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The First Films of Samuel Fuller - Eclipse Series 5


 I Shot Jesse James (1949)     The Baron of Arizona (1950)     The Steel Helmet (1951)

His films have been called raw, outrageous, sensational, and daring. In four decades of directing, Samuel Fuller created a legendarily idiosyncratic oeuvre, examining U.S. history and mythmaking in westerns, film noirs, and war epics. And characteristically, it all began with a bang: after printing the legend with the elegant B-pictures I Shot Jesse James and The Baron of Arizona, he got himself into hot water with the FBI on The Steel Helmet, the first American movie to portray the Korean War. These three independent films showed off Fuller’s genre diversity, gutter wit, and subversive force, and pointed the way to a controversial career in studio moviemaking.





I Shot Jesse James - After years of crime reporting, screenwriting, and authoring pulp novels, Samuel Fuller made his directorial debut with the lonesome ballad of Robert Ford (played by Red River’s John Ireland), who fatally betrayed his friend, the notorious Jesse James. At once modest and intense, I Shot Jesse James is an engrossing pocket portrait of guilt and psychological torment, and an auspicious beginning for the maverick filmmaker.

The Baron of Arizona - In one of his own favorite roles, Vincent Price portrays legendary swindler James Addison Reavis, who, in 1880, concocted an elaborate and dangerous hoax to name himself as the “Baron” of Arizona and therefore inherit all the land in the state. Samuel Fuller adapts this tall tale to film with fleet, elegant storytelling and a sly sense of humor.

The Steel Helmet - marked Samuel Fuller’s official arrival as a mighty cinematic force. Despite its relatively low budget, this portrait of Korean War soldiers dealing with moral and racial identity crises remains one of the director’s most gripping, realistic depictions of the blood and guts of war, as well as a reflection of Fuller’s irreducible social conscience. So controversial were the film’s comments on domestic and war crimes (American bigotry, the Japanese-American WWII internment camps) that Fuller became the target of an FBI investigation.


Theatrical Releases: 1949 - 1951

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Eclipse Series Five from the Criterion Collection (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC


DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:21:21, 1:36:54 + 1:24:09

I Shot Jesse James


The Baron of Arizona


The Steel Helmet

Audio English (original mono)
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Eclipse / Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
All Original Aspect Ratios - 1.33 

Edition Details:

  •  one page (for each film) of liner notes in the transparent case

DVD Release Date: August 14th, 2007

3 Transparent Keep Cases inside a Slipcase cardboard box
Chapters: 14, 16, and 12




NOTE: The 3 feature films of this boxset are housed in slim individual transparent keep cases (see image above) and they are not sold separately at this time. These particular editions can only be obtained in Criterion's Eclipse Series Five - The First Films of Samuel Fuller package at present.

All three DVDs are dual-layered and, unfortunately for some, pictureboxed transferred (see our full description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Each are coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. The transfers are progressive and in the original 1.33 aspect ratio. The audio for all is original English mono and there are optional English subtitles. The Kit*Parker*Films logo starts each film so we can assume that is the transfer source. The Baron of Arizona has been preserved by the Museum of Modern Art Dept of Film. As an aside The Steel Helmet starts with a dedication to the United States Infantry. 

Image quality: Not perfect by any means - there are plenty of speckles and small damage marks in Jesse James and Baron although Steel Helmet seems the most free of them. Criterion's hallmark remains their contrast. I'll assume there was some black level boosting which brings out detail to a higher standard but digital noise is prevalent. I would say that the image quality is acceptable for viewing purposes but perhaps a notch below my expectations. There appears to be no extensive restoration - just Criterion's digital contrast 'upgrading'.

Audio was quite good and I noted no dropout flaws or excessive background hiss, although the latter was present to a small degree at times.


As standard for Eclipse there are no digital supplements but some liner notes readable through the keep case cover for each film.  

For the price I consider this a must-own DVD package. The Steel Helmet especially being desirable to have in the library although I enjoyed I Shot Jesse James very much as well. The fact that these three films have not been released previously adds to the purchase enticement - actually I don't think I know any serious film fans that won't be buying this as Fuller was such a unique auteur force. Regardless of looking deeply into his cinema though these films are strong entertainment in their own right. Highly recommended - just be prepared that the image quality is not Criterion-pristine!

Gary W. Tooze

DVD Menus


Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover



I Shot Jesse James (1949)

Starring Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland, Reed Hadley, J. Edward Bromberg, Victor Kilian and Tom Tyler
Fuller's directorial debut is a psychological western, excavating, with pathos and humor, the tale of Robert Ford, the member of Jesse James's gang who shot the famed outlaw in the back.
Subtitle Sample

Screen Captures






Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover




The Baron of Arizona (1950)

Starring Vincent Price , Ellen Drew, Vladimir Sokoloff, Beulah Bondi and Reed Hadley
The Baron of Arizona A devilishly witty Vincent Price plays a nineteenth-century con man who sets out to commit the most epic swindle in U.S. history: to claim himself as the rightful inheritor of Arizona.



Screen Captures








Slim Transparent Keep Case Cover




The Steel Helmet (1951)

Starring Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards, Richard Loo, Sid Melton and Richard Monahan
The Steel Helmet With its low budget and high ambitions, Fuller's snarling Korean War film, an examination of race relations as well as a visceral plunge into battle, remains one of the director's most discussed and admired works.


Screen Captures







DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Eclipse / Criterion Collection - Region 1 - NTSC


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Gary Tooze

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