SAMUEL FULLER, OPUS 1, 2 AND 3
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 04/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I SHOT JESSE JAMES ****1/2 1949. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller. Robert Ford shoots Jesse James in the back in order to get the reward and start a new life but his girl-friend doesn't want him anymore after Jesse's murder so Robert heads to Colorado to make a fortune. Superb psychological western with a first-class performance of John Ireland as Robert Ford. Note the scene of the theatre when Robert Ford is trying, as an actor playing his own character, to recreate Jesse James's murder before the audience: simply a little jewel. Highly recommended.
THE BARON OF ARIZONA ***1/2 1950. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller. An office clerk imagines an unbelievable swindle, patiently forging proofs that his wife is the legal owner of Arizona. Vincent Price is imperial as a womanizer, a monk, a gypsy and finally as the Baron of Arizona. The most impressive scene of the film is the scene of the lynching which already foreshadows the future masterpieces of Samuel Fuller. Recommended.
THE STEEL HELMET ***** 1951. Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller. THE STEEL HELMET was the first American movie about the Korea war which started just six months before its theatrical release. Eight soldiers, trapped in a Buddhist temple, fight the communist North Korean army. Be prepared for eighty-five minutes of non-stop tension. Samuel Fuller reveals here his taste for bizarre scenes which leave you wondering why this director isn't more appreciated. Masterpiece.
All in all, an indispensable box set for every movie lover. Don't be the last one to rediscover the most underrated American film director. Bring Sam Fuller to where he should already be. In your library."
Koreacollieman | SongTong Korea | 11/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The real deal on this is "The Steel Helmet"! A movie made at the start of the Korean war that was 50 years ahead of it's time. Despite some dated terms and perceptions, it provides a tense look at a tense time. A must have to any serious war movie or any movie collector. As for the other two, well Vincent Price gives a great perfomance in "The Baron of Arizona" even if the movie plays lose and fast with the history behind it. I say get the popcorn, turn out the lights and have a great family night watching one great, one good, and one "typical oater" for a good price...."
First Films of Samuel Fuller
J. P. Boylan | Rhinebeck, NY | 01/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an invaluable addition to the canon of American film, providing beautiful restorations of the early work of Sam Fuller, one of the great auteurs the 1950s. I would have paid this price just to get "The Steel Helmet," a breakthrough war film that skillfully shows the heroism and horror of combat, with a refreshing moral ambiguity and an almost painful realism. This is no flag-waving recruiting poster, but a no-nonsense depiction of everyday life on the battlefield. Fuller was way ahead of his time. Thank you, Criterion!"
Sam Fuller's first three movies. Criterion, what are you tel
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 07/14/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I Shot Jesse James:
"Whatya got to eat?" asks Bob Ford, who backshot his great friend Jesse James not too long ago. Says Joe, the bartender at the Silver King Saloon in Creede, Colorado, "Sweet corn, cornmeal mush, cornpone with cracklins and corn whiskey." "I'll have it," says Bob.
Lukewarm corn, cooked ambitiously, is about all there is in Sam Fuller's debut as a director. Fuller had been writing scripts and story outlines in Hollywood for quite awhile. Finally he made a three-movie deal with a B movie producer: If I can direct the movies, and I won't charge you, I'll write the screenplays. These three movies are Criterion's Eclipse Series 5-The First Films of Samuel Fuller. The set includes I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona and The Steel Helmet.
The first of the three, I Shot Jesse James, is a potentially intriguing story of a loser, but told with a script that has little tension, directed with little flair and acted, for the most part, with a dull, steady cadence. A good deal of the dialogue and many of the actors are just competent. Still, if you're a Fuller fan, I Killed Jesse James may be worth watching.
Fuller, in my view, was not one of the great directors (or screenwriters). He wasn't one of the great craftsmen, either. What he had was a tough, knock-about personal story, a confident willingness to dance to his own music, a streak of subversiveness that could undermine the fatuousness of Hollywood and its establishment, and enough talent to take the commonplace material and actors he often was dealt and turn at least parts of his movies into something to admire. He was the kind of Hollywood non-Hollywood director that some cineastes and film critics adore. His movies are variable. In my opinion, most of them don't hold up very well unless the viewer has been first captured by Sam Fuller's iconic anti-establishment reputation. Pickup on South Street is probably his best work, with fine performances by an A-level cast and an unusual script considering it was originally intended as an anti-Commie screed. The Big Red One, highly praised by many, is an effective war movie dear to Fuller's heart, but it seems to go on and on and on.
For the rest of his movies, those that I've seen, there are excellent bits and pieces mixed into a B-movie sensibility, awkward dialogue (almost any scenes involving a man and woman), and too much discursiveness. Fuller, in my opinion, needed a strong editor and a strong writer with whom to collaborate. I have a feeling that Fuller would find both prospects completely unsatisfactory.
But back to I Shot Jesse James. When Bob Ford (John Ireland) puts a bullet in the back of his friend, Jesse James, Ford hopes to gain amnesty and a large reward. He'd been befriended by James and had been part of James' gang. Ford wants to marry the love of his life, the singer Cynthy Waters (Barbara Britton). He thinks he can leave the criminal life and settle down with Cynthy. Instead she rejects him. He's called a coward and a backshooter. Most people hold him in contempt. He gets only a small part of the reward. He still thinks that if only he can make money he can win Cynthy. And there's that straight talkin' guy who likes Cynthy, too, a man named John Kelley (Preston Foster, top billed) who keeps showing up. There's a showdown, and that's that. John Ireland does what he can.
The Baron of Arizona:
The first six minutes of The Baron of Arizona is a ponderous exposition about Arizona by a small group of dignified actors congratulating each other on Arizona's new statehood. Among them is one of the most stilted of voice-over narrators, Reed Hadley. It's a terrible start to what could have been an exceedingly clever movie. After Hadley gives us the secret of James Addison Reavis (Vincent Price), Sam Fuller moves us back from 1912 to 1872. Here, we meet Reavis at the start of his great scam to win the territory of Arizona for himself through forged Spanish land grant documents, self-created histories, great forgery skills, the placing of forged documents in a Spanish monastery, and the grooming of a little girl who he convinces her illiterate guardians is the heir to the phony Peralta land grant claim. In time, love will come about.
Vincent Price and the Reavis scam is what the movie is all about. The scam's potential keeps us interested. Price makes Reavis a complicated and intriguing character who captures our interest and a good deal of our sympathy for his hard work. The movie, however, is flawed by its flashback structure, it's jumbled first 40 minutes, by some standard B movie acting and by Hadley's limitations as an actor and as a really irritating narrator. Fuller's tell-us-the-con-early structure bleeds the air out of the balloon. Fuller shot this Poverty Row effort in 15 days.
When I've had the opportunity to watch The Steel Helmet, I'll add comments. Until then, these two of three films are examples of flawed B movies, but Sam Fuller fans and, perhaps, others might find them of interest."