Overall | Forty Guns (1957) | The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964) | Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953) | Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

Sam Fuller (Filmmakers Collection) (1953)

Sam Fuller (Filmmakers Collection) (1953)

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Released 5-Aug-2007

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Overall Package

    This is an excellent collection of Sam Fuller films in transfers of the original black and white images that range from the brilliant to very good. These are challenging, provocative films made with limited budgets by a true Hollywood original. The extras are limited which is a shame when the subject is so fascinating.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Forty Guns (1957) | The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964) | Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953) | Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

Forty Guns (1957)

Forty Guns (1957)

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Released 13-Apr-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Anna Karenina, Pickup On South Street, The Call Of The Wild
Trailer-Topper
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 76:47 (Case: 79)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Samuel Fuller
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Barbara Stanwyck
Barry Sullivan
Dean Jagger
John Ericson
Gene Barry
Robert Dix
Jidge Carroll
Paul Dubov
Gerald Milton
Ziva Rodann
Hank Worden
Neyle Morrow
Chuck Roberson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Harry Sukman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Griff Bonell (Barry Sullivan) is a US Marshal sent to Arizona with his brothers Wes (Gene Barry) and Chico (Robert Dix) to arrest a man named Swain. Swain works for Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), a local cattle queen who dresses flamboyantly in black and rides with forty men (the forty guns of the title).

    Griff arrives in town to discover that the nearly blind marshal Chisum (Hank Worden) has been threatened by Jessica's brother Brocky (John Ericson) to get out of town or else. Well, he doesn't, and Brocky shoots Chisum, which results in Chisum becoming blind. Then Brocky and his gang proceed to shoot up the town before Griff is stirred into action, disarming Brocky without a shot being fired. Brocky is locked up, but not for long, as Jessica uses her influence to get Brocky out of gaol.

    Griff goes out to the Drummond ranch to serve a writ on Swain and takes him to be locked up in the gaol. Sheriff Logan (Dean Jagger) is in cahoots with the Drummond clan, and Swain is mysteriously shot in the back. But worse is to come on Wes' wedding day.

    The plot sounds like a standard Western melodrama, but this film from cult director Sam Fuller is quite unlike most period pieces of the 1950s. The drama is played out with considerable intensity, but at the same time there is a lot going on. There seems to be a subtext about male potency when confronted with a strong female. Griff hasn't killed a man in ten years, as if he was impotent, but Jessica gets his trigger finger itchy. When she says to him "can I feel it?", one is not sure whether she is referring to his gun. Especially when his reply is "careful, it might go off in your face". As one of the songs in the film says, "she's a high riding woman... with a whip". And forty guns, or should that be "forty studs"? One character says of Griff: "there's only one man who walks like that".

    The sexual subtext is not limited to Griff and Jessica. Wes falls for the gunsmith's daughter Louvenia (Eve Brent), about whom he says "I'd like to clean her rifle". The lust they have for each other is palpable, and later he looks at her through a gun barrel, much like the opening sequence in any James Bond movie. I think the symbolism here was intended. As was that in the wedding scene, with their love consummated in death.

    Filmed in Cinemascope, Forty Guns shows that Fuller knew how to make full use of the wider screen. Some of the best examples are the first appearance of Jessica, riding at the head of her forty thieves across a hillside, and the dining room scene at the Drummond ranch, with the dining table filling the entire width of the screen. Throughout the use of the larger screen is exemplary, showing that directors and cinematographers adapted quickly after a shaky start to the demands of the new configuration. The scene in which Griff first confronts Brocky is masterfully edited.

    The performances are all fine, though at 50 Stanwyck seems a little old for the role. Attempts to use lighting to make her look younger are mainly unsuccessful. Ericson is good as Brocky, a juvenile delinquent type, but Dean Jagger, slightly miscast, is a little too mannered as the conniving sheriff.

    What is enjoyable about this kind of film is that it is much like Douglas Sirk's Technicolor melodramas of the same era. You can sense that within the constraints of 1950s censorship and conventions that Fuller is trying to pack as much subversive material as possible into the narrative without going to excess. This gives the film an intensity that many Westerns, indeed many films, of the era lacked. Well worth seeking out, even if only for a rental.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It is in glorious black and white.

    An excellent but not quite perfect transfer. The transfer is quite sharp, with a lot of detail visible. The video is bright and contrast levels are very good, with blacks and whites well rendered and a fine grey scale in evidence. Shadow detail is not quite so good, with not much detail in shadows or dark objects.

    Aliasing is visible in quite a few scenes, for example at 9:59. Any straight edges other than those which are exactly horizontal seem to shimmer to some degree when the camera moves. There is sometimes a slightly jagged appearance to edges. Moiré is also visible at 11:48.

    Film artefacts are few, with tiny white flecks appearing regularly.

