By rights, Samuel Fuller should probably be regarded more highly in the annals of mid-20th century American cinema. The fact he made principally the kind of B-pictures evidenced in this comprehensive Eureka Entertainment release is testament to why this isn’t the case.
Fuller at Fox: Five Films 1951-1957 does what it says on the tin, presenting five key pictures from the key cornerstone era of Fuller’s career. While he would again make a critical splash (if not a box office one) in 1980 with his war movie The Big Red One, Fuller’s period working at 20th Century Fox across the 50’s is probably his heyday. Fox head honcho Darryl F. Zanuck tempted him with the promise “we make better movies” and gave Fuller the opportunity to play in different genres while retaining a similar, unique sense of pulp, all-American muscular grit, whether playing war, Western or even international crime thriller. Over these years, Fuller had a run at them all.
This collection presents these films in quite stunning, remastered fashion on BluRay and they arguably serve as a fantastic entry point for anyone looking to explore Fuller’s work. It’s the kind of release long-term fans will go nuts for.
The five films are presented chronologically with a whole wealth of extra material that is listed below.
From 1951 you have Fixed Bayonets! Fuller’s first picture at Fox, with Richard Basehart as a put-upon corporal in a Korean War platoon – a tight and tense war drama. Next in 1953 comes Pickup on South Street, regarded by many as Fuller’s finest film, one of two films in this set starring Richard Widmark, here in a slick espionage thriller. A year later Widmark returns in Hell or High Water, a Cold War submarine action adventure in which he plays a mercenary out to prevent atomic espionage that could trigger WW3. Fuller switches to film noir for 1955’s House of Bamboo, with Robert Stack’s swaggering investigator in Japan looking to expose Robert Ryan’s criminal enterprise – a stunning looking picture. Finally, my personal favourite, the punchy 1957 Western Forty Guns, with Barbara Stanwyck as the sassy, feminist leader of a villainous posse who falls in love with a US Marshal.
The list of extras accompanying these films is outstanding, and gives you a fuller understanding (pun intended) of this underrated director and his work:
- Original, uncompressed, monaural soundtracks for all films
- Optional English SDH available for all films
- FIXED BAYONETS! – audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
- PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET – Interview with critic, filmmaker and programmer Kent Jones [32 mins]
- PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET – Interview with critic François Guérif [24 mins]
- PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET – “Cinema Cinemas” French TV interview with Samuel Fuller [12 mins]
- HELL AND HIGH WATER – Brand new audio commentary by author Scott Harrison
- HELL AND HIGH WATER – A documentary on lead actor Richard Widmark [45 mins]
- HOUSE OF BAMBOO – Audio commentary with Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman
- HOUSE OF BAMBOO – Audio commentary with Film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini
- HOUSE OF BAMBOO – a brand new video essay by David Cairns looking at Samuel Fuller’s films produced for Twentieth Century Fox.
- FORTY GUNS – Audio interview with Samuel Fuller from 1969 at the National Film Theatre in London [80 mins]
- FORTY GUNS – Interview with film critic Jean-Louis Leutrat [17 mins]
- FORTY GUNS – A Fuller Life [80 mins], a feature-length documentary directed by Samantha Fuller
- Original theatrical trailers for all five films
- A 100-PAGE PERFECT BOUND COLLECTOR’S BOOK featuring essays by Richard Combs, Murielle Joudet, Philip Kemp, Glenn Kenny, and Amy Simmons; excerpts from Fuller’s autobiography A Third Face; and rare archival imagery
An absolute corker of a release from Eureka, Fuller at Fox is a real gem of a collection that illuminates some terrific 50’s B-pictures, which render in gorgeous fashion on BluRay, and hopefully will give Samuel Fuller a bit of well-deserved re-appreciation.
Fuller at Fox: Five Films 1951-1957 is available from October 28th in a Limited Edition release of 2000 copies from Eureka Entertainment.