Sam Fuller’s TV Work Pt. 1: The Dick Powell Show & The Virginian

fullerWelcome to the third and final phase in my exhaustive look at the work of Sam Fuller! Here I will explore the television episodes directed by Fuller. In A Third Face, Sam Fuller is not shy about how most of his work in television was done for cold hard cash. By the ’60s he was transitioning back to independent films, so a quick TV job paid the bills and didn’t take up too much time. That’s the gist of what I got from the quick passages about it in the book, anyway.

What’s interesting is that Fuller paints the picture of his debut on television as being around The Virginian, making no mention at all of The Dick Powell Show. I suppose production schedules and the like could have forced the episode of The Virginian to release after 330 Independence S.W., but at this point I don’t think it matters one way or the other. The important thing is that It Tolls for Thee was both written and directed by Fuller, and he was approached specifically to create an episode for the show. In A Third Face Fuller states that this episode was to be the show’s pilot, but some shuffling must have occurred because it ended up as the 9th episode aired. He makes no mention at all of 330 Independence S.W., but he does mention receiving a bunch of TV offers that he turned down. Apparently, he didn’t turn down that one! If he truly did forget the episode, I’m not surprised. When he quickly discusses his episodes of Iron Horse in his book, he flat-out admits that he only remembers one of the six he made. His heart just wasn’t in it.


330independencesw_1The Dick Powell Show: 330 Independence S.W. (1962)
First aired: 03/20/1962

Starring William Bendix, David McLean, Julie Adams, Bert Freed, Alan Reed Jr., Yale Summers, Ed Kemmer, Les Damon, Adrienne Ellis, Norman Alden, Michael Harvey

Directed by Samuel Fuller


330 Independence S.W. was Fuller’s first work on TV, and while its subject matter is somewhat Fuller-esque, you’d be hard-pressed to find the director’s stamp on this work. That’s not surprising, TV in those days was a lot more uniform than it is now, but I did hope for a slight glimmer. Especially since this was probably shot sometime between Underworld USA and Merrill’s Marauders, during the prime period of Fuller’s career.

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Klansman (1974)

klansmanStarring Lee Marvin, Richard Burton, Cameron Mitchell, O.J. Simpson, Lola Falana, David Huddleston, Luciana Paluzzi, Linda Evans

Directed by Terence Young

Expectations: None.

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Klansman is an abysmal experience. It’s a race relations film, so you’d expect it to take some stance against racism. Instead, the film, like the lead character, is hesitant to come out in favor of a side (and not in a through-provoking ambiguous way). In fact, the film actually feels like it’s saying you shouldn’t interfere with the unstoppable juggernaut of the Klan, and that the races should just mind their own and stay segregated. Yeah. W. T. F.

Klansman began its life as a 1967 novel by William Bradford Huie, which was subsequently optioned and offered to Sam Fuller to write and direct as a film. Fuller jumped in head-first, delivering a script that sought to show the KKK in a brutally realistic manner. Production started to roll forward and Lee Marvin was cast as the Klan leader, the film’s lead. But before the cameras rolled, Paramount got cold feet about Fuller’s vitriolic version, replacing him with British director Terence Young and having his edgy script completely re-written. Fuller had taken the novel’s story as a starting point for his own socially charged yarn, and in the rewrites his villainous Klan leader character was changed back to the novel’s lead: a mild-mannered town sheriff caught in the middle of a race war.

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The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

Starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch, Marthe Villalonga

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Been wanting to see this restoration since it came out.


This may be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. Above all, I want to do justice to the film and to the memory of the Fightin’ First, the Big Red One. Like never before, after viewing Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, I feel that I grasp the immensity of their service in World War II and their contribution to the war effort. Viewing the film takes the audience on the journey with the soldiers, almost like an embedded reporter out to capture the reality of the situation. It is remarkable and somewhat unfathomable that with so much death surrounding them, these men were able to come out as survivors. The Big Red One is a film that creeps up on you in subtle ways and before you know it, you realize that you absolutely love it.

Sam Fuller brings distinct credibility to the film, himself a member of the Big Red One during the times covered in the film. The film forgoes a distinct plot and takes on an episodic format that plays out like a war diary. It’s rather ironic that this type of semi-fragmented film actually ends up packing in more narrative, character arcs and genuine excitement than most traditional films. After recently viewing Saving Private Ryan again, I was a bit worried about watching this so close after. Both films cover the Normandy beach invasion and have similar themes.

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