    No subtitles are provided. The disc is a single layered one, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a good mono track. There is no hiss or distortion, with the audio clear and dialogue distinct throughout. Effects and music are well conveyed.

    Music is by Harry Sukman, not especially distinctive but there are two songs: High Ridin' Woman and God Has His Arms Around Me, the latter by Victor Young.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu is displayed while the hoofbeats of forty gun-packin' riders can be heard.

Theatrical Trailer (2:07)

    A trailer that is even more dramatic than the film, and is also 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer-Anna Karenina, Pickup On South Street, The Call Of The Wild, Topper (12:07)

    Trailers for other Umbrella releases. A couple of these are not really trailers, but are just the opening titles plus a short excerpt from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 disc is not released until 24 May 2005, and at the time of writing there are no pre-release reviews available, but it appears to be as bare-bones as the Region 4 in terms of extras.

    The UK Region 2 release seems to be the source of the Region 4, though it does not include the trailer. Despite conflicting information on www.dvdcompare.net, this is a 16x9 enhanced transfer.

    The German Region 2 release has the theatrical trailer and an alternative German soundtrack.

    The Region 2 release in France has the best extras of the lot. A making of documentary, an analysis of the film and a featurette about the director comprise about an hour of extra features. Unfortunately these are all in French and there are no English subtitles. It is also reported that initial pressings of this disc had forced French subtitles.

    At this stage there is no reason not to choose the Region 4, unless you speak French.

Summary

    Not the greatest Western ever made, this is still very enjoyable, something of a precursor to the Leone epics of the 1960s and quite subversive of the genre.

    The transfer quality is excellent and unlikely to be improved upon in the foreseeable future.

    Not much in the way of extras, sadly.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, May 23, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Forty Guns (1957) | The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964) | Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953) | Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964)

The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964)

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Released 5-Aug-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-02:20 Good condition with one cut.
Theatrical Trailer-Pickup on South Street
Theatrical Trailer-The Last Seduction
Theatrical Trailer-Shock Corridor
Theatrical Trailer-Crossfire
Theatrical Trailer-Key Largo
Theatrical Trailer-Kiss Me Deadly
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 86:39
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Samuel Fuller
Studio
Distributor
Allied Artists Picts
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Constance Towers
Anthony Eisley
Michael Dante
Virginia Grey
Patsy Kelly
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI Box Music Paul Dunlap


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Social - bar scenes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Crucial fight scene before credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

 "Now you know why I could never marry a normal woman." 

    The final film in the Umbrella released Sam Fuller Filmmakers Collection is The Naked Kiss from 1964. Like the other three titles in this indispensable collection from a true Hollywood original, The Naked Kiss is much more than it seems on the surface. It would be so easy to dismiss this as low-budget melodramatic pulp entertainment, but it is not easy to dismiss a film that has been written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller.

    Before any titles we are confronted with two characters, a  man and a woman, arguing bitterly in searing close-up. Frantic jazz plays on the soundtrack. She begins bashing him, brutally, and in the struggle her wig comes off, revealing her to be completely bald. The man is bashed unconscious and the woman rifles through his pockets, finding eight hundred dollars. She takes the "seventy-five dollars that's coming to (her)", puts the wig back on her head and the titles begin. Samuel Fuller has our undivided attention. As the titles continue she puts on her make-up in front of the mirror. The woman is Kelly (Constance Towers), a prostitute, and the man her "business manager"/procurer. We later learn that he had shaved her head as punishment for her threatening to leave her trade. The time is July, 1961.

    We jump to August 1963, and Kelly is getting out of a bus in the conservative town of Grantville. Police Captain Griff (Anthony Eisley) eyes her off as she leaves the bus, and follows her through the town into the park. (They pass a cinema where the current attraction is Shock Corridor!) We see them seated together on a park bench, and Kelly tells Griff that she is selling champagne, showing him her sample case. Cut to a hotel room  - Griff has paid for it - he is lying on a sofa drinking champagne, she is brushing her hair, obviously post-sex. She refers to having to regrow her hair and when he asks what happened she replies, "It'll keep". The conversation then wanders through Beethoven, the Moonlight Sonata, poetry and Goethe, before Griff tells her to try the town across the river to practise her trade, and to leave his town clean. He refers her to an establishment run by Candy, who guarantees her customers "indescribable pleasure". The next morning Kelly wakes alone, and sees a framed headline from the Grantville Gazette on the wall : "Grant saves Griff in Korea; Wounded." She goes to the mirror and contemplates her face and the tell-tale signs of age and her profession. She makes a decision.

    From this point Kelly decides to turn her back on the "oldest profession", to stay in Grantville and be respectable. She rents a room from Madame Josephine the refined elderly seamstress. When Kelly admits she has no references, Josephine says, "Your reference is your face, Miss Kelly". Kelly asks about finding a job, and Josephine tells her about the excellent work being done with handicapped children at the local hospital, which is financially assisted by local rich boy, Grant (Michael Dante).

