Mini-Review: A Fuller Life (2013)

fullerlife_1Starring James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, James Toback, Kelly Ward, Perry Lang, Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, Tim Roth, Wim Wenders, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry, Constance Towers, William Friedkin

Directed by Samantha Fuller

Expectations: High. I love Sam Fuller!

threehalfstar


A Fuller Life is a wonderful tribute from a daughter to her father. Samantha Fuller hasn’t put together a documentary, but more a concise, visual version of Sam Fuller’s memoir, A Third Face. This approach seems like an odd choice at first, but much like the films of Sam Fuller himself, A Fuller Life carves its own path and succeeds in creating something unique and worthwhile.

The script is composed of selections from A Third Face, read by his friends, colleagues and admirers. Each person puts their own energy and interpretation into the reading, and coupled with the undeniable truth and spirit of Fuller’s words, it plays almost like a final collaboration with the iconoclast. Through their performances, Fuller’s words come alive and transcend the printed page, even for someone like me that has already read the book.

fullerlife_2Not only does this non-traditional style work for this film, it’s perhaps the only way to properly paint a picture of Sam Fuller as vibrant and affecting as the man himself. A traditional documentary might catch glimpses of the fire and the passion of his words, but in A Fuller Life it’s almost like having Fuller himself telling you a quick version of his story and struggles. The material is riveting, and each reader is exceptional well-suited to the passages they read. The film reminded me of everything I love about Sam Fuller, both the man and the director, and this overview of his life allowed me to appreciate even more just how incredible his story was.

If you’re a Fuller fan, it’s definitely worth your time, and if you’re Fuller-curious I’d say that outside of Fuller’s own films, it’s probably the best introduction you could ask for.

A Fuller Life has been recently released to DVD, currently available exclusively on the Chrisam Films website. The DVD has a few bonus interviews, as well.

 

The Naked Kiss (1964)

thenakedkiss_1Starring Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad, Linda Francis, Bill Sampson

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Moderate.

threehalfstar


Sam Fuller always kicks off his movies with something gripping and impressive, but the opening of The Naked Kiss is perhaps the most memorable of them all. The film opens with Kelly (Constance Towers), a prostitute, beating the living hell out of the pimp that stiffed her of $75. In the scuffle, Kelly’s wig falls off and reveals that she has a completely bald head. Unfazed, Kelly continues giving the pimp everything she’s got. It’s a striking set of images to say the least, made all the more impressive by the year of release. The Naked Kiss is definitely the type of movie that could have never been made from within the studio system.

From here, the film jumps forward a couple of years. We reconnect with Kelly as she arrives in Grantville, an idyllic small town. Her first contact is with Griff, the local police chief. He’s quick on the uptake, seeing through her “traveling champagne saleswoman” ruse for what it is, a thinly veiled front for a roving prostitution business. But after her night with Griff, Kelly wakes up and stares at herself in the mirror. Something’s changed, and from that moment on she does her best to start a new life for herself in Grantville. The only problem is that Griff wants her to get a job at the cathouse across the river, so that he can still slyly partake in her pleasures without jeopardizing his job.

Continue reading The Naked Kiss (1964) →

Shock Corridor (1963)

Starring Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes, Larry Tucker, Paul Dubov, Chuck Roberson, Neyle Morrow, John Matthews, Bill Zuckert, John Craig, Philip Ahn

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. I’ve seen it before, about nine-ten years back, but now I like Sam Fuller a lot more.


I’ve previously stated my love for Samuel Fuller, so I won’t repeat myself here. I had seen this film about nine years back, and I liked it at the time, but it was the first Sam Fuller film I had seen and it was before I knew anything about him. After watching Shutter Island, I had a burning desire to re-watch Shock Corridor, another film dealing with mental hospitals. Scorsese is on record as being a huge fan of this film, so I figured at some level he was influenced to make Shutter Island out of his love for Shock Corridor. After re-watching this, I can’t say that there’s any specific connection between the two, but it did make for an interesting pair of very different films.

Fuller opens his film with a Euripides quote, “Whom God wishes to destroy, he first turns mad.” It’s a stark way to open a B-picture, but this is Sam Fuller we’re talking about and he is all about putting the truth in our faces and letting us squirm in our seats as we are confronted by it. It is interesting to consider this quote against each character and how they ended up in the mental hospital. The quote exemplifies everything Fuller is trying to say within the film, so unlike a lot of quotes at the beginning of stuff, this one has real weight and power behind it.

Continue reading Shock Corridor (1963) →

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