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The Collector's Choice: The Samuel Fuller Collection

 
It Happened in Hollywood (1937)      Adventure in Sahara (1938)

Power of the Press (1943)      Shockproof (1949)     Scandal Sheet (1952)

The Crimson Kimono (1959)     Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

 

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Samuel Fuller never stopped looking for truth and never shied away from controversy. His films were as rough and gritty as the stories he told, combining incisive, intelligent storytelling, with passionate, two-fisted, direction, creating a singularly unique body of work. Now Sony Pictures and the Film Foundation have gathered together all 7 Columbia Pictures features in which he participated as writer or director into an electrifying set - all restored, remastered and new to DVD.

About Samuel Fuller:
Samuel Fuller (August 12, 1912 - October 30, 1997) is considered a legend and a maverick of Americancinema; his work is cited as an influence on the French New Wave (including director Jean-Luc Godard, in whose film Pierrot Le Fou Fuller appeared in a cameo) and such modern day auteurs as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch. The creator of a robust visual style, Fuller used a groundbreaking combination of deep-focus, hand-held and subjective cinematography to dramatically enhance the audience’s point of view.

Fuller began as a New York City crime reporter at 17, and his film work reflected on his newspaper experience; his pulp fiction writing and screenplays were noted for his tabloid-influenced storytelling. As a filmmaker, he depicted a grim portrait of American society and immorality and his plot themes focused on deception or hypocrisy.

In the early-1940s, Fuller served in the U.S. Army as a corporal in the First Infantry Division and was twice wounded in battle, receiving a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his bravery. Fuller's wartime experiences were a major turning point in his film career and influenced his writing for the remainder of his life.

 


Titles

 


 

It Happened in Hollywood (1937) was one of Fuller’s first screenwriting credits, a credit he shared with Ethel Hill (The Little Princess) and Harvey Fergusson (Hot Saturday). Fay Wray (King Kong) stars alongside Academy Award nominee Richard Dix (1930, Best Actor, Cimarron), who plays a famous Hollywood western star at a time when audiences’ changing preferences for Gangster films might imperil the Cowboy’s career. One of the most notable features of Director Harry Lachman’s comedy is a lavish party scene, featuring look-a-like doubles of top stars James Cagney, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Mae West, and Ginger Rogers. It Happened in Hollywood has a running time of 67 minutes and is not rated.

Fuller provided the original story for Adventure in Sahara (1938), with Maxwell Shane stepping in to write the screenplay. C. Henry Gordon (Conquest) commands a detachment of Foreign Legionnaires with such brutality that he is sent at gunpoint by his men into the desert with a few loyal soldiers and scant supplies, to fend for himself or perish. He vows to reach civilization and return for vengeance. Adventure in Sahara has a running time of 60 minutes and is not rated.

Power of the Press (1943) is based on an original story by Fuller, with Robert Hardy Andrews contributing the screenplay for this tale of a villainous big city publisher whose quest for power leads him to pay off gangsters to act as his henchmen and kill anyone who gets in his path. Academy Award nominee Lee Tracy (1964, Best Supporting Actor, The Best Man), Guy Kibbee (Gold Diggers of 1933, 3 Godfathers), Otto Kruger (Cover Girl), Victor Jory (Gone with the Wind), and Gloria Dickson (Lady of Burlesque) star in this intense, hard-hitting drama for Director Lew Landers. Power of the Press has a running time of approximately 64 minutes and is not rated.

Fuller shared the screenplay credit on Shockproof (1949) with Helen Deutsch (The Loves of Carmen, Valley of the Dolls) for legendary director Douglas Sirk (Magnificent Obsession, Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life). Academy Award nominee Cornel Wilde (1945, Best Actor, A Song to Remember; Leave Her to Heaven, The Naked Prey) and Patricia Knight (The Magic Face), who were married at the time in real life, star in the story of a woman (Knight), who, after serving only five years of her life sentence for murder, is released from prison on parole. Her tough but tender parole officer (Wilde) tries to keep her from associating with criminal types, including her former lover Harry, played by John Baragrey, (The Loves of Carmen), and ends up bending the rules he’s pledged to uphold. Howard St. John (Born Yesterday), and Russell Collins (Raintree County) also star. Shockproof has a running time of approximately 79 minutes and is not rated.