    Meanwhile Griff goes to Candy's (Virginia Grey) looking for Kelly. He talks with a brunette "bon bon" girl, Candy's version of a Playboy bunny,  whom he also had met in the park and referred to Candy. He hears that Kelly has found work in the hospital, and sees nurse Mac (Patsy Kelly) who tells him that Kelly "was born to handle underprivileged kids". Confronting Kelly, Griff accuses her of using her work with the children as a cover for her real "trade". Kelly defends herself telling Griff that after that one night with him she took a look in the mirror and saw "nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of (her) life". Griff comments on the irony of "a hooker moving in with the town virgin (Josephine)". Kelly says, "Give me a break!" Blackout.

    Kelly meets rich boy Grant, they fall in love, and he proposes marriage. She confesses her past to him, and in response he gives her the key to his mansion home. Grant asks Griff to be his best man, which spurs Griff to go to the hospital to see Kelly. Griff gives her thirty minutes to get out of town or he will tell Grant everything. Kelly instantly gets Grant on the phone, and Griff is confronted with the knowledge that Grant already knows about Kelly's past but still wants to marry her. Griff agrees to be best man.

    Josephine has helped Kelly make her wedding gown  Kelly rushes to Grant's home to show him the finished work. The radiantly happy Kelly is in for a major surprise. What transpires in the last thirty minutes of the film should be left "unspoiled", except to say that it is here that Fuller dares to involve, if not tackle, issues which were taboo in the 60s.

    Fuller's plot is pure melodrama, a term today much misunderstood, as is the case with "thriller" and "film noir". The Naked Kiss is definitely a sensational dramatic piece with violent appeals to the emotions, even involving "melody", with music strongly involved in what is being depicted on screen. The story of the "bad girl" trying to change her life in a new, small town has been the basis of so many movies, but Fuller uses this old formula and adds other elements which concern him. The question of reality, of man's frequently perverse secrets covered by a seemingly wholesome facade. Reality is not "pleasant" like Madame (?) Josephine's room for rent. This is chiefly exemplified in the character of Grant, but there are other more subtle asides as well. The manservant, Barney, had formerly accompanied Grant on all his overseas trips. What did that mean? Griff relished the mocking of the petulant Barney when Grant gave him his coming home gift. Then the "best friends" leave for a drink, arms around each other laughing. What are we to make of Kelly's sensitivity to "culture"? Is it genuine or a pretentious facade? She mispronounces Goethe twice, once in the hotel room with Griff and later with Grant, who almost, but not quite, corrects her. We remember the mispronunciation of "schizophrenia" by Constance Towers' character in Shock Corridor. What does Fuller imply by juxtaposing Kelly's alliteratively poetic "leaves lazily falling on me" with the brutally prosaic , "How long have you been a cop?"  And just how many young women has this officer of the law directed across the river to work as a bon-bon girl for Candy? We may not alway be sure of what Fuller is saying, but we are absolutely sure that he is saying something, something much more than the literal, surface meaning.

    In the central role of Kelly the multi-talented Constance Towers is excellent. Barely off screen, she is beautiful , and able to be sexy as well as sweet. At times quite harshly photographed, she is a compelling centrepiece. (The Broadway star even gets the chance to sing in a thematically significant scene.) Other performances are problematic. Anthony Eisley is a gruff Griff, with basically one note to his wooden performance. Maybe that's how Fuller wanted it. Michael Dante is an extremely weird Grant, and I could see no reason for Kelly's attraction to him. The minor characters seem almost amateurish, with the exception of Patsy Kelly and an extremely thin Virginia Grey. Not helping the minor performances are the very jarring reaction establishing close-ups which Fuller seems to favour. Maybe this is another of his "alienating" techniques, detaching us from the story so we think more deeply about his underlying themes.

    Photography by Stanley Cortez is excellent, harsh and dramatic. Paul Dunlap's mainly jazz score is dramatically effective, if at times it barely seems to be integrated with what is on the screen. Editing is at times jarring, with a loss of continuity. Alienation or budget restrictions? I tend to think budget.

    Samuel Fuller's films are not easy. In The Naked Kiss, Fuller  the writer weakens the overall impact with too many extraneous female characters. That aside, this is a dramatically and thematically challenging film made by a man who demands that his audiences think. That process of thinking goes on long after the viewing experience.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very satisfactory transfer of the black and white film.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original ratio being 1.37:1. The film was matted to 1.66:1 for theatrical showing, and there is definitely a more dramatically satisfying image when viewed "blown up" to widescreen. I continually switched from one ratio to the other, with the widescreen image always looking better composed. There was little loss in quality with the larger image.

    The transfer is extremely sharp, with no variation from reel to reel.
    Very little grain.
   
    Shadow detail is good, although this is a film of high contrasts and there is little subtlety in the harsh screen image.
    There was very little low level noise.
    There was quite a lot of aliasing, initially noted on the bus timetable (04:54) , then on Venetians (13:22).
    There were very few film artefacts, with the film looking clean and undamaged. There was a notable negative "blob" at 42:45, made more obvious by being on Miss Towers' attractive torso.
    Reel cue marks had been removed.
   

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on the movie,  English in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 448 Kbps.
    The soundtrack is in very good condition, with very little background noise.
    There is a little crackle and the occasional "pop", but no drop-outs.
    There is one distinctly abrupt change in sound quality (23:30), but this is an isolated instance.

     
    Dialogue was perfectly clear and every syllable crystal clear. There were no sync problems.  
   
 

    The jazz soundtrack is very effective, and well produced. There is a harsh edge to much of the sound, but this suits the dramatic tone of the movie.
    
    

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

Menu

    The Main Menu is 1.33:1 displayed over simple artwork. Soundtrack jazz theme provides the audio.
    The Main Menu options are : Play Feature
                                                 Select Scene : Four screens, each with same collage of three stills and no audio. A total of twenty scenes.
                                                 Theatrical Trailer                      
                                                 Umbrella Propaganda

Theatrical Trailer : (02:00) 
    Quite good quality presented 1.33:1. There appears to be an abrupt cut after Constance Towers' name, removing the initial credit for Anthony Eisley. Probably due to damage.

Umbrella Propaganda : 
    This is a collection of interesting trailers, two included elsewhere in the Sam Fuller Filmmakers Collection set, one of another Umbrella release, and a collection (Pulp Cinema) from films not, to my knowledge, available through Umbrella.
                Pickup on South Street : (01:47)  This is the excellent theatrical trailer also included on the Pickup on South Street disc.
                The Last Seduction : (01:36) Short trailer for this must-see movie, presented 1.33:1 with softer colour than the Umbrella anamorphic release.
                Pulp Cinema : (06:38) A strange compilation of three trailers, with varying image quality. The movies are Crossfire, an interesting Dore Schary hosted introduction to the 
                                        RKO film noir; Key Largo, the Warners Bogart/Bacall/Robinson classic; and the Ralph Meeker starred Kiss Me Deadly from MGM/UA.
                Shock Corridor : (02:52) A repeat of the original theatrical trailer included on the Shock Corridor disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Criterion Collection edition is different from the Region 4 release in that :
       :
        *  it has a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic transfer. (I'm sure this image would be matted from the Umbrella image, so no real advantage.)        
        *  it contains an insert with a brief overview of Fuller's career.

    The Region 2 French release is a three disc set :
        * Disc One : Shock Corridor
        * Disc Two : The Naked Kiss
        * Disc Three: Very comprehensive extras.

    The preference here would be a very individual one. The local box set release is good value with a good transfer which seems to be on a par with the Region 1 release, the lack of enhancement negating Criterion's 1.85:1 transfer.

Summary

    This is an intense melodrama, with Constance Towers outstanding in her central role. Sam Fuller's trademark style is ever present, and he tackles some themes which were immensely controversial for the 60s, and still controversial today. This does not have the compulsive, energetic drive of Shock Corridor, but the film is immensely entertaining, as well as provocative and troubling. The transfer is generally clean and dramatically sharp, with quite good mono sound.
    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, May 12, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Forty Guns (1957) | The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964) | Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953) | Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953)

Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953)

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Released 5-Aug-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Film Noir Featurette-Making Of-French interview with director/writer Sam Fuller (11:04).
Theatrical Trailer-Original theatrical trailer (01:47).
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 77:05 (Case: 80)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Samuel Fuller
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Richard Widmark
Jean Peters
Thelma Ritter
Murvyn Vye
Richard Kiley
Willis Bouchey
Milburn Stone
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Leigh Harline : Original score
Ray Dorey/Mack Gordon : "Mam'selle"
Lionel Newman/Dorcas Cochran : "Again"


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"Sometimes you look for oil, and you hit a gusher."

Coming early in the career of director Samuel Fuller, Pickup on South Street is a strong crime melodrama. Film noir has been described as a genre in which tin-pot crimes are merely the outer manifestations of the churning unconscious. That description aptly fits this pulsatingly complex film, so ostensibly simple in its narrative seething with complicated human emotions.

In the film's opening we see a subway train charging through a tunnel. We dissolve to a close-up of a female face, too much make-up, and just a little shiny from the heat in the crowded New York subway carriage. This trashily attractive young woman is Candy (Jean Peters), and the camera observes that two other male passengers on the train are also watching her, very closely. The train makes a stop, doors open, passengers jostle on and off and we just catch a glimpse of Richard Widmark's head through the open door. Doors close, the train starts up and pushing his way through the crowded carriage comes Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark), who settles himself beside Candy, and begins "reading" his newspaper. Under the cover of the paper, we see Skip snap Candy's purse open, and his finely manicured fingers probe her purse emerging with a wallet which he swiftly pockets. The train lurches to a stop at the next station, Skip snaps the purse shut, and rushes off the train. The two male observers try too late to catch Skip as he leaves the train, unsure of what they have just seen. These are the opening few minutes of Pickup on South Street, without any dialogue until the two observers speak after Widmark leaves the train.

Candy was the unwitting carrier of vital military information, on her way to do a "drop" for her boyfriend (Richard Kiley), a communist agent. The two observers were FBI agents, tailing Candy ready to pounce at the exchange - the "drop" and the "pickup" - of the microfilmed information. Skip is a petty pickpocket, nothing more, who has lifted more than he bargained for out of Candy's purse. Assisted by police Sergeant Dan Tiger (Murvyn Vye), the FBI agents use the elderly Moe (Thelma Ritter) to establish the identity of the pickpocket. Moe's income comes from selling men's ties, and from selling information to "the cops". She is saving towards her burial, not wanting to end up with a "Potter's Field" pauper's grave. Candy also goes to Moe, herself wanting to track down Skip and get the microfilm back - otherwise boyfriend Joey is in big trouble. Candy tracks Skip to his waterfront shack, bizarre and surreal. Skip attacks his unknown intruder, bashing Candy brutally, but then the sparks begin to fly between them. So we have our major quartet of characters, Skip, Candy, Moe and Joey. On the sidelines are the cops, the FBI and the "Commies". This was the era of "the red scare", and this external threat is used to galvanise the forces of good, the FBI the police and even the petty criminal.

Basing his screenplay on a story by Dwight Taylor, Samuel Fuller concentrates on his major characters with operatic intensity for the short seventy-seven minutes running time. This is not realism, but a heightened reality, a drama of extremes which is liable to explode out of control at any moment. One minute Widmark is punching Jean Peters to the ground, virtually unconscious, and then almost instantly they are in a passionate embrace, Widmark tenderly caressing Peters' bruised cheek. Close-ups are at times so extreme that the faces are distorted, while the original score by Leigh Harline underlines the frenetic energy of the city which surrounds them. Music envelops the characters - wonderful use being made of two songs from earlier Fox movies. Thelma Ritter's character has Mam'selle ( Ray Dorey and Mack Gordon) from The Razor's Edge (1946). In her first scene Miss Ritter actually sings one line of the song, and later unforgettably plays the 78 recording. The passion of Widmark's and Peters' characters is reflected in Again, written by Dorcas Cochran and Lionel Newman for Ida Lupino to sing in Richard Widmark's second movie Road House (1948). These two songs are powerful musical motifs throughout the film.

Performances are perfect, primarily from a trio of Fox contract players. Richard Widmark was a great Hollywood star, whose passing earlier this month should make us pause and appreciate his work from Kiss of Death in 1947 through to True Colors in 1991. Initially typecast as mean and bad, Richard Widmark proved his versatility in numerous fox dramas, westerns and war movies. He had a face which epitomised insolence, and we know just why the cops here want him to go down a three-time-loser. Jean Peters was another Fox contract player, with that studio until her marriage to Howard Hughes brought retirement. Miss Peters was an accomplished actress, playing everything from the Indian woman in Burt Lancaster's Apache, to Peter Marshall's wife in A Man Called Peter. She excelled in the romantic Three Coins in the Fountain and in the same year as Pickup on South Street provided a "nice girl" counterpoint to Marilyn Monroe's trashy Rose in Niagara. Under Fuller's direction Jean Peters proves here that she can trash it with the best. It's a powerful, screen filling performance, in which both Widmark and Kiley really bash her around. There's no double in that scene with Richard Kiley. Who would have thought that Richard Kiley would make Broadway history creating the lead role in Man of La Mancha and to be the first person to sing or record The Impossible Dream?

I have left the best till last. In her supporting role Thelma Ritter is truly unforgettable. Once you've seen this film, the character of "Moe" will stay with you forever. Thelma Ritter was never a "star" although her popularity with audiences lead to above the title billing, as is the case here. She was a true "supporting" actress, who never won an Oscar - although she was nominated six times, the nomination for Pickup on South Street being her fourth nomination in four years. Wonderful in All About Eve and With a Song in my heart, this is probably her best performance.


Pickup on South Street comes at the end of the "square screen" era. The year of its production was the year in which Fox made the switch to CinemaScope, all Fox product to be made in the new anamorphic process. The photography of Joe MacDonald is a reminder how powerful the black and white, square screen image could be, particularly when the director is as exciting as Samuel Fuller. This is a great, "must see" movie.

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Transfer Quality

Video

This is a brilliant black and white transfer of the film. I cannot imagine a black and white film looking better, regardless of age.
This issue appears to use the same high definition digital master as the Region 1 Criterion release, with "restored image and sound".

The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, originally presented at 1.37:1. There is no enhancement.
The transfer is brilliantly sharp - except when Fuller intentionally has Jean Peters out of focus in one love scene.
Look at any scene from the film and the clarity is astonishing. In the opening subway scene facial fuzz is very clear on Jean Peters, while Widmark's blonde stubble is beginning to show.
Shadow detail is remarkable, the frequent night shots having great richness and depth.
There is no low level noise.
The grey scale is glorious. Blacks are solid and deep, whites do not flare and the detail is almost distracting.
There were no MPEG artefacts. I searched for aliasing, but could find none - not even on Venetians.
There was a total absence of film artefacts.
This is one of the best black and white transfers that I have ever seen on DVD.

There are no subtitles.

There is no layer change within the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There is only one audio track on the movie, Dolby Digital Mono at 192 Kbps.
The soundtrack is very clean, with no background noise, crackle, pops or drop outs.

Dialogue was perfectly clear and every syllable crystal clear. There were no sync problems.
Ambient sounds of the city were very realistic for the period in which this movie was made.

The original score by Leigh Harline was very clearly reproduced., with sharp and clear sound.
This is an excellent mono soundtrack.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The extras are limited to one featurette and a trailer. These appear to have been taken from the Region 1 Criterion release which, as you would expect, was loaded with extras.

Menu

The Main Menu is 4x3 displayed over artwork of Jean Peters, with Leigh Harline's theme from the film in Dolby Digital 2.0 - with sound effects as well.
The Main Menu options are : Play Feature
Select Scene : Two screens, ten scenes per screen. Plain graphics with no sound.
Explore Extras: : See details below.

Featurette: Cinema Cinemas : Fuller : (11.04)
This is a very interesting French documentary presented 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The interview is in English, with French subtitles. Originally longer and more comprehensive, what we have here specifically relates to the creation of Pickup on South Street. It is fascinating to see Fuller himself discuss his film. I would never have thought that the street exteriors were shot in Los Angeles, doubling for New York.

Theatrical Trailer : (01:39)
Nowhere near the quality of the film itself, but not bad. Presented 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 Criterion Collection edition has a number of excellent Special Features, in addition to the Cinema Cinemas featurette included on the Region 4 release.These are :
* Video interview of Sam Fuller by critic Richard Schickel.
* Illustrated biographical essay on Fuller.
* Complete Fuller poster filmography.
* Stills galleries of photos, lobby cards and original paintings.
* Trailers for eight Sam Fuller films.
* 20 page booklet with excerpts from Fuller's autobiography, article by Martin Scorsese, plus new essay.
* English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired.
* Optimal image quality : RSDL dual-layer edition.

The Region 2 release by Optimum Home Entertainment is virtually barebones, with a few trailers, but not one for Pickup on South Street.

The Region 4 release is certainly good value, being part of a four disc/movie set. The single disc is also available separately from Umbrella Entertainment (RRP $19.99).For great admirers of the film, the Region 1 Criterion disc with its extras might be the choice.

Summary

This is a flashy, blatantly crude and at times preposterous film, which is also a great piece of cinematic art. Enjoy it for the reckless seventy-seven minutes of intense melodrama, but even the most casual viewer has to be aware that it is much more than that. To top it all off, Pickup on South Street has never looked better. This is a terrific film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Forty Guns (1957) | The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964) | Pickup on South Street (Filmmakers Collection) (1953) | Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

Shock Corridor (Filmmakers Collection) (1963)

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Released 5-Aug-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-Good quality, sensationalist.Image/ audio as for film
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1963
Running Time 96:01
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Samuel Fuller
Studio
Distributor
Allied Artists Picts
Umbrella Entertainment
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
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $39.95 Music Paul Dunlap


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Info and voice-over prior to credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

 "Brace yourself for the biggest jolt that ever hit you in a theatre." 

    In the late fifties and on into the sixties Samuel Fuller produced, wrote and directed a series of low-budget independent films. These predominantly crime films have their equally enthusiastic defenders and detractors. Shock Corridor : Sam Fuller Filmmakers Collection, is a movie from the four disc Umbrella release which deviates from the pure crime theme, and a work from this period which continues to arouse extreme reactions in its audiences.

    Fuller begins his film with a pre-credits quote from Euripides: "Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad." A male voice is heard : "My name is John Barrett. I'm a reporter on the Daily Globe. This is my story - as far as it goes." Then we have the credits, and the "story" begins, and instantly Fuller alienates his audience.

    In searing close-up we see John Barrett (Peter Breck) in an intense interview situation, being questioned by psychiatrist  Dr Fong (Peter Ahn) about some sexual relationship involving a young girl's braids.. We think we have come to grips with what's happening, and then in an instant our reality is snatched away and we realise that what we have seen is a rehearsal, a rehearsal for an interview that is going to be part of newspaper reporter John's near future. Reality is a major theme in this film, Barrett later being warned that "Freud was invented for Hamlet, not for you", Hamlet being literature's greatest questioner of reality and "seeming" - "to be or not to be". The scene progresses with a massive amount of information thrown at us. It seems that Dr Fong and his "closest friend",  Barrett's managing editor, Swanee (William Zuckert) "were in psychological warfare back in World War II". There has recently been a brutal murder of a patient in a mental hospital, and Swanee has proposed to Fong that a "plant" posing as a patient in the institution would be able to find the murderer and write a sensational book which would surely win the Pulitzer Prize. Barrett is the reporter who has suggested the assignment, hungry for the promised fame to come from the book. Also in on the scheme is Cathy (Constance Towers), Barrett's girlfriend, a stripper in a sleazy nightclub. Cathy is to pose as Barrett's sister, and to lodge a complaint against her "brother", claiming that for many years she has been a victim of his incestuous advances. Barrett will have to undergo psychological examination for his claimed aberrant sexual behaviour, and what we first saw was tutoring for this examination. Barrett must convince the court psychiatric examiners that he is mentally unbalanced, ensuring that he will be admitted to the mental hospital and able to begin his undercover exposure of the murderer. Cathy calls the whole fabrication a "disgusting story" telling Barrett that he has "gotta be crazy". Dr Fong warns Barrett that he will be "living on a sexual powder keg". End of Scene One. Phew! This has the power of an operatic quartet, the tenor, bass and baritone vocally duelling against the imploring sopranos protestations.

    Cathy has refused to help with the scheme, and her "Johnny" disappears for four days. She is desperate - I Need Somebody to Love she sings, on stage in the strip club, draped in not much more than a feather boa. (An extremely strange shot opens the club scene that really has to be seen to be believed. I was alienated out the door!) Finally Cathy goes to the police and lodges the complaint against her brother. Johnny is charged, and convinces the judge of his "borderline psychosis" leading to his admission to the mental hospital and his journey down "the long corridor to the Pulitzer Prize".

    From this point the film falls into three distinct "chapters", as Barrett talks with the three witnesses to the murder - "with a butcher's knife, in the kitchen". (Cluedo anyone?) However, the solution of the murder is not the primary concern of Fuller's script, indeed it is some time before we learn that the victim's name was "Sloan". Witness number one to Sloan's murder is Stuart (James Best) a young farm boy who believes he is a Confederate general, still fighting the Civil War. Number two is Trent (Hari Rhodes) a young negro who creates the Ku Klux Klan as an outlet for his anti-negro white supremacist sentiments. Thirdly there is Boden (Gene Evans), once a brilliant atomic scientist, now with the mind of a six-year old.

    As Barrett tries to uncover the identity of the murderer, he is increasingly mentally brutalised by his experiences in the institution. There are knife-point threats by other inmates,  hydrotherapy, dance therapy, a rape by a dozen or so female inmates, straight jackets and ultimately shock therapy - for which Cathy has given approval hoping to halt his emotional deterioration. She is shocked to realise that her boyfriend is starting to believe that she really is his sister. This is a misogynistic film, the women in the tale unaware of the insanity in the world around them. In a nice touch, Cathy even mispronounces "schizophrenia". The fellow strippers are a mindless bunch, and the hospital's female inmates are summed up in one hilarious outburst from the trapped Barrett : "Nymphos!"  

    The resolution of Barrett's situation is one which is disturbing and thought provoking. That is the word for this film, provocative. The three "witnesses" seem to be representative of 60s American society as a whole, encompassing racism, communism  and the threat of "the bomb". The mental hospital becomes a microcosm of contemporary American society. As Barrett questions them, he is questioning the sanity of his society, but in doing so he may risk his own sanity. As well as the explicit images on the screen there is the undercurrent of man's playing with reality, of hiding behind exteriors which are acceptable in this insane society, while concealing the dark shallows just beneath. The sexually charged "inquisition" that Cathy is forced to undergo from seemingly respectable Dr Cristo (John Matthews) is as threatening as any dark alleyway. Cristo is always more than ready to share in Barrett's sexual fantasies, but how far would he be prepared to go? "Pagliacci" (Larry Tucker) mimes stabbing Barrett from behind, his hand firmly clasped over the helpless Barrett's mouth. Where is this scene heading? In many scenes there is the apprehension that at any moment events could take a turn towards extremes that would test the limits of the audience. Fuller's world is an asylum and we must be prepared for the unthinkable.

    Technically this is a rough film. The sets are cheap, and the stark high contrast photography emphasises their cheapness - and that of the women. The camerawork itself is brilliant, under the direction of Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons, Night of the Hunter), and there are many images that linger disturbingly long after seeing the film. Much of the continuity is poor and the sound recording is rough and edgy. Each witness has a short colour sequence, each sequence in particularly poor quality looking more like home movies. These sequences were originally shot on 16mm in CinemaScope, and were shown "squeezed" in the original theatrical release to emphasise the hallucinatory quality of these coloured dreams. These inserts are still "squeezed" here, and can be morphed to widescreen dimensions, but this would defeat Fuller's purpose.

    The technical  imperfections of Shock Corridor add to the raw emotional quality that gives the film so much of its edge. I can understand those who would say that it was just a rough "B" picture, but there is such a strong driving force within this film, and the roughness somehow adds to the power of the whole experience. The imperfections momentarily alienate us from the narrative, reminding us that we are watching a film. Alienation forces our mind into active thought, even if that thought is simply the impulse to turn the d*** thing off! Alienation is an age old theatrical device and, intended or not, it forces the audience to think. Why am I watching this? What was the director thinking? (That boa!!) What am I to make of this?

    Performances are intense and powerful. Fuller pushes his actors to places I would guess they never knew existed. Peter Breck gives his all in every scene, and Constance Towers is all raw nerve ends, razor sharp false eyelashes and looooong legs. (Hard to imagine her as "Mrs Anna" in the 1977 Broadway revival of The King and I with Yul Brynner.) James Best gives more here than in the rest of his career put together. The other two witnesses, Hari Rhodes and Gene Evans, are also extremely powerful, as is Larry Tucker as the operatic "Pagliacci". Back to opera again. There is so much to think about in this film.

    Samuel Fuller's script is beautifully structured, with the dialogue sashaying from brilliance to puerile trash. This is a compelling, disturbing movie that forces you to think. It ends where it began : "Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad."

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very satisfactory transfer of the film, basically in black and white with three short colour sequences.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. According to IMDB the original aspect ratio was 1.85:1. From viewing this disc, it appears that the film was shot full frame, and then matted in its original theatrical presentation. I viewed the film twice, first "square" and  then "blown up" to widescreen. Viewed widescreen there was no loss of important information at the top or bottom of the image, and the composition of the picture looked more dramatic. When enlarged the image remained satisfactorily sharp.

    The transfer is extremely sharp, with no variation from reel to reel.
    There is very little grain.
   
    Shadow detail is good, although this is a film of high contrasts and there is little subtlety in the harsh screen image.
    There was very little low level noise.
    There was quite a lot of aliasing, the first instance being at 02:24. Desk edges were a problem (33:30).
    Film artefacts were present, with the occasional slight visible damage (49:00). There were some vertical negative scratches at 28:30. These were the exceptions in a print that was in quite good condition.
    Reel cue marks were still in place, the first change occurring at 18:15.
   

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on the movie,  English in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 448 Kbps.
    The soundtrack is rather sharp and harsh, with fairly constant low background noise.
    There is some crackle, and the occasional "pop" (36:18).
    There were no drop-outs.

    There is a rather "tinny" echo effect on the voice-over narration which sounds rather shoddy.
    Dialogue was perfectly clear and every syllable crystal clear. There were no sync problems.  
   
 

    Music is harsh and sharp, with very little depth. The audio in the strip club scene, with Miss Towers singing to a bizarrely huge orchestra and chorus, is extremely edgy and hollow.
    This is a clear, unattractive soundtrack - rather like the film itself.
    

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The only extra is the trailer.

Menu

    The Main Menu is 1.33:1 displayed over artwork. "Figaro" sequence from movie provides the audio.
    The Main Menu options are : Play Feature
                                                 Select Scene : Four screens, each with same collage of three stills and no audio. A total of twenty-five scenes.
                                                 Theatrical Trailer                      
        .

Theatrical Trailer : (02:52) 
    Quite good quality presented 1.33:1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Criterion Collection edition is different from the Region 4 release in that :
       :
        *  it has a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic transfer. (I'm sure this image would be matted from the Umbrella image, so no real advantage.)        
        *  it contains an insert with a brief overview of Fuller's career.

    The Region 2 French release is a three disc set :
        * Disc One : Shock Corridor
        * Disc Two : The Naked Kiss
        * Disc Three: Very comprehensive extras.

    The preference here would be a very individual one. The local box set release is good value with a good transfer which seems to be on a par with the Region 1 release, the lack of enhancement negating Criterion's 1.85:1 transfer. Fuller devotees should explore the Region 2 release.

Summary

    This is a brash, flashy, harsh, crude and occasionally ridiculous film. Samuel Fuller was a remarkably individual, vital and critical voice in American movie making, and Shock Corridor is probably his most strident utterance. It may look and sound like a sensationalist sexy "B" movie , but there is enough fuel here for hours of heated discussion. This is a film way out of the ordinary. Not a great transfer, but a good one and somehow becoming part of the total experience.
    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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