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The Sam Fuller Film Collection DVD set


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Just found out that Sony Pictures is planning the release of a Sam Fuller Film Collection DVD set later this year, which will reportedly include It Happened in Hollywood (1937), Adventure in Sahara (1938), Power of the Press (1943), Shockproof (1949), Scandal Sheet (1952), The Crimson Kimono (1959) and Underworld U.S.A. (1961).

 

(As you can see, it includes not only movies directed by Fuller, but also some on which he was a writer but not the director).

 

More info:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0024FAG6W

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'The Crimson Kimono' is the only one of those I've seen. It's a great murder mystery and meditation on racial prejudice in general and American identity in particular. Way ahead of its time.

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TCM is showing *Scandal Sheet* twice in September. Phil Karlson directed the movie, which is based on a novel written by Fuller. Fuller was not involved in writing the screenplay (or, at least, received no screen credit).

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Yes, of course, I hope I didn't make it sound like he'd written the screenplays to the movies he didn't direct - just that the movies in the set involved him at some point, either as a director or because they were based on something he had written or adapted to the screen.

 

In any case, it's going to be an exciting boxset for noir fans. ;)

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It seems the Criterion Collection has a bunch of Sam Fuller films out including a 3 dvd set of his first films"Jesse James" "Baron' and "Steel Helmet". They also have "White Dog" and "Pick-up on South Street" among others.Was not aware of this collection.

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Criterion also released Fuller's Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, which I hope to watch soon.

 

The 3 movies that TCM showed recently - I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona and The Steel Helmet - were in fact released through the Eclipse collection, which is also a Criterion label. But, unlike Criterion DVDs, those released as Eclipse titles are movie-only, without any bonus features whatsoever.

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  • 4 weeks later...

> {quote:title=leecw wrote:}{quote}

> 'The Crimson Kimono' is the only one of those I've seen. It's a great murder mystery and meditation on racial prejudice in general and American identity in particular. Way ahead of its time.

 

It is good to know that a 35mm print of this great Fuller film will be shown in Sept. at the Roxie in SF. For everyone else, there's always the Fuller DVD set, which as of right now seems to be scheduled for Oct. 27.

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  • 2 months later...

I keep watching, and being disappointed in, Fuller's films. STEEL HELMET is preachy and overt. At least, I SHOT JESSE JAMES is a western. I like the genre. But it gets progressively less credible until it hits ridiculous. Didn't like NAKED KISS. And SHOCK CORRIDOR is either the most bizarre comedy or the worst drama I've ever seen. Guess I'm not a fan.

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The set's out in a couple of days, and here it gets another great review in the L.A. Times:

 

*DVDs: 'The Samuel Fuller Collection'*

The writer-director's vivid, hard-hitting style is fully captured in a new seven-disc set featuring commentaries by Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson and Tim Robbins.

 

By Dennis Lim

 

October 25, 2009

 

Samuel Fuller was a director with a signature style: blunt verging on brutal, partial to shock cuts and mega close-ups. As a screenwriter, this former crime reporter was no less distinctive, favoring hot-button issues and hard-boiled repartee.

 

A superb new seven-disc set, "The Samuel Fuller Collection" ($79.95, Sony, out Tuesday), which contains two films written and directed by Fuller and five earlier efforts on which he has a writing or story credit, is an intriguing auteurist study that shows the Fuller personality both as the driving force of a film and as an (often powerful) ingredient in the mix.

 

The Fuller-directed movies, "The Crimson Kimono" (1959) and "Underworld U.S.A." (1961), are superior B-pictures, prime examples of his uncanny ability to combine brisk, graphic filmmaking with psychological complexity. A compact mob epic that often approaches operatic intensity, "Underworld U.S.A." is one of Fuller's most in-your-face movies, which is saying something.

 

As Martin Scorsese puts it in one of the DVD supplements: "Almost every shot hits you like a punch." The set, being released in partnership with Scorsese's film preservation organization, the Film Foundation, also features interviews with Fuller's widow, Christa, and filmmakers Curtis Hanson and Tim Robbins.

