Fuller. “If you don’t like Sam Fuller, you just don’t like cinema.” – Martin Scorsese. How about that? haha. For the purposes of this list fuller’s weakness is his best film (certainly he can’t match Carol Reed, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Victor Fleming or some others that fall behind him on the list here). Where he whoops those names is in the depth of his body of work. Fuller’s 8th best film is damn good and has his stamp of authorship. His films are just strange– B-movies, often visceral, grim gut-punches. He feels self-taught because he uses angles and has an atmosphere nobody had in his day. He’s certainly as much of a maverick as anyone on this list.
Best film: Pickup on South Street. It’s bleak, primeval, and stylistic. There are some small flaws but in the weeks after watching it those flaws mostly fade and you’re left with the power of Fuller’s desolate images.
total archiveable films: 12
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Pickup on South Street)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Pickup on South Street, White Dog)
most overrated: Shock Corridor. I’m due for a rewatch but for the time being I wouldn’t have it as high as the TSPDT consensus- they have it at #587. More than that—they have it as Fuller’s #1 film and I have it as a #3. Still though it’s a great film- another jewel that is almost so blunt it’s an exploitation movie. Fuller is really his own genre and when you watch as many movies as I do you cherish ones as wild yet as spectacularly well-made as this one.
most underrated: White Dog doesn’t land in the TSPDT top 1000 and it would certainly be in mine. It barely missed my top 500. It’s very much worthy of a top 100 1980’s film. This is like the best made-for-tv movie of all-time and I could see someone who stumbles into halfway and who has no idea about who Sam Fuller is or seen his work laughing at it but I’ve loved this movie for years and think just about perfect fuller; low-budget, unpolished, and brilliant.
gem I want to spotlight: The Steel Helmet. There are dozens if not hundreds of war films and there’s nothing that looks and feels like The Steel Helmet. It’s also a testament to Fuller an auteur that he can bounce from melodrama to noir/crime to the war genre (along with The Big Red One nearly 30 years later) that you can hear his voice even when he changes genre.
stylistic innovations/traits: Fuller is bizarre and hard-hitting. He has no interest in the art of subtlety. His films often deal with war, violence, racism and insanity or madness. Sarris calls him “American primitive” and says “it is time the cinema followed the other arts in honoring its primitives.” Behind the camera Fuller really was a stylistic Swiss army knife and had great crane shots, long takes, and montage sequences but not like anyone else- his films look at sound as if he’s self-taught and not touches by the influence of others.
- Pickup on South Street
- White Dog
- Shock Corridor
- Forty Guns
- Park Row
- The Big Red One
- The Naked Kiss
- The Steel Helmet
- The Baron of Arizona
- Underworld USA
By year and grades
|1949- I Shot Jesse James||R|
|1950- The Baron of Arizona||R|
|1951- The Steel Helmet||R|
|1952- Park Row||R|
|1953- Pickup On South Street||MS|
|1957- Forty Guns||HR|
|1957- Run of the Arrow||R|
|1961- Underworld USA||R|
|1963- Shock Corridor||HR|
|1964- The Naked Kiss||R|
|1980- The Big Red One||R|
|1982- White Dog||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives