Sunday, March 16, 2014

261. Pickup On South Street (1953)

Running Time: 80 minutes
Directed By: Samuel Fuller
Written By: Samuel Fuller, from story by Dwight Taylor
Main Cast: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, Murvyn Vye, Richard Kiley
Click here to view the trailer


I'm dead tired and today was only the first of a five day stretch. Hopefully I can at least get the Sam Fuller stuff done this work week and then spend my upcoming three day weekend chilling with my wife, when we plan to watch a handful of new releases that we've been putting off. Anyway, it's time for some Fuller and I am 100% unfamiliar with him, having never seen one of his movies before.

Love Widmark's eyes in this shot. The whole scene where he picks her purse is brilliantly filmed and probably the best scene in the whole film. 

It's a film noir, so that should allow you to mentally set the mood and atmosphere in your head. The film takes place smack dab in the middle of the Cold War and it kind of reverberates to today's current situation in the Ukraine. Anyway, the film begins on a subway, as the camera zooms in on a pretty woman, which turns out to be Candy (Peters) and a man eyeballing her purse. The music plays and no words are exchanged, as the man slyly shuffles his fingers into her purse, grabbing her wallet and exiting the train quickly. As he leaves, two men run for the door, but it closes on them at the last second. It turns out that Candy was delivering a piece of important microfilm to the Reds and it just so happens that she had it in her wallet. The two men who dashed for the subway door, were government agents, who were following Candy, ready to nab whomever she passed the film off to. Now the film is in the hands of petty pickpocket, Skip McCoy (Widmark), who really doesn't know what he has. Well, that is until he is pulled in by police and told to simply return the microfilm and no questions will be asked. He instead plays dumb, realizing that he must have gotten his hands on something important and instead meets up with Candy later in the film, demanding a hearty sum of $25,000 for the return of the film. Candy enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend Joey (Kiley) to help her negotiate with Skip and with the ones who she was delivering to, trying to buy her more time. Meanwhile, pickpocket aficionado Moe (Ritter), makes $50 here and $50 there as she leads people to Skip's door. It's nothing personal, she tells him - she's simply saving up to buy a cemetery plot and needs the green. Also, a romance blossoms between Skip and Candy.

Jean Peters relaxing in a hot bath. She looked fabulous in this, but I was hard pressed to find a good publicity photo of her, when I went hunting afterwards.

Here's the deal kids, daddy's tired and he's literally sitting right next to his bed, which has somehow sprouted lips and is miraculously calling his name. So, I do apologize, but I'm going to try and make this one short & sweet so that I can go lay down. I knew you'd understand. Oh, yes - "Pickup on South Street".

If I had to sum it up, I'd say that it just wasn't good enough. It was fine, I guess and I can't say I hated it or waited for it to end. I watched it patiently and let the eighty minutes elapse, but I was never blown away, left gape mouthed or even left with thoughts like "Oh, this is really good" or "This is something special". Nope, that never happened, not even close. I guess if I had to give reasons as to why I didn't like it, I'd simply say that I've seen better noirs - ones that didn't have all the "commie" and "reds" talk, which was bordering on too political for my tastes. I'll also admit that my hopes may have been a little high too. I was actually really looking forward to a good noir and was in the perfect mood for one last night. I'd seen this title when I first bought THE BOOK and just the title alone attracted me and seemed like something I'd be into. While I didn't hate it or anything, it certainly won't be going on my favorites list anytime soon. There was just about equal parts good and bad, but ultimately I'd just say it wasn't special enough to be considered a "must see" and the cast just couldn't save it, as good as they were. Seriously, I loved Widmark, Ritter and Peters (va va va voom!) and they were all noir naturals.

Widmark's character lives at this old, rundown shack near the docks - a great noir setting.

RATING: 6/10  Sorry for being so short, but I really am beat tonight. I guess I could have waited to write the review, but I don't like to wait too long after watching the movies because I don't want to start forgetting stuff.


March 16, 2014  8:30pm


  1. Oh dear...
    I'm afraid i have to say I wish you'd seen this one on a less tired night, as I feel you missed out on something.
    I happily give you there was FAR too much 'red scare' stuff in this. You had better get used to it, Sam Fuller is full of it. He hates Commies. But to be fair, he hates Nazis as well. Although I like a good dose of politics in my films (I know you don't), all that 50's McCarthyism stuff usually has me reacting badly against a film.
    But for this one.. I make an exception.
    Magnificent mood and tension. Feel the heat and sweat of the subway, smell the damp and river smell of his hut..taste the cold beer...
    And the characterisation.. wonderful. Thema Ritter is as magnificent as ever... and Richard Widmark.. well he can go over the top.. but just enough here.

    I think you get the idea.. I quite liked this.

    But you started at the top.. by far the best Sam Fuller.. possible at all, certainly in the book.

    1. Well, I was fully rested when I watched the movie. The tired I was referring to was just tired I was referring too was just when I was writing the review. I try and never watch movies when I'm too tired, for fear that I'll miss something...I'm afraid I didn't like this one, even with the well rested head.

      Glad you did though!! I've just seen much better noirs.


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