Fuller wrote the novel which formed the basis of Scandal Sheet (1952), with Ted Sherdeman (Them!), and Academy Award winners Eugene Ling (1949, Best Screenplay, Lost Boundaries) and James Poe (1957, Best Writing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Around the World in Eighty Days) contributing the screenplay for Director Phil Karlson (Tight Spot, The Brothers Rico, The Silencers). The cast features Academy Award winners Broderick Crawford (1949, Best Actor, All the King’s Men; Born Yesterday) and Donna Reed (1953, Best Supporting Actress, From Here to Eternity) with John Derek (Knock on Any Door, All the King’s Men). Crawford is the unscrupulous new editor who boosts the circulation of a respected New York newspaper with tabloid-style reporting. Reed and Derek play the junior reporters on the paper who clash over the new editorial policy, but finally work together to solve a murder. Scandal Sheet has a running time of approximately 82 minutes and is not rated.

Samuel Fuller sat in the director’s chair for the first time at Columbia Pictures for The Crimson Kimono (1959), for which he also wrote the screenplay and produced. This taut film noir concerns two L.A. detectives investigating the murder of a stripper. As their search takes them through skid row, Little Tokyo and other atmospheric neighborhoods, the tension between the two cops rises to a boil as they both fall for the same girl. Fuller’s cast includes two actors making their film debuts: Glenn Corbett (Pirates of Blood River, Homicidal) and James Shigeta (Bridge to the Sun, Flower Drum Song), along with Victoria Shaw (The Eddy Duchin Story) and Anna Lee (This Earth is Mine). The Crimson Kimono has a running time of approximately 82 minutes and is not rated.

Fuller wrapped up his association with Columbia Pictures with the release of Underworld U.S.A. (1961). Fuller again wrote, produced and directed, with Academy Award winner Cliff Robertson (1968, Best Actor, Charly) starring in this gritty tale of vengeance in which Robertson feigns loyalty to both the government (a federal crime commission) and organized crime in order to kill the men who murdered his father. This is one of Samuel Fuller's most visually striking films, based on a series of Saturday Evening Post articles, by Joseph F. Dineen. Underworld U.S.A. has a running time of approximately 96 minutes and is not rated.

Taken from The Film Foundation HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1937 - 1961

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Sony (7-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:07:22, :56:22, 1:03:54, 1:19:39, 1:21:36, 1:21:18 + 1:38:15
Audio English (original mono)
Subtitles English, French, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
All Original: 1.33 for the first 5 and 1.85 Anamorphic for The Crimson Kimono and Underworld U.S.A.

Edition Details:
• Previews (Norman Lear Collection, Three Stooges, Columbia Classics)
Tim Robbins Search for Truth with Sam Fuller (7:05)
Sam Fuller Storyteller (24:13)
The Culture of The Crimson Kimono (9:22)
Martin Scorsese on Underworld U.S.A. (5:08)

DVD Release Date: October 27th, 2009

One Keep Case
Chapters: 12 X
7

 

Comments:

With Warner temporarily ceasing their classic Noir, Gangster, Pre-Code or individual vintage star boxsets, Sony has taken over bringing out packages of older films that are representative, in this case, of a past star, director or writer. Their recent William Castle Film Collection is an example also filling that niche label. However, that set only had three new-to-DVD features - but in this Samuel Fuller grouping all 7 in this collection are seeing the digital DVD light-of-day for the very first time.

It should be noted, right out of the gate, that only two of these films are Fuller directorial efforts - BUT they happen to both be extremely desirable to fans; The Crimson Kimono and Underworld U.S.A. The other five, actually the first five, have him listed as the screenwriter, co-screenwriter, or author of the story on which the film was based. Many were hoping for some other obscure titles like Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (rumored for many years) or the 1957 China Gate but these weren't Columbia holdings and Sony obviously doesn't have the rights to include them in this set. While the first three in this package are relatively minor works in his oeuvre (where he had less control of the output) - both Douglas Sirk's Shockproof and Phil Karlson's Scandal Sheet are solid films and a bit more representative of Fuller material - although I read somewhere that he was quite dissatisfied with the end result of the latter movie. 

The seven feature films of this boxset are all black and white and reside on individual, progressively transferred DVD discs. The first 5 are single-layered in the 1.33 aspect ratio and the final two are dual-layered, anamorphic, in the original (me thinks) 1.85:1. Each disc is coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. They have original mono audio (or 2.0 channel stereo) and each offer optional English or French subtitles in a bright yellow font. The package (image below) is a four tiered Digi-pak housed inside a handsome cardboard slipcase. As we stated - none of the films have been on legitimate DVD previously. There are four supplemental documentary featurettes that we will discuss below.

