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LGM Film Club, Part 226: Pickup on South Street

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Like many people, I love Sam Fuller. His movies were so before their time with their focus on violence and the filth of society in a way that was usually impossible during the Hays Code era. There’s an internal instability to nearly all Fuller films. The characters are deeply disturbed or immoral in way that surpassed the usual noir of the era. Somewhat ironically, the big Fuller boom when The Big Red One was rereleased happened over what is perhaps the worst of his major films. Much, much better is 1953’s Pickup on South Street. In this film, Richard Widmark plays a pickpocket who happens to steal some national secrets already stolen by communist spies. The film uses the early Cold War hatred of communists in a useful way–the movie isn’t really about communists at all, but rather the vileness of humanity and whether any of these people can be saved. If you had to play into the Cold War at the height of McCarthyism, this was the way to do it. The film is also notable for a great role for Thelma Ritter, who made every movie she was in a lot better. In terms of peak Fuller, I don’t know that this quite matches Shock Corridor or The Naked Kiss, which was truly Fuller at his unhinged peak. But it’s pretty great. It’s too bad he wasn’t at his peak in the 70s. Who knows what he might have made.

Anyway, the whole thing is available on YouTube, so have at it.

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