Pickup on South Street: A Brief Review

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Crawford, Feb 14, 2004.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Fox has finally had one of their film noirs released on dvd by allowing Criterion to release the 1953 film "Pickup on South Street". Fans of the film noir genre and of this particular film will be very pleased with the dvd presentation of this release. The video presentation is very good, almost on par with some of Warner's black and white film releases on dvd. For those that never seen this rather brutal and realistic film, you're in for a real treat if you ever buy the dvd. The premise of the film is about a pickpocket in NYC, who accidently steals a piece of illegal microfilm while picking the pocketbook of an unsuspecting woman on the subway. I won't go into further details except to say the FBI, New York City Police and Communist Agents are involved in the film's plot.

    Hopefully, Herb Kane will give a full detail review of this dvd release while my goal for this thread is to simply draw attention to this release and to advise those that are buying this dvd that Criterion did an excellent job with it.

    The extras include a 19 minute featurette with Sam Fuller talking about "Pickup on South Street". Also, there is an 11 minute featurette that Sam Fuller filmed for French televison about the opening scenes of "Pickup on South Street".

    Furthermore, there are several trailers of Fuller directed films for Fox. Most of them are in their OAR and look pretty damn good. For those of you that don't know much about Sam Fuller, the following is some of his directed films.
    • Fixed Bayonets
    • The Steel Helmet
    • Hell and High Water
    • House of Bamboo
    • China Gate (One of the first films about Vietnam filmed in 1957)
    • Forty Guns
    • Merrill's Marauders
    • Shock Corridor
    • The Naked Kiss
    • The Big Red One






    Crawdaddy
     
  2. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Looking forward to watching this film again ( and retiring the VHS ) next week. I hope this sells well and we see more Fuller ( particularly House of Bamboo ) on DVD.

    - Walter.
     
  3. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    The product details for this DVD on Amazon.com currently indicate that the film is rated "NC-17, Not for sale to persons under age 18."

    Can that be correct? I would expect a film from 1953 to be unrated, unless somehow it was later rated for a re-release or something. I can't imagine a film from 50 years ago would really have anything that graphic in it, but your description of it as "rather brutal" makes me wonder about the content.

    It isn't listed as a rated movie at www.cara.org. Other retailers seem to list it as "Not Rated," as I would expect.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Based on Mr. Crawford's recommendations,
    I purchased this DVD and received it a
    few days ago.

    Watched it last night.

    What a superb film! In fact, it was so good
    I was going to do a huge "rave" of it in next
    week's HTF TOP PICKS, but I might as well
    start recommending this film now.

    The transfer is excellent. Print is in pristine
    condition and I saw very little (if any) in the
    way of dirt, scratches or otherwise. Mr. Crawford
    is correct in saying that this transfer is on par
    with Warner's very best.

    As far as this film being brutal....it is for
    its time. There's a riveting scene of Jean Peters
    (Candy) getting assaulted that had me a little
    unnerved. I was sort of wondering how people at
    that time had dealt with this issue being portrayed
    so vividly on screen.

    On a brighter note, I fell in love with Thelma
    Ritter's character. Her bedroom scene can certainly
    be considered one of the most memorable moments
    in classic film. I was trying to figure out where
    I had seen her before.....then it dawned on me...
    she was alongside Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window.

    This is a "classic tough-guy movie" well worth
    checking out.
     
  5. Thomas T

    Thomas T Cinematographer

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    I can't wait for this one! Hopefully, Fox will release more Fuller gems from their library including Forty Guns, House Of Bamboo, China Gate and Hell And High Water.

    Trivia: Fox remade Pick Up On South Street in 1967 under the title The Cape Town Affair which followed South Street so closely that Fuller was given credit for the screenplay. The film has fallen into public domain apparently as there are several versions out there. I have the Platinum version. As expected, the remake is mediocre. It features Jacqueline Bisset in the Jean Peters role, James Brolin (Mr. Streisand) in the Richard Widmark role and Claire Trevor in the Thelma Ritter role.
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Thomas,
    Fox Movie Channel has shown "The Cape Town Affair" more than a few times over the last year or so.
     
  7. Matt Stieg

    Matt Stieg Stunt Coordinator

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    'Bout time we got some more Samuel Fuller on DVD. One can only hope Fox will get around to releasing Park Row on DVD sometime (one of my favorite Fuller films, never been on video unfortunately).
     