 

As a boy, the movie's anti-hero, Tolly Devlin, witnesses the back-alley killing of his father -- an indelible scene, rendered as shadows on a wall. As an adult, played by a glowering Cliff Robertson, he exacts revenge, disposing of the murderers and taking down their crime syndicate with help from a prostitute named Cuddles (Dolores Dorn).

 

Tolly's single-minded mania seems to infect the increasingly heated filmmaking. The final shot -- a zoom-in to Tolly's clenched knuckles -- echoes the famous moment from Fuller's directing debut, 1949's "I Shot Jesse James," when a punch is landed on the camera.

 

Fuller dealt directly and provocatively with race throughout his career, from "The Steel Helmet," a multiethnic platoon movie, to "White Dog," about a racist German shepherd. Like those films, "The Crimson Kimono" (1959) seems years ahead of its time.

 

A nominal murder mystery, the movie is more interested in the love triangle that forms among two police detectives -- one white (Glenn Corbett), the other Japanese American (James Shigeta), good friends who met while fighting in the Korean War -- and the winsome artist they encounter in the course of their investigation (Victoria Shaw).

 

Fuller ventures into the rice-cake factories and Buddhist temples of L.A.'s Little Tokyo and sets the film's physical and psychological climax at a kendo tournament. When the romantic battle tips in favor of the Japanese cop, the reactions of all parties are surprising and complicated, not least that of the Shigeta character, whose guilt is warped by reflexive paranoia and self-loathing.

 

The two earliest films in the set are not especially Fuller-esque. "It Happened in Hollywood" (1937), directed by Harry Lachman, is an amusing oddity about a star of silent westerns whose career is derailed by the advent of sound. "Adventure in Sahara" (1938), a "Mutiny on the Bounty" knockoff, suffers from plodding direction by D. Ross Lederman.

 

In keeping with Fuller's reputation as a tabloid poet, there are also a pair of newsroom potboilers. "Power of the Press" (1943), the story of an internal struggle at a big-city paper, is padded out with monologues on the dangers of wartime isolationism. "Scandal Sheet" (1952), a noir directed by genre specialist Phil Karlson and adapted from Fuller's novel "The Back Page," has a pleasingly karmic set-up: a tabloid sensationalist kills his wife and finds his paper's prize newshound hot on his trail.

 

The oddest film in the set, "Shockproof" (1949), is a fascinating marriage of feverish sensibilities as well as a casualty of studio meddling: Douglas Sirk directing a Fuller script that had its nihilistic ending incongruously altered.

 

The outrageous conflicts of the central romance, between a convicted murderess (Patricia Knight) and her upright parole officer (Cornel Wilde), are vintage Fuller, but the mirrored surfaces and rippling ironies are pure Sirk.

 

The nonsensical happy ending evidently annoyed Sirk, but Fuller appears to have been less bothered. He devotes a mere paragraph to "Shockproof" in his supremely readable memoir, "A Third Face," noting that his original title was "The Lovers." But, he added: "One of my postwar scripts had finally been made into a movie, so I didn't give a damn what they called it."

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I got mine in the mail but haven't had time to watch them yet.

 

In the meantime, here's another rave review, from Leonard Maltin:

 

*_THE SAMUEL FULLER COLLECTION_* - (Sony/The Film Foundation)

 

There has never been a filmmaker quite like Sam Fuller: as director Curtis Hanson remarks in one of the interviews on this DVD set, he constituted his own genre. Fuller?s staccato, slap-in-the-face melodramas, war stories and genre pieces all bore his unique voice. As it happens only two of the films on this 7-disc set are bona fide Fuller productions, The Crimson Kimono (1959) and Underworld U.S.A. (1961). They may not be his best films but they?re significant contributions to his catalogue: Kimono deals with racial identity, friendship forged in war, and a part of Los Angeles that even some natives might not be familiar with, Little Tokyo. (It also has a lurid hook that didn?t hurt in promoting the picture: it opens with a buxom blond stripper being shot down in the middle of a busy street.) Underworld U.S.A. puts a personal slant on the story of a criminal career: a boy sees his father slain in a back alley, and spends the rest of his life propelled by revenge.

