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June 19 - August 30, 2015

The Complete Samuel Fuller

The daring films of maverick American filmmaker Samuel Fuller (1912- 1997) were so far ahead of their time that only now are they fully appreciated as some of the most bravely outspoken, politically progressive and visually audacious works of the Hollywood studio era. Beginning with his visceral third feature, The Steel Helmet, Fuller's films garnered high praise from astute critics and writers while continually suffering reactionary attacks misreading the bold messages hurled by Fuller at his audience. A surprise commercial hit that celebrated the heroism of the American G.I. while pointedly critiquing the Korean War and the racist policies of the Army and US government, The Steel Helmet defined a mixture of genuine patriotism and skepticism unprecedented in Hollywood and absolutely key to Fuller’s cinema. Indeed, during his prolific years as studio director in the Fifties, Fuller reinvented popular film genres as lenses through which to reexamine American history, legends and hot-button current events. Whether in his feminist Western Forty Guns or his detective thriller The Crimson Kimono, with its interracial romance twist, Fuller attacked from unexpected angles the stubborn prejudice, ignorance and bigotry that he saw as a terrible thorn in the side of the American nation, radically departing from the middlebrow melodramas that were, and unfortunately remain, the dominant formula for Hollywood social problem films. A remarkable high point for Fuller as both consummate cinematic stylist and crusader for social justice was marked by his two masterpieces of the early Sixties, The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor, each a feverish marriage of experimental art film and B-noir that delivered unexpectedly angry and intense critiques on the hypocrisy and degeneracy of establishment America. In a now-iconic cameo in Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965), Fuller declared, “Film is like a battleground”­—and in truth, his films can also all be understood as war films: his antiheroes pitched actual battles or fought against general injustice with a fury and strange courage clearly inspired by Fuller’s own life and struggles as a true American iconoclast in the tradition of Mark Twain, Weegee and Ernie Pyle.

Born Samuel Michael Fuller in Worcester, Massachusetts, he spent his formative years in New York City, prophetically taking his first job as a newsboy on the same Park Row to which he would look back, years later, in his eponymous film tribute to the birth of American journalism. Promoted to crime reporter for the sensationalist tabloid The New York Evening Graphic when he was only a teenager, Fuller roamed the US writing for other newspapers, always in pursuit of the “big” stories that captured the drama and turmoil of US Depression-era poverty, race riots and labor strikes. Fuller’s ear for the American vernacular and his sense of the nation’s deepest contradictions and strengths were rooted in these youthful years as a reporter. Fuller’s talents as a writer brought him, inevitably, to Hollywood, where he found success as a screenwriter for hire while also starting to write pulp novels. Like many brave men of his generation, Fuller enlisted immediately after Pearl Harbor, yet unlike others he refused the safer option of war correspondent, choosing instead, as he would later say, to be closer to “the greatest crime story of the century” as an infantryman and member of the 16th Infantry Regiment, the same unit that had fought some of America’s toughest battles, from Gettysburg to San Juan Hill, and that would now take part in the fight in North Africa, Italy, the D-Day invasion and the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of war. All the while Fuller gathered copious notes and drawings and photographs—and even his first motion pictures, images taken with a camera sent by his mother from home—images and words that would, in fact, inspire his war films and especially his autobiographical magnum opus The Big Red One. That the life of Samuel Fuller was as bold and vivid and inspiring as his cinema was made clear by his posthumously published The Third Face and by the lovely documentary based on his autobiographical writings, A Fuller Life, by the filmmaker’s daughter, Samantha Fuller.

While Samuel Fuller made enormous contributions to American cinema, he remains a singular and wonderfully unclassifiable figure whose startling and complex films continue to inspire contradictory responses. Often described, and sometimes dismissed, as a “primitivist,” Fuller is equally celebrated for precisely his ability to radically simplify and essentialize by writing his films in bold headline form. Politically outspoken during Hollywood’s paranoid years of self-policing, Fuller defied the Cold War mainstream. While his films bravely addressed urgent and deeply sensitive historical and social issues rarely touched by the studios, they were also deeply entertaining, colored by a richly comic vein and embodied in the rhythmic and eccentric argot he invented, a patois in which women are called “muffins” and men are “tigers.” Indeed, like Fellini and Tashlin, Fuller was also a talented cartoonist whose gift for caricature and typage inspired his camera’s love of eccentric and exaggerated expressions and gestures. Although he never graduated from college, Fuller was a deeply learned and astute chronicler of American history, driven by an autodidact’s passion for the deep research that gave his films such painstaking attention to period details. Fuller is perhaps best summarized as, above all, a master storyteller whose ardent love of a good “yarn” gave his films their unique spark of unexpected drama and emotional depth. – Haden Guest

The Harvard Film Archive is thrilled to welcome Christa and Samantha Fuller for special presentations of Forty Guns, the newly restored directors cut of Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street, the insightful documentary A Fuller Life and the rediscovered Fuller short, Dogface.

