Energy pours out of Fuller’s Park Row– his fifth film and easily his best to date in 1952
Starts with a declaration of purpose—a love letter to newspaper and newspaper men. 1772 different newspapers in the USA individually listed. Set in the 1880’s—would make for a decent double bill with Scorsese’s Gangs of New York set just two decades earlier in New York City (we’ve got the Dead Rabbits and Bowery Boys” mentioned here as gangs)—and the park row newspaper wars here are nearly as gritty and violent
Opens with a marvelous tracking shot as Gene Evans (Fuller’s lead now in three straight films after Steel Helmet and Fixed Bayonets!) strolls through park row with the credits on top
Fuller’s first full scene here after the titles and opening tracking shot over the titles is in a bar and he’s so skilled here at blocking faces and placing them in the square frame—a standout is at eight minutes he has three rows of individual people talking to each other but they’re all facing the camera
Sharp, fast-faced crackling witty jargon-filled dialogue like a Hawks’ screwball (like His Girl Friday also a film about the newspaper industry) or Aaron Sorkin
In that same opening scene at the bar there’s a shot of four faces at the bar with Evans in the foreground – his profile in the camera
Fuller is clearly buzzing with admiration for the subject matter— another tracking shot overhead the street—he’s going back and forth in this little world he built and clearly loves like say Cuaron’s Roma or Tarantino’s 1969 Hollywood in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The film is one of cinema’s most underrated films- not in the TSPDT top 2000—my guess is not enough people have seen it (it notoriously bankrupt Fuller upon release), and still isn’t easy to find today. Also, comparisons with Citizen Kane (it’s about a one-man newspaper man eccentric artist, an ambitious entrepreneur seeking truth) don’t help
like Steel Helmet and Fixed Bayonets! it is about a team of men- here instead of a platoon in the army it is the men working for Evan’s Globe newspaper here –- Fuller’s camera active roving around the crew
the tracking shots along the street, the work with body and face blocking in the frame, and then Fuller has this swirling shot of a dramatic kiss at 56 minutes—swinging behind bars obstructing the frame- stunning.
Kinetic— yet another jaw-dropping visual stylistic flourish is a tracking shot at 58 minutes—Evans flies out of the office and starts fighting wildly on the streets and Fuller’s camera goes with him. It is a dazzler- a 90 second shot closing with a close-up finish
That is quickly followed by the fist fight on the street
Authentic, crass, violent and gritty
A triumph for Gene Evans (losing about 40 lbs from his war films the year before) in the lead as Phineas Mitchell – Evans such a good fit for Fuller’s street-wise toughness
The happy ending doesn’t fully land
From the beginning of time there has always been an “independent”- and this is no different- Ulmer, to Fuller (if this isn’t indie cinema I don’t know what is—self financed and shot in 14 days) to Cassavetes to the 1990’s movement
This sounds pretty terrific. I’ll have to check it out.
@Matt Harris- I was very impressed. It’s available on Amazon Prime in the states at least. Between this and another film I saw last night, 1952 is much stronger than I had thought previously.
I’ll check for it. As for the other 1952 film… I wonder if it’s the same one I watched last night as well. And was floored by…
@ Matt Harris– has to be the same. haha. It may be a day or two before I post. I was very impressed– lots to unpack.
@Drake, if I had to make an educated guess based on your recent posts, the movie is Japanese with gorgeous cinematography by Asakazu Nazai, edited by Koichi Iwashita and directed by one of the top 10 (on TSPDT) directors of all time.
I saw it yesterday too.
I’ll see if I am right after you post about it in a few days.
Where would 1952 rank among movie years for you Drake and @Matt Harris? In my opinion, it is among the top 3 greatest years of the`1950s which makes it one of the greatest of all time!
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