Image quality: Quality is not always directly representative of the age of the feature and the 1937 It Happened in Hollywood ('Once a Hero') looks quite good with heavy grain and decent contrast. It runs just over an hour and as this first disc is devoid of supplements it is probably not taxing the single-layered disc space. Ditto for Adventure in Sahara - in fact they all appear watchable with niggling complaints on Power of the Press as being a bit thick, minutely sepia infiltrated and somewhat hazy. Shockproof improves but does show some noise in the darker sequences. Scandal Sheet looks surprisingly strong for a single layered rendering. The Crimson Kimono has an unattractive but consistent greenish haze but once the film starts you hardly notice it. Arguably Fuller's best film Underworld U.S.A. - also look the best of the seven with excellent sharpness in close-ups and decent shadow detail and contrast.   

Audio was acceptable with all dialogue discernable and without major faux-pas like devastating dropouts, pops or background hiss. It was consistent and clear enough and is supported with optional subtitles.

 

Extras aren't totally satisfying with no commentaries but I don't want to look at gift-horse in the mouth. All four featurettes appear new for this package release. On disc one we get previews of The Norman Lear Collection, Three Stooges, and Columbia Classics. On the Power of the Press disc we get about 7-minutes of Tim Robbins Search for Truth with Sam Fuller where the actor/director discusses a lengthy conversation they had once with the auteur many years ago. As an extra with Scandal Sheet we get, probably, the best featurette entitled Sam Fuller Storyteller running just shy of 25-minutes. It explores Fuller’s life and filmmaking through the eyes of his family - wife Christa and daughter Samantha Fuller, and filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Tim Robbins, and Curtis Hanson who, by the way, also gives an additional 10-minutes for The Culture of The Crimson Kimono on that film's DVD extra. Lastly, we get a scant 5-minutes with Martin Scorsese on Underworld U.S.A. that fans will wish was extensively longer. I certainly don't want to complain - these were interesting to watch, interspersed with scenes from the films, although lacking the depth some may have hoped for in the collection with Fuller's name attached.

 

Fuller may not be totally covered on DVD now but with Criterion releasing White Dog, The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor and Pickup on South Street plus their Eclipse label picking up the early The Steel Helmet, The Baron of Arizona and I Shot Jesse James - Warner looking after The Big Red One with a solid Special Edition I might add - Fox and Optimum giving us the fabulous Forty Guns  - PLUS those disregarding region-coding can also nab the heavily under-rated Verboten!. Sundry we have Merrill's Marauders, House of Bamboo and Hell and High Water, and this new set fills in two more holes. It appears to be a good time for fans of the director. We just require a few more - and how about some Blu-ray?

 

I was thrilled to receive this collection and went through it rapid-fire. The last four films are worth the price alone and I suspect that is what most Noir fans will be seeking. Shockproof, Scandal Sheet, The Crimson Kimono and Underworld U.S.A. (and the latter 3 considered quintessential to the style) makes the package an absolute must-own... especially with the limited number of similar releases available this year. It's been a a bit of a drought and those four selections are like a fountain in the desert. Obviously, we highly recommend!


Packaging

 

 

Sample DVD Menus


Supplements


 

It Happened in Hollywood (1937)

 

Director: Harry Lachman

 

Writing credits: Harvey Fergusson, Samuel Fuller and Ethel Hill

 

Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Adventure in Sahara (1938)

 

Director: D. Ross Lederman

Writers: Samuel Fuller (story)
Maxwell Shane (screenplay)
 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Power of the Press (1943)

 

Director: Lew Landers

Writers: Robert Hardy Andrews (writer)
Samuel Fuller (story)
 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 


 

Shockproof (1949)

 

Director: Douglas Sirk

Writers: Helen Deutsch (writer)
Samuel Fuller (writer)
 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Scandal Sheet (1952)

 

Directed by Phil Karlson

Writing credits
Samuel Fuller (novel "The Dark Page")

Ted Sherdeman (screenplay) and
Eugene Ling (screenplay) and
James Poe (screenplay)
 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The Crimson Kimono (1959)

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/fuller.htm
 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

 

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/direct-chair/fuller.htm
 
Screen Captures
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC

 


 


 



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