The Crimson Kimono (1959)

The_Crimson_KimonoStarring Victoria Shaw, Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta, Anna Lee, Paul Dubov, Jaclynne Greene, Neyle Morrow, Gloria Pall

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. I saw this for the first time right before starting Silver Emulsion, so I’m excited to revisit it.

threehalfstar


Like all the Sam Fuller films I’ve seen, The Crimson Kimono is an interesting and unique film. It begins as something of a film noir, with a burlesque dancer chased and murdered in the middle of a busy Los Angeles street by a mysterious assailant. Stepping in to investigate this strange murder are LAPD detectives Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta). Yep, that’s right, a Japanese police detective in a ’50s film. If it were anyone other than Sam Fuller, I’d be surprised.

Not only does Fuller have a lead Japanese character in a position of power that would generally be shown as a white male, Fuller doesn’t portray Joe as a stereotype. Joe is an Asian character played by an Asian man. He speaks normally, he acts normally, and his culture is not presented as some den of villainy for the white men to bust into and break up. This is truly groundbreaking stuff, and Fuller should be more well-known for his contribution to this kind of socially conscious filmmaking.

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Run of the Arrow (1957)

runofthearrow1Run of the Arrow (1957)
AKA Hot Lead, Yuma

Starring Rod Steiger, Sara Montiel, Brian Keith, Ralph Meeker, Jay C. Flippen, Charles Bronson, Olive Carey, H.M. Wynant, Neyle Morrow, Frank DeKova

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller.

fourstar


This review officially marks the halfway point of my Sam Fuller series. It’s a little crazy that it’s taken me this long to only get halfway through, but I’m attacking it with newfound vigor and strength so I hope to complete it by year’s end. We’ll see. Anyway… Run of the Arrow! A truly impressive movie on so many levels, Sam Fuller once again crafts a yarn unlike any other I’ve seen, even among his own films. Every film I’ve seen of his is unique and thought-provoking, and Run of the Arrow is definitely one that brings up many questions. It’s a film about war, disillusionment, race and tolerance, and the road it travels to explore each of them is very unique.

Customary for a Sam Fuller film, the story opens excellently. Dead bodies rest on the smoking fields of battle and blood-red titles fade on-screen to let us know that it is the final day of the Civil War. A Union soldier rides lazy and confused through the battlefield. A gunshot sounds, and the soldier falls from his perch atop the horse. A rebel stands from a crouch behind a wagon wheel. He loots the soldier’s pockets and eats his food, using the man’s chest as a table. But when the soldier makes a tortured sound, the rebel finds the compassion within him to take him to a doctor’s tent that just so happens to be right outside the house where General Lee is surrendering to General Grant. The rebel is disgusted and refuses to accept the rule of the Yanks, so he leaves his family and rides west. There he meets up with a wandering Sioux named Walking Coyote, and his personal journey truly begins.

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China Gate (1957)

Starring Gene Barry, Angie Dickinson, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Paul Dubov, Lee Van Cleef, George Givot, Gerald Milton, Neyle Morrow, Marcel Dalio, Maurice Marsac, Warren Hsieh, Paul Busch, James Hong

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller.


It’s been about seven months since I did a Sam Fuller movie, so once again I find myself slacking off immensely on my review journey through his filmography. And every time after I finish a film I think, “Why did it take me so long to watch this?” I love Sam Fuller’s films more than I know how to communicate, and for some reason when I get infatuated with a filmmaker I have an in-born desire to stretch out seeing all of their movies for fear that one day there won’t be any more new ones to see. This is exactly the reason I haven’t seen every Kurosawa film, for example. It’s an irrational fear because when you get through them all, then you have the fun of re-watching them! But I resolve that in 2013 I will do my best to finish the series! Anyway, my personal neuroses aside, China Gate is a fantastic, underseen gem in the Fuller catalog, exhibiting just about everything fans have come to expect from the director.

Set during the end of the First Indochina War in Vietnam, China Gate is an action/adventure tale about a group of men on a mission to destroy an ammo depot. That’s the yarn in the broad sense, but the real tale is the story of Angie Dickinson and the lengths to which she’ll go for her child. She agrees to lead the men through enemy territory as she has developed a good rapport and reputation with the enemy forces through smuggling and prostitution. As I said, she’s a single mom willing to do anything necessary to provide for her child. The lead male of the group is her ex-husband Brock, a racist who left her upon seeing their son’s Asian eyes after he was born. Herein lies the true journey of China Gate, and while modern viewers will probably find it too exaggerated and heavy-handed, for the time it is yet another bold picture confronting hypocrisy and racism from Fuller.

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Park Row (1952)

Starring Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs, Herbert Heyes, Tina Pine, George O’Hanlon, J.M. Kerrigan, Forrest Taylor, Don Orlando, Neyle Morrow, Dick Elliott, Stuart Randall, Dee Pollock, Hal K. Dawson

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Extremely high. I’ve built this one up in my mind to be one of the greatest and most anticipated films I haven’t seen yet.


In Sam Fuller’s awesome auto-biography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking, he relates the story of how he tried to sell Daryl Zanuck on the idea of making Park Row (Fuller was contracted with Zanuck at the time with a multi-picture deal). Zanuck always shot it down, and in the final plea, Zanuck suggested that it would be a better movie as a big CinemaScope musical. Sam Fuller wanted the film to reflect the reality of the newspaper industry and singing newsman doesn’t really fit that bill. Fuller then states, “I decided that the only way to make Park Row was to put up my own dough and produce it myself. Two hundred grand, to be exact. To hell with Zanuck and Fox! Fuck the entire studio system! My film was going to be a gift to American journalism.” This shows just how personal and important the film was to him, and boy does it ever show in the finished product.

Park Row is set in the 1880s on the titular street that the newspapers of New York call home. Our lead is the hard-nosed newsman Phineas Mitchell played by Gene Evans, truly one of the greatest unsung actors of his generation. At the outset of the film he is employed by The Star, the oldest paper in New York and run by Charity Hackett (Mary Welch). She inherited the job and therefore doesn’t know or care to know about true journalistic integrity. Fueled by the recent hanging of a man, Evans uses the power of words to start a shitstorm with Hackett. This gets him fired but it leads to the greatest opportunity of his career, starting up his own paper, The Globe.

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The Steel Helmet (1951)

The Steel Helmet (1951)

Starring Gene Evans, William Chun, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards, Richard Loo, Sid Melton, Richard Monahan, Harold Fong, Neyle Morrow, Lynn Stalmaster

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Love it, and hoping to get some more out of it the second go-round.


After a long hiatus, I finally return to my Samuel Fuller series. I have seen this film once before, about ten or so years back, and I was simply blown away. It was the second Sam Fuller movie I had seen, but the first that I truly loved. Shock Corridor was the first for those that care, and that one is so out there that I had a hard time wrapping my head around it in any meaningful way the first time around. I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t necessarily like it either. The Steel Helmet however, took me by the scruff of my neck and threw me directly into the fire and the passion of Sam Fuller’s best work.

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Verboten! (1959)

Verboten! (1959)

Starring James Best, Susan Cummings, Tom Pittman, Paul Dubov, Harold Daye, Dick Kallman, Stuart Randall, Steven Geray, Anna Hope, Robert Boon, Sasha Harden, Paul Busch, Neyle Morrow, Joe Turkel

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High, it’s Sam Fuller.


Verboten! is notable for a few reasons. It is Sam Fuller’s first World War II movie, it was the last picture produced by RKO and it’s a damn fine piece of 1950s cinema. Opening with a bang as all Fuller pictures do, we are thrust into the action as a pair of soldiers are under assault from some Germans hiding behind a jeep. After a well-placed grenade they take a moment’s rest under a road sign that reads Trinken Verboten!, but their rest is short as they have orders to enter the town of Rothbach and clear out a sniper nested there. Queue Beethoven’s Fifth and run for cover!

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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.

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