. This information is never spelled out and underlined for the viewer, but I don't mean to imply it's a puzzler or a head scratcher. It's just brilliant narrative pacing by a master storyteller who respects his audience.

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That is funny about the Shark video. I enjoyed reading your comments and tid bits on Sam Fuller. I have to check out those books. I am really psyched that they re-released the book Sam wrote called The Dark Page. It is the subject of his character in the Big Red One when he says-"I just sold my book to Hollywood for Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart!" I have been searching for it forever, but thankfully someone had the guts and the wisdom to re-release it.


Pickup on South Street is one DVD that I need to own. I do not like to buy Criterion Collection DVD's because, honestly, I cannot really afford them. I also need to see Shock Corridor, which also unfortunately is released by Criterion. The bits and pieces I have seen of Shock Corridor were really impressive. I must see this movie!


I am hoping that TCM gets the right to the documentary and then can play a night of his films including Pickup on South Street and Shock Corridor.


If you have not yet seen the Typewriter, The Rifle and the Movie Camera. You should try and track it down and definitely look for TCM to play in the next 2 years (I hope).


I am also waiting for Merrill's Marauders to be released on DVD. I have not seen that one yet. I bought Fixed Bayonets as soon as it came out but I think The Steel Helmet will always be my favorite Sam Fuller war picture.


Where are they playing Verboten!? Your so lucky. I wish I could see any of his films on the big screen.




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Kim -- *Merrill's Marauders* is available at Deep Discount (and not at Amazon) for under $12 -- I bought it immediately when I found out a couple of months ago. I still prefer The Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets (my favorite of his war movies) and The Big Red One, but I still like it more than most non-Fuller war movies.


I hope to see Verboten! at the University of Chicago, which has a student film society that does some impressive programming. See http://docfilms.uchicago.edu/calendar.shtml and look at Monday nights (and Thursday, March 13). I've been derelict in getting there, but hope to catch the next five Mondays.


Rent *Shock Corridor* if you haven't seen it. It is not my favorite Fuller film, but it probably is the Fuller film. Action, sexual tension (of various configurations), racism, journalism, literal and figurative punches in the gut...it has it all.


Film is like a battleground. Love. Hate. Action. Violence. In one word, emotion. -- Sam Fuller (uncredited) as himself in Godard's *Pierrot le fou*

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Monday night...big screen.


Slap to the face! Punch in the gut! Knife in the chest! Shot in the ****!


Yes, I saw Verboten! (1959).


Glad I went in spite of the UofC student (excuse the implicit anti-intellectual and ageist characterization) next to me who thought we were at a Midnight Camp Movie Fest. OK, I'll admit that with one of the sappiest opening theme songs in movie history (Paul Anka warbling lines such as "Our love is verboten") and our American soldier hero convincing a German fraulein that she is acceptable to him by saying "You're kosher" could make the movie appear campy, but this is Fuller at his lurid and unsentimental best.


The film starts (after Anka) with American soldiers "liberating" a German town near the end of WWII (to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony). Our American soldier hero, having been shot in the ****, is tended to by a fraulein, who has an angry teenage brother who lost an arm during an earlier American bombing of the town. Hero falls in love with fraulein. Fraulein acts as if she loves hero -- but does she? Hero stays in village post-WWII as a civilian working with the American Military Occupation forces while a gang of young unreconstructed Nazis terrorize the town (to Wagner's Die Valkure). The gang is led by a friend of the fraulein, who had gotten him a job working for the hero. And fraulein's brother, of course, gets sucked into the gang.


Romance! Nazis! Racism! Juvenile Delinquents! Savagery! Survival! Fuller, again, with the slenderest of a main plot line, gets all of his touchstones into a 93 minute movie that has more subplots than a Dickens novel. And does it with style and gusto.


Love him or hate him, he is the prototype of an auteur.


So now I have the following under my belt ( * = I own a copy for continuous viewing pleasure):


*I Shot Jesse James* (1948)

*The Baron of Arizona* (1949)

*The Steel Helmet* (1950)

*Fixed Bayonets* (1951)

*Park Row* (1952) *

*Pickup on South Street* (1953) *

*Hell and High Water* (1954) (the only Fuller movie I come close to recommending not seeing)

*House of Bamboo* (1955) *

*Forty Guns* (1957) *

Verboten! (1959)

Underworld U.S.A. (1960) (hoping to see on the big screen on Monday)

*Merrill's Marauders* (1962) *

*Shock Corridor* (1963)

*The Naked Kiss* (1964) *

Shark! (1969) *

*The Big Red One* (1980) *

*White Dog* (1982) *

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  • 3 weeks later...

ChiO me boy-o, this little movie is playing at MoMa, do you think I'd enjoy it?


The Steel Helmet. 1951. USA. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller. With Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards. A crass, rough-and-tumble American tech sergeant fighting in the Korean War bands up with a South Korean boy and a rag-tag team of soldiers to survive after his entire platoon has been wiped out. The first American film to depict the Korean War?and Fuller's breakthrough picture?The Steel Helmet is a raw look at the gritty realities of war. Fuller, whose experiences as a tabloid writer and war veteran informed his directorial work, crafted an ambitious B-movie that offers an alternative depiction of war, one devoid of patriotism, valor, and justification. Lisa Dombrowski, associate professor of film studies at Wesleyan University and author of The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I'll Kill You!, the first comprehensive study of the director, will introduce and conduct a Q&A for the March 19 screening. Preserved with funds from Celeste Bartos. 84 min.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 8:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2 (Introduction and Q&A with Lisa Dombrowski)

Thursday, March 27, 2008, 1:30 p.m., Theater 3, mezzanine, Education and Research Center

Friday, March 28, 2008, 1:30 p.m., Theater 3, mezzanine, Education and Research Center





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Miss G you would definitely enjoy the Steel Helmet. I wish I was in NYC. I would love to go see it on the big screen. I have owned it on video for many years and finally got the DVD. It is an amazing movie and not an a-typical war film. It is very, very good.


You should go. I wish I could. Go and represent us.




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MissG -- Would you enjoy THE STEEL HELMET? That's tough. I really don't know. Should you enjoy THE STEEL HELMET? Absolutely (with an obligatory kick in the gut)!


I saw it on DVD, then I saw it in a theatre. I really liked it on DVD. I LOVED IT IN THE THEATRE!!!!! (See how I take on Sam's style?)


*THE STEEL HELMET* and *FIXED BAYONETS!* are two top-of-the-line war movies. There's no blood-and-guts overtly on the screen, but there is more emotion, life and reality in those nearly two-dimensional sets and backlots than in a dozen movies by most directors.


A friend of mine compared *Fuller* with Douglas Sirk, which initially struck me as odd. His point was that most people are very uncomfortable with the display of raw emotion -- especially males watching emotion from males -- on the screen. *Fuller* and *Sirk* based their life's work on the display of emotion by males.


And *Gene Evans* (in print, "If you die, I'll kill you" reads as a cliche; on film...oh, my!) approaches the pinnacle of acting in THE STEEL HELMET.


Go. Or, GO! If you don't like it, I'll watch...THE QUIET MAN...again. I promise.

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Go. Or, GO! If you don't like it, I'll watch...THE QUIET MAN...again. I promise.




Ok, you and Kim convinced me. If it's at all possible, I'll go see it. I like *Forty Guns* so maybe I will like my 2nd venture into Fuller territory. I'll let you know.

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