Special thanks: Daniel Bish—George Eastman House; Jan-Christopher Horak, Todd Wiener, Steven Hill—UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Friday June 19 at 7pm

Pickup on South Street

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter
US 1953, 35mm, b/w, 80 min

Pickup on South Street is a sterling expression of the cockeyed, contrarian and subversive logic that gives Fuller’s films such a rare intensity and remarkable emotional range. A Cold War thriller that delivers a stinging rebuke to American demagoguery and counters its moments of intense hyper-violence with a poignant meditation on death and old age, Pickup on South Street inhabits a world in which thieves and stool pigeons possess a grace and instinctual moral certitude wholly absent in the arrogant figures of the law, where the stubborn flower of redemptive love blossoms in the darkest back alleys. Fuller offered Pickup on South Street as a brash valentine to the decrepit and vivacious New York City underworld he discovered during his apprentice years as a precocious teenage crime reporter, recalled now with the strange charm and energy of Fuller’s invented patois and the colorful, almost storybook setting of the bait tackle hideout of Skip McCoy, Richard Widmark’s gleefully insouciant Artful Dodger. Pickup on South Street can also be seen as a tribute to Fuller’s resolute humanism, embodied in the indelible roles he crafted for character actors typically relegated to the margins of Hollywood films—most of all Moe, the world-weary tie peddler and informant so movingly played by Thelma Ritter. The film’s formally dazzling opening scene is nothing less than avant-garde, using bold close-ups and kinetic montage to create a strange tension and hypnotic suspension of time. No wonder, then, that Pickup on South Street would become an important inspiration for Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959).

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Sunday June 21 at 7pm

The Crimson Kimono

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Victoria Shaw, Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta
US 1959, 35mm, b/w, 81 min

Among Fuller's gentlest and beautifully minor films is The Crimson Kimono, which begins, in explosively Fuller fashion, as a lurid crime thriller before dramatically transforming into a remarkably nuanced and thematically progressive drama of post-WWII race anxieties. Far ahead of its time in his direct address of the complexities of race identity in Fifties America, The Crimson Kimono centers upon two Korean War veteran detectives and friends, Nisei and Caucasian, in pursuit of a vengeful killer whose tracks lead through the seedy underbelly of downtown L.A. and its historic Japanese American neighborhood. Dramatically filmed on the streets of L.A.'s vibrant Little Tokyo district, The Crimson Kimono is a fascinating document of the Asian American experience that ruffled feathers with its frank and non-hand-wringing depiction of interracial romance.

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Monday June 22 at 7pm

The Naked Kiss

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante
US 1964, 35mm, b/w, 90 min

The Naked Kiss is both a mesmerizing indictment of the sexism, hypocrisy and unquenchable violence of Cold War America and a boldly abstract, if not Pop, art film that counts among Fuller's most visually and emotionally startling works. The fable of a reformed prostitute who bravely uncovers a small town's darkest secrets, The Naked Kiss hurls furious brickbats against injustice and cinematic complacency. With brilliant irony, Constance Towers' former hooker remains the film's sole voice of moral rectitude and honesty, an exemplar of Fuller's radical yet all-too-often misunderstood feminism. The film's famously explosive pre-cut sequence, which opens with Towers attacking the camera with a high-heeled shoe, signals the radical destabilization of image and narrative that Fuller performed so effortlessly and inventively.

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Sunday July 5 at 7pm

Underworld U.S.A.

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay
US 1961, 35mm, b/w, 98 min

Underworld U.S.A. is among the fiercest, starkest and most unsparing of the many studio films made about organized crime, a popular and perennial topic in Hollywood since the mid-1940s. Like Joseph H. Lewis' The Undercover Man (1949) or Phil Karlson's The Brothers Rico (1957) before it, Fuller's film turns away from the expressionist noir vision of crime long favored in Hollywood and towards a bleaker