 

Martin Scorsese is a particular fan of this film. In his on-camera introduction he says, ?Some say that he was always a pulp artist, but at this point in his career...everything extraneous [in his pictures] was cut away. They were blunt and direct and forceful. It?s the style of the film that you really remember. I mean, almost every shot hit you like a punch.

 

?I think it has to do with the composition, the camera movement, but also, the rhythm of the cutting?a kind of jarring kind of cutting?and basic elemental nature of the story, because the character played by Cliff Robertson [is] defined by his vengeance. It?s behind every move he makes and Fuller was always jarring the viewers to attention with clashes of images, sounds, emotions... There are so many images and cuts and gestures of the actors and moves from this particular film that have stayed with me over the years and affected my own movies.?

 

The DVD set also covers two earlier phases of Fuller?s career as a screenwriter, offering three B movies and two later films that executed his stories with flair, if not Fuller?s own distinct visual approach (Shockproof, with Cornel Wilde, directed by Douglas Sirk, and Scandal Sheet, based on Fuller?s novel The Dark Page, directed by Phil Karlson, with Broderick Crawford and John Derek.)

 

Wray-Dix-twoshot.jpg

Fay Wray and Richard Dix in It Happened in Hollywood

 

In many ways the discoveries in this collection are the oldest, and least significant films, a trio of Columbia Pictures programmers. It Happened in Hollywood (1937) is a good-hearted story about a silent-film cowboy hero (Richard Dix) whose career fades during the sound era...but when a boy who?s always been a loyal fan shows up in Hollywood, Dix feels obliged to put up a good front. Fuller shared writing credit with four others on this simple yarn, including the redoubtable Myles Connolly (Frank Capra?s close friend and colleague), but anyone who might be tempted to write it off as trivial should remember that years later, in his heyday, Fuller cast cowboy star Tim McCoy in a small part in Run of the Arrow. I once asked him why and he told me that McCoy had been a boyhood hero of his.

 

Adventure in Sahara (1938), with a story by Fuller and a screenplay by Maxwell Shane,is a standard-issue Foreign Legion tale that runs just under one hour. It is a model of simplicity and efficiency in storytelling. Director D. Ross Lederman is no one?s idea of an auteur, but he handles this road-company Beau Geste with vigor and panache. While Paul Kelly is a capable hero, it?s character actor C. Henry Gordon who stands out as a despicable desert despot. I had a lot of fun watching this one.

 

Power of the Press (1943) is more interesting for its ambition than its execution. Again, Fuller gets story credit, while Robert D. Andrews wrote the screenplay. On the surface this is a formulaic piece about a small-town newspaperman (Guy Kibbee) who comes to the big city and takes over a major daily from its corrupt editor. It?s the specifics that add interest: that editor and his publisher are isolationists, in the midst of World War Two, who provoke the public with rabble-rousing (and often unsubstantiated) stories designed to fuel their personal influence...and profits. Villainy is in the capable hands of actors like Otto Kruger and Victor Jory, while newspaper-movie veteran Lee Tracy plays a much-too-malleable managing editor...but the film suffers from B-movie superficiality and too much speechifying by Kibbee. Still, the concept of unpatriotic power brokers stirring public foment for their private gain is pretty compelling. I?m glad I had a chance to see this.

 

Fuller never forgot, or forsook, his experience working on a newspaper, and it informs much of his work. Other observations about the filmmaker by his wife Christa, his daughter Samantha, and such friends and admirers as Wim Wenders, Tim Robbins, Scorsese and Hanson are provided in an interesting 25-minute documentary (as well as specific introductions to selected films) in this collection. The movies have all been nicely restored, making this DVD set a worthwhile addition to any film library.

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Here's another review, this time from The New York Times:

 

DVDs

*Tabloid Auteur: Muscular Vision of Samuel Fuller*

By DAVE KEHR

 

THE gruff, cigar-cured voice of Samuel Fuller remains one of the most distinctive in American movies. Born Samuel Rabinovitch in 1912, Fuller began his career as a New York tabloid journalist and pulp novelist but, like many of his colleagues on the lower rungs of the literary trades in the ?20s and ?30s, eventually found himself in Hollywood, pumping out screenplays for B pictures.

