Archive for the ‘Directed by Samuel Fuller’ Category

Shock Corridor

23 Oct

Shock Corridor – written, produced, and directed by Sam Fuller. Drama. To land a hot story, a journalist has himself committed to an insane asylum, and faces the consequences.
Fuller had all the punch in the world as a director. He has a strong commitment to story; he knows how to set up and physically direct a scene; he knows how to stun an audience into attention. But the one thing he does not know, if this film be sole evidence, is to direct actors such that they hold back enough to let the audience in. Everyone hams it up all over the place. Everyone overdoes. Everyone plays everything for more than it is worth. Everyone wrings every scene dry. This misfortune is so true that, watching it, one cannot calm down enough from resisting it to notice when they are not doing it. So, with the actors doing everything for them, the audience is left with nothing to do, except perhaps to listen to the didactic – which fortunately always takes a form so brilliant that one cannot help but sit back and be astounded; for instance, a blazing political harangue in favor of the Klux Klux Klan is not only given by a black inmate, but given by the first black man to integrate the high schools in Alabama! The treatment of patients in asylums, their subjection to water and shock treatment, the want of therapy, the barbarity of the guards – yes we see it all. We also see the reporter’s girlfriend working as a cooch dancer to support him, and we actually see Constance Towers, with her beautiful figure, dance and sing the cooch, and not only does she actually sing it, she sings it live. And that is the virtue of Sam Fuller. He is able to make you be there. The dust-ups that occur are wild and look out of control; there is much incidental damage done. I guess he could get away with this, because he did not use stars, so it didn’t matter if his actors get messed up, and it really pays off in shock value. Yes, he can make you be there, but he can not make you be the characters you see there. On the countrary, you are held off by the overstated acting, and because therefore there is no way in, you find youself with no one to identify with. It is the cinemaphotographer, Stanley Cortez, who raises the piece up into the realm of art. For the film is well worth watching, and so are the Special Features, which include an interview by that fine lady Constance Towers, and include a documentary about Fuller, who is tiny, who is never without a cigar, and who is an exemplary rapscallion. He is a heavenly human being, brimming with mischief, life-love, zest, and the education which only rash experience can provide. Fuller is spoken of fondly and seriously by directors Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, Robin Williams, and Quentin Tarantino from whom he deserved each kudos he got. He’s a lot of fun, gifted, and much loved.


The Big Red One

01 Feb

The Big Red One – directed by Samuel Fuller – Five men slog through adventures comic and perilous in WWII. 113 minutes color 1980.

* * * * *

The reason I like Sam Fuller’s films is that nothing in them intervenes between them and me. The story is right there, the characters are right there, that’s it. Thinking on it, another reason has to do with Fuller’s temperament, which is Tolstoian, by which I mean in one stroke of the brush the hard truth about a situation or an individual is rendered complete. That hard truth may be humorous or it may be tragic; Fuller’s treatment is the same. So we have nothing fancy to distract us from the material or to prevaricate a shallowness, nor anything fancy in the editing, score, or filming. This is a great boon in a war story, a genre I seldom watch. But here we see the war as Bill Mauldin saw it, and as the soldiers saw it. Here we have no Great Battles, no Heroes; instead we have the First Infantry Army doughboys and grunts quickly improvising to survive and to kill. The boys are less well drawn than they might be, reduced to characteristic gestures, but that is all right in my books because the story is held together by the Sargent, played by Lee Marvin, who is, of course, the very pineapple of self-possession. So, lying behind its remarkable episodes, the film is a rare example of the spiritual ritual of men as a group coming into their own masculinity under the aegis of a male mentor. They fall under the wing of his taciturnity, cunning, devotion, and care. He is willing to kill them to make them grow up. But he is not willing to sacrifice them. They breathe him in. Their pheromones grow on their own under his watchful eye, and what all the four actors in his group do, more than elucidate their own gestures, is to take this remarkable man in and mature by that act and by the acts that act of spiritual ingestion inspires. It is a movie with that rare thing, true subtext.


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