The Films of Samuel Fuller

Samuel Fuller is one of the greatest directors of all time, but sadly his name is not generally spoken in the same breath as auteurs such as Hitchcock, Kubrick or Truffaut. His films showcase realism and social awareness years ahead of their time, informed by his service with the U.S. Army during World War II. The only combat veteran to become a Hollywood director, Fuller’s experiences on the front line shaped his life and the films he made. His career as a journalist played just as big of a role, contributing a to-the-point, direct nature to his work that is unlike any other director. His films are largely forgotten, but they rank among some of the best cinema that has to offer. Martin Scorsese once said, “If you don’t like the films of Sam Fuller, then you just don’t like cinema.” Truer words have never been spoken. Thanks to the work of people at Criterion, the Warner Archive and Sony, a number of his previously unavailable films are now within reach.

This page will serve as a hub for all of my reviews of his films.

Now that I’ve completed reviewing all of Fuller’s directorial films, I’ve worked up a list of my 10 favorites!

As Director:

The 1940s

Title Release Date
I Shot Jesse James 02/26/1949

The 1950s

Title Release Date
The Baron of Arizona 03/04/1950
The Steel Helmet 02/02/1951
Fixed Bayonets! 12/XX/1951
Park Row 08/12/1952
Pickup on South Street 05/29/1953
Hell and High Water 02/06/1954
House of Bamboo 07/01/1955
China Gate 05/22/1957
Run of the Arrow 09/05/1957
Forty Guns 12/05/1957
Verboten! 03/25/1959
The Crimson Kimono 10/XX/1959

The 1960s

Title Release Date
Underworld U.S.A. 05/13/1961
Merrill’s Marauders 06/13/1962
Shock Corridor 09/11/1963
The Naked Kiss 10/29/1964
Shark! AKA Caine [Disowned] 10/08/1969

The 1970s

Title Release Date
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
Feature-length film for German TV Program: Tatort

The 1980s

Title Release Date
The Big Red One 07/18/1980
White Dog 07/07/1982
Thieves After Dark 02/27/1984
Street of No Return 05/17/1989

The 1990s

Title Release Date
The Madonna and the Dragon
TV Movie

Related Documentaries

Title Director Release Date
Falkenau, the Impossible Emil Weiss 10/05/1988
Tell Me Sam Emil Weiss XX/XX/1989
Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made Mika Kaurismäki 12/21/1994
An American in Normandy
[Unavailable: Please contact me if you have this!]
Jean-Louis Comolli XX/XX/1994
The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera Adam Simon 06/28/1996
A Fuller Life Samantha Fuller 2013

Television Episodes
Directed by Fuller

Title Release Date
330 Independence S.W.
From the TV Program: The Dick Powell Theatre
It Tolls for Thee
From the TV Program: The Virginian
High Devil
From the TV Program: Iron Horse
The Man from New Chicago
From the TV Program: Iron Horse
From the TV Program: Iron Horse
Volcano Wagon
From the TV Program: Iron Horse
Banner with a Strange Device
From the TV Program: Iron Horse
The Red Tornado
From the TV Program: Iron Horse
The Day of Reckoning
From the TV Anthology Program: Chillers

Works written by Fuller
(or derived from his original scripts,
more info will be in the reviews)

The 1930s

Title Director Release Date
Hats Off Boris Petroff 12/06/1936
It Happened in Hollywood Harry Lachman 09/07/1937
Gangs of New York James Cruze 05/23/1938
Adventure in Sahara D. Ross Lederman 11/15/1938
Federal Man-Hunt Nick Grinde 12/26/1938

The 1940s

Title Director Release Date
Bowery Boy William Morgan 12/27/1940
Confirm or Deny Archie Mayo 12/12/1941
Power of the Press Lew Landers 01/28/1943
Margin for Error Otto Preminger 02/10/1943
Gangs of the Waterfront George Blair 07/03/1945
Shockproof Douglas Sirk 01/25/1949

The 1950s

Title Director Release Date
The Tanks Are Coming Lewis Seiler 10/31/1951
Scandal Sheet Phil Karlson 01/16/1952
The Command David Butler 02/13/1954

The 1960s

Title Director Release Date
The Cape Town Affair
(Remake of Pickup on South Street
No other Fuller connection)
Robert D. Webb 09/29/1967

The 1970s

Title Director Release Date
The Deadly Trackers Barry Shear 12/21/1973
Klansman Terence Young 11/13/1974

The 1980s

Title Director Release Date
Let’s Get Harry Stuart Rosenberg 10/31/1986

The 1990s

Title Director Release Date
Girls in Prison John McNaughton 08/19/1994

Other Related Films

Title Director Release Date
A Return to Salem’s Lot Larry Cohen 05/XX/1987

8 comments to The Films of Samuel Fuller

  • Phil

    For anyone unfamiliar with Fuller’s work;

    I’d consider and recommend to begin with the following that I would call his ‘essential films’. This list isn’t necessarily my personal favorites or even his best films but I think captures Sam Fuller’s style and topics that were most impactful to viewers and himself.

    1) The Steel Helmet: The film that got Fuller’s directorial career to garner attention from the big companies. A raw style that covers controversial topics at the time.

    2) Park Row: A personal favorite of Samuel Fuller and a interesting back story on how difficult it was to even get this film made.

    3)Pickup on South Street: Many critics consider to be his ‘Best’ film, not quite as complicated as some of his later plots so perhaps easier to digest for folks unfamiliar with Fuller.

    4)Shock Corridor/ 5)Naked Kiss- Grouped these two together because they were made and produced on the same deal and both were more experimental/unique story wise which produced iconic Fuller ‘moments’ in both.

    6) The Big Red One: The film Fuller waited years to make and is essentially an autobiography about his time serving in World War II. A movie that would influence many future war movies.

    • Great list, those are definitely the essential Fuller films!

      I would say The Steel Helmet and Pickup on South Street are the two best “entry-level” Fuller films. My firsts were Shock Corridor and Naked Kiss, when I was a teenager, and I simply wasn’t ready for them. I thought they were OK, but I couldn’t understand why they were seen as “great films.” It wasn’t until I saw The Steel Helmet a few years later that I became a fan.

      • Phil

        I agree. I think Steel Helmet followed up by Pickup On South Street would be best way to go. My list was just in chronological order.

        My first two Fuller movies were also Shock Corridor and Naked Kiss via Criterion’s edition. I was confused yet fascinated. Watching the ‘The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera’ in the special features really got me more interested and wanting to see more. I saw Steel Helmet on TCM the following week and loved it.

        • Oh, no disrespect to your list at all, I just wanted to chime in as well.

          That’s interesting that we both saw Shock Corridor and Naked Kiss and were intrigued enough to watch more and become fans, and that Steel Helmet was the one to seal the deal. I imagine many took a similar path, as the availability of his films was pretty bad until just a few years ago with all the DVD releases.

  • Phil

    Not sure where to post this….
    But I recently received and watched Olive Films recent release of ‘Shark!’. First time seeing the movie. Not sure if you’ve seen it yet, Will. I wont spoil the movie but a couple thoughts.

    Knowing the back story and how Fuller disowned this film after the producers re-cut/edit it I had very low expectations. But being a bit of a Fuller completest it is nice to see it and have in my Fuller collection. Granted I don’t see myself revisiting it very often unlike the rest of the Fuller filmography.

    -The title of this movie should of remained ‘Caine.’ Sharks play a very minimal role of this film its more about Burt Reynolds character, Caine then anything to do with sharks.

    -It was nice to see Barry Sullivan working with Fuller again. (also was the male lead in Forty Guns)

    – The movie wasn’t as horrible as I had feared, but it isn’t very good either. However, that is no fault to Sam Fuller.
    It is at times discombobulated and even boring thanks to the editing. But you can see obvious Fuller moments and shots (even the little boy’s character) that make you see the potential and wish it was kept as Fuller had wished. I think had it not been butchered it may have a been another great Fuller film.

    • I’d say this is as good a place as any at the moment; thanks for your thoughts. I have just received that release as well, but I have yet to watch it. I haven’t seen the film before either, so thanks for not spoiling anything. 🙂

      I have equally low expectations for it because of the disowning, but I’m very intrigued by the film. I look forward to reading that section of A Third Face after watching. Hopefully, Fuller offers some idea of what the film might have been without intrusion. Glad to hear there’s at least a few Fuller moments.

      In other news, I’m considering shifting some things around so that I can deliver the rest of these Sam Fuller reviews a bit quicker than I have been. Basically, every October I do an all horror month, and I’d like to burn through the rest of the Fuller stuff before then. We’ll see. If nothing else, I have an Underworld USA review for this Thursday!

      Also, I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’ve seen any of the films that Fuller only wrote. If you have, do you think they’re worthy of a look? Thanks.

      • Phil

        Excellent news. Looking forward to your Underworld USA review. Also curious to hear how you digest Shark!

        As far as the films Fuller has written credits for. I have the Samuel Fuller Collection set released by Sony/Columbia. It includes Underworld USA and Crimson Kimono that he directed as well as four films he was credited for writing. Adventure in Sahara, It Happened in Hollywood, Power of the Press, Scandal Sheet, and Shockproof

        Despite Fuller’s disappointment in how they turned out mostly because it wasnt his vision, Shockproof and Scandal Sheet stand out as definitely worth watching and entertaining.
        Power of the Press isn’t bad as it has a Fuller feel/subject. The other two are earlier credits (pre ww2) and not as good as the previous 3. Those are the only ones ive seen.

        • Those were the ones I was wondering about specifically. Sounds like they’d be worth checking out, I’ll have to do them as an epilogue to the series. Thanks!

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