 

Many transplanted writers affected a disdain for the medium that chewed up their work (and gave them nothing but a fat paycheck in return), but Fuller was genuinely fascinated by the power of cinema. For him movies offered a way of continuing journalism by other means, of telling great stories with a punch and immediacy that even newsprint could not equal.

 

Fuller landed his first directing assignment in 1949, by selling his screenplay for ?I Shot Jesse James? to the Poverty Row producer Robert Lippert and offering to throw in his filmmaking services free. (?Jesse James,? along with Fuller?s two subsequent films for Lippert, ?The Baron of Arizona? and ?The Steel Helmet,? are available on Criterion?s Eclipse label.) From that point there was no turning back, and Fuller spent the balance of the 1950s feverishly turning out westerns (?Forty Guns?), crime films (?Pickup on South Street?) and war movies (?Fixed Bayonets!?), all shaped by his taste for dramatic extremes, violent conflicts and urgent moralizing.

 

An impressive new release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, ?The Samuel Fuller Collection,? offers seven films with Fuller?s name attached to them, all appearing on DVD for the first time. For those new to his work this may not be the place to start an acquaintance. Restricted to films released by Columbia Pictures, this set offers only two full-fledged Fuller directorial efforts, along with five films on which he contributed as a writer, always as one collaborator among many.

 

It?s nice to have a shiny new copy of Harry Lachman?s 1937 ?It Happened in Hollywood.? But Fuller was just one of three screenwriters assigned to adapt a story by the producer Myles Connolly, and it isn?t easy to discern his hand in this gentle comedy about a silent cowboy star (Richard Dix) and his difficulties adapting to the talkies. ?Adventure in Sahara? (1938) is more in Fuller?s range; he wrote the story, which centers on an imperious French Foreign Legion commander (C. Henry Gordon) and the egalitarian American (Paul Kelly) who opposes him. This is an early manifestation of the anti-authoritarian strain in Fuller?s work, although the hurried direction, by the Columbia B specialist D. Ross Lederman, obscures any further niceties.

 

Fuller?s voice can be heard loud and clear in ?Power of the Press? (1943), efficiently directed by Lew Landers and perhaps the one real discovery in the Sony collection. Adapted by Robert Andrews from a Fuller story, the film takes place in Fuller?s favorite territory ? the smoky caves of New York journalism ? and begins with the kind of throat-grabbing sequence that would soon become his trademark: a newspaper publisher is assassinated just as he stands up to make a speech at a testimonial dinner.

 

Fuller?s fingerprints are all over the villain played by Otto Kruger (an evil businessman with fascist leanings who hopes to use the paper to undermine the war effort) and are particularly prominent on the hero, played by Lee Tracy. He is the first of Fuller?s many protagonists named Griff, and the first to undergo the distinctive transformation, from cynical self-interest to idealistic enlightenment, that drives much of Fuller?s work.

 

The next two titles demonstrate what happens when auteurs collide. ?Shockproof? (1949), Fuller?s lovers-on-the-run story about a parole officer (Cornel Wilde, playing Griff No. 2) who falls for a murderess in his charge (Patricia Knight), seems too hard-edged and down-market for its director, the smoothly continental Douglas Sirk (who nonetheless contributes some strikingly baroque visuals).

 

?Scandal Sheet? (1952), based on Fuller?s 1944 novel ?The Dark Page,? suffers from the opposite problem: the material, about a tabloid reporter (John Derek) who discovers that his mentor and editor (Broderick Crawford) is the lonelyhearts killer he is searching for, requires a certain sentimentality that the hard-nosed director, Phil Karlson (?The Phenix City Story?), staunchly refuses to provide.

