One didn’t talk to pulp filmmaker Samuel Fuller about “narrative” and “discourse.” Fuller spun yarns—gripping, overheated tales of warfare, psychosis, and boardroom-capitalism-as-gangsterism—as the country transitioned from depressed isolation prior to WW II to predatory empire in the ’50s, ’60s, and beyond.
A high-school dropout, Fuller was a teenage cub reporter for the New York Evening Graphic and an infantryman on the front lines in North Africa and Sicily. But Fuller’s America was no jingoist recruitment film. Pickup on South Street, House of Bamboo, Underworld U.S.A., The Crimson Kimono (the first film shot on location in Little Tokyo), Shock Corridor, and The Naked Kiss revelled in the rough practice of urban life as it was lived.
In the mid-sixties—his run of great films nearly complete—Fuller turned to acting, playing himself in Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou, and gangsters in Wim Wenders’ The American Friend and Mika Kaurismäki’s Helsinki–Napoli All Night Long. (Fuller was beloved among the Cahiers group.)
Fuller spent most of his last decade with actress-writer Christa Lang Fuller, his wife, and Samantha, their daughter, in Paris apartments—first on the rue de la Baume, and then, happier, on the rue de Reuilly. He died in 1997 at home in the Hollywood Hills, at work on his autobiography, A Third Face (published in 2002).
DOGFACE—Fuller’s unaired CBS pilot from 1959—followed by A FULLER LIFE, Samantha Fuller’s documentary, will screen this weekend in Westwood.
Saturday, February 18, at 7:30 pm.
Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Top image credit: Columbia Pictures.
Above: Shock Corridor (1963).
Below image credit: 20th Century Fox.