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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Falkenau, the Impossible (1988)

Falkenau, the Impossible [Falkenau, Vision de L’Impossible] (1988)

Starring Samuel Fuller

Directed by Emil Weiss

Expectations: High. I have been eagerly anticipating watching this since I reviewed The Big Red One a couple months back.


 

After moving to France following all the NAACP hoopla surrounding his last American film White Dog, Sam Fuller seemed to finally get the adoration and credit he always deserved at the hands of many European filmmakers and fans. One way they showed this gratitude was by making documentary films about the man, starring and narrated by Fuller himself. This is the first of these that I will be reviewing for the site and it is an apt place to start after recently looking at Fuller’s epic WWII film, The Big Red One. That film ends with the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp, and it is this event that is the main subject of this documentary.

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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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I Shot Jesse James (1949)

Starring Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland, Reed Hadley, J. Edward Bromberg, Victor Kilian, Tom Tyler, Tommy Noonan

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Moderate. Wasn’t expecting too much from Fuller’s first movie.


Samuel Fuller’s directorial début is a character drama masquerading as a western. It features a lot of western conventions, but it’s all window dressing as far as I’m concerned. Fuller’s cinematic motives are to examine the tortured nature of Robert Ford, making the film not so much about the actual shooting, but about how it shapes Ford’s life following it and how he deals with the disgrace and pressure it adds. This makes for quite the interesting film and a fantastic début from the criminally underrated director Sam Fuller.

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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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Pickup on South Street (1953)

Starring Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, Richard Kiley, Murvyn Vye, Willis Bouchey, Milburn Stone

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Sam Fuller. He’s good.


Sam Fuller knew how to shoot a movie. He’s under the radar for a lot of people, which is a shame because his camerawork is undeniably fantastic. In one of the DVD extras Fuller states, “The power of the camera…is exactly like bold-face type. You cannot compete with it.” Sam Fuller is the perfect example of a director that focuses on showing and not telling.

The film opens with Jean Peters on a subway. Quick cuts establish that she is being watched by two men. There is no dialogue. A third man enters the scenario. He is a pickpocket (Richard Widmark). He lifts the wallet from Jean Peters’ purse and exits the subway car. The two men push their way to the door, only to have it close in their faces.

One of the men says, “What happened?”
“I’m not sure yet,” his partner replies.

The viewer isn’t quite sure either. A fantastic opening with very quick editing (to good effect) for the early 1950s. You can watch it on YouTube if you want to get a sense of it for yourself by clicking here.

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