 

It feels like a release, then, to get to the final two features in the box, ?The Crimson Kimono? (1959) and ?Underworld U.S.A.? (1961), both films that Fuller wrote, directed and produced for his independent company, Globe Enterprises. By this point, with a decade of directing behind him, Fuller had developed a visual style to match his hard-pounding prose: in a famous shot in ?Crimson Kimono,? a police detective (Glenn Corbett) aims a karate kick right in the viewer?s face. Extreme close-ups (the ?two big eyes? shot, years before Sergio Leone made it his own) contrast no less violently with distant, telephoto views of violence in the street. (Pursued by a gunman, a stripper runs half-naked down seamy Main Street in Los Angeles.)

 

After its energetic opening ?The Crimson Kimono? develops into a liberal message movie about a Japanese-American detective (James Shigeta, with his soft, cultured voice) who falls for one of his witnesses, a Caucasian art student (Victoria Shaw). The no less unsettling opening of ?Underworld U.S.A.,? in which a 12-year-old boy professionally rolls a drunk and then watches as his father is beaten to death in an alley by four crime syndicate figures, leads to a right-wing fantasy of violent revenge. The boy grows up to be a case-hardened criminal (Cliff Robertson, vainly affecting a tough-guy accent) whose single-minded quest for revenge anticipates the action movies of the ?70s (and seems to have exerted a direct influence on Quentin Tarantino).

 

The politics of these two films may seem to contradict each other, but contradictions are the essence of Fuller?s passionate, instinctive art. Hovering over a wounded man in ?The Steel Helmet,? a sergeant (Gene Evans) barks, ?If you die, I?ll kill you!,? possibly the most famous line in a Fuller movie, and a prime example of his ability to override logic and consistency in pursuit of a vivid emotional effect.

 

?The Samuel Fuller Collection? is a valuable addition to film scholarship, but it offers only a tantalizing sample of Fuller?s audacity and vigor. See it, but save room for ?Shock Corridor? (1963) and ?The Naked Kiss? (1964), both available in first-class editions from Criterion. (Sony, $79.95, not rated)

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Would you believe I have yet to insert a single disc from the set on my player? This is terrible - at the rate I'm going, it's going to be 2010 before I watch any of them.

 

OK, maybe it won't be that bad, but the excitement of this week's release of Gone with the Wind has definitely made me put this one on the back burner... but just for a little while. ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I liked one! PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET. I thought I'd already seen it, but apparently, I was confused. I enjoyed the driving pace, the cold brutality, the survivalist attitude. Even this one I'll criticize. Most ridiculous love angle I've ever seen! The "drop of the hat" theory is accepted in movies. But these people go from threatened to smitten in one scene. It's laughable. But a tight little thriller in spite of the stretched credibility.

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Pick-Up on South Street is on my list, but I haven't seen it yet. I think that one was released by Criterion.

 

By the way, I just wanted to mention that Sony's Samuel Fuller Collection just got reduced on amazon, down to about $39.99. That's a really good prize for a set that has 7 movies, with extras. :D

 

Edited by: HollywoodGolightly on Dec 3, 2009 5:29 PM

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  • 1 month later...

Finally had a chance to get started with this set, and watched The Crimson Kimono for the very first time. Good noir, probably done on a fairly small budget, with typical Fuller flair. I really wasn't familiar with the actors in it, which in this case probably helped me enjoy the movie more.

 

There's a great Curtis Hanson introduction on the DVD which really does a good job of explaining how different this movie was back in the 50s, because of its willingness to explore certain aspects about Asian-Americans in non-cliched ways, and without racial stereotypes. (This is the same decade that gave us Flower Drum Song, after all).

 

Of course, there's also some great location shooting in and around L.A. - I think Hanson said something about how much Fuller grew to love L.A. after having left NYC.

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The Columbia Sam Fuller set was just highlighted in the Greenbriar Picture Show blog, look for the Jan. 18th, 2010 entry if you don't see it at the top:

 

http://greenbriarpictureshows.blogspot.com/

 

I like it when he says that "The nice thing about the DVD box is dual usefulness as Fuller instructional plus first acquaintance for many with Columbia B output from the 30?s/40?s. Other than some horror films and one or two westerns John Wayne happened to appear in, we?ve had nothing by way of low-budget disc representation from this company.".

 

How true. How true.

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