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Pickup On South Street Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Pickup On South Street” is arguably Samuel Fuller’s best film.

Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, 1953’s “Pickup On South Street” doubles as a Cold War thriller and a film noir. The story centers around a smart alec thief (Skip) who steals from a young woman (Candy). However, Skip didn’t make out with the usual purse contents. Instead, he finds a classified U.S. microfilm. The microfilm was meant to be delivered by Candy to a communist spy (Joey). Candy is unaware of the microfilm’s contents or that Joey is a spy though. The situation becomes further complicated by the fact that police were tailing Candy and were hoping to find the spies. Obviously, they are trying to track down the microfilm and the spy. Other key subplots here involve an informant named Moe that both the police and criminals go to for help and a blossoming but complicated romance between Skip and Candy.

“Pickup On South Street” has all the film noir trademarks, but Fuller’s film is much more than a standard film noir. The Cold War angle takes the story in different directions and the character arcs themselves are unusual for the film noir world. I say unusual because the main characters here (namely Skip and Candy) are both morally gray characters. Usually, the criminal characters all meet their end in these types of films and while I won’t spoil what happens to them, I will say the character paths differ from the norm. They’re both deeply flawed humans and, in the case of Skip, a convicted criminal who is whishy-washy in nearly every aspect of his life. And yet, both Skip and Candy try to redeem themselves in some sense. Sure, they’re trying to get themselves out of the hole they are in, but there are some good intentions there. I say all that to say that ‘Pickup’ feels like a fresh entry in the film noir genre even after all these years. it’s mixing of genres and assured direction and script by Fuller make this a classic to be sure.

The performances here are top notch as well. Nobody can play a shady grouch like Richard Widmark. He excels at those type of roles. Jean Peters lights up the screen and has a great part to work with. Thelma Ritter was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Moe and it’s not hard to see why. Her character within this criminal underworld is magnificently layered and brought to life by Ritter.


Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The 4K digital restoration gives this B&W film a sharp new hi-def transfer. Fans will undoubtedly be pleased.

Audio Track: Uncompressed Mono. How does it sound? Viewers can expect a nice clean Mono track. What more can you ask for? 

* A booklet with credits, an essay by Luc Sante, a book foreword by Martin Scorsese on Samuel Fuller, a chapter from Fuller’s book,
* Trailers for a host of Samuel Fuller films- “Fixed Bayonets!,” “Park Row,” “Pickup On South Street,” “Hell And High Water,” “House Of Bamboo,” “China Gate,” “Run Of The Arrow,” “Forty Guns,” “Verboten!,” “The Crimson Kimono,” “Underworld U.S.A.,” “Merrill’s Marauders,” “Shock Corridor,” “The Naked Kiss,” “The Big Red One,” and “White Dog.”
* A 1954 Hollywood Radio Theater radio drama adaptation of “Pickup On South Street.”
* A segment of the French TV series “Cinema Cinemas” featuring Fuller talking about the beginning of “Pickup On South Street.”
* A new interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith who talks about the cast and making of ‘Pickup.’
* A 1989 archival interview between Samuel Fuller and film critic Richard Schickel.

June 21, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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