  8. Mark Cappelletty

    Mark Cappelletty Cinematographer

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    Here's another vote for House of Bamboo. Fox has recently either restored or at least minted another print for this, as the version I saw (with Park Row) at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood last year looked practically new. And it's a GREAT film.
     
  9. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    another classic i wasn't familiar with but am now jazzed to see.
    i will definitely be hunting this down on Tues.
    i hope the Fox/Criterion deal is beneficial to both parties.

    it would be awesome to see Criterion picking up the slack with "classics" that Fox isn't too eager to get around to.
    and if that deal does work well, maybe Fox would consider liscencing out some of their less prestigious films like Dirty Mary Crazy Larry to some outfit like Blue Underground.
     
  10. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    It would be fantastic for Fox to do a Samuel Fuller collection boxset (just like Universal should with Douglas Sirk). Fuller's becoming hugely popular once again among film fans and cineastes (as I hope the sales figures from this Criterion disc will indicate) and I can only imagine such a release would meet with cheers and open arms (and wallets).
     
  11. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Robert... I watched this last night... WOW!! What a great movie and what a fabulous disc. I agree wholeheartedly with respect to the transfer. It falls just short of some of the very best B&W WB transfers we've seen, and that's high praise indeed.

    What I did find unique was during the close-ups of the female actresses, typically we usually see a somewhat softer image ie. filters. In this case, the image was almost slightly out of focus... and most assuredly intentional as it would cut back to, say Skip, and the image would be breathtaking again. Very interesting. The audio track was equally pleasing with only a hint of hiss. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to spend too much time with the extras (other than the trailers) but plan on spending some time with them in the next couple of days.

    As I mentioned in the other film noir thread, the House Of Bamboo trailer looks amazing... and I'd venture a guess that it is one of the Fox titles that Criterion will be releasing - or so I hope.

    Without question, this will be one of my favorite releases of the year.

    Herb.
     
  12. ChristopherBlig

    ChristopherBlig Stunt Coordinator

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  13. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    I noticed that - something that happened by accident during the shooting of How Green Was My Valley, Ford loved it and left it in.

    Brilliant. Loved it from Richard Widmark's hard boiled anti-hero and Jean Peters' dupe, to the wonderful Thelma Ritter, almost stealing the show (again).

    Fuller's restless camera work and pacey direction keep the story, breathlessly and economically told in 80 minutes, bowling along, the dialogue is almost beautifully Runyonesque at times, and there's some terrific noir cinematography from Joe MacDonald (all of those claustrophobic close-ups and some fine deep focus work).

    Since the rise of DVD we've come accustomed to praising good transfers as 'Criterion like'. But in the past couple of years, others have raised the bar still further - I can do no more than say the work on Pickup on South Street is almost as good as the best of Warners or Fox, and all praise to the latter for licensing this title out to Criterion; if only all our classic DVDs were as good as this.

    ---
    So many films, so little time...
     
  14. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Enjoyed the film very much as well and I'm glad I purchased it. I'm ready to buy any more Sam Fuller that Fox or Criterion releases.
     
  15. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    Does anyone know the timing of this? The interview was done by Richard Schickel, and it's touted as being done exclusively for the Criterion Collection. But Fuller died in late 1997, before DVDs had caught on, and I thought Fox had fairly recently granted the rights to Criterion to release its film noirs on DVD.

    Is that timing right? If so, why was Criterion conducting an interview with Fuller about Pickup on South Street before it had rights to the film? Or was this a case where Schickel had done the interview on his own and then just sold it later to Criterion?
     
  16. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Richard Schickel conducted interviews with a number of filmmakers, including Fuller, for his series "The Men Who Made The Movies" that occassionally shows on TCM. I have the Fuller and King Vidor docs on tape. They are between 50-55m. I haven't watched the segment on the Criterion DVD yet to know if this is simply an excerpt from this program, or if Schickel assembled unused segments for Criterion.
     
  17. Randy A Salas

    Randy A Salas Screenwriter

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    Ah, probably the latter, since Criterion says it was created "exclusively" for it. Thanks, Brook.
     
  18. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Watched it today and can confirm that it must have been made from unused segments. It's definitely taken from the same interview, but I'm pretty sure that only the opening 30s or so and the discussion about "Don't wave the flag at me" are included in "The Men Who Made The Movies". I believe the "Don't wave the flag at me" portion is also included in Scorsese's "A Personal Journey Through American Film" documentary.
     
  19. Bob Cashill

    Bob Cashill Cinematographer

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    Amazon slipped up on the NC-17 designation. The disc is "not rated" and is indeed outstanding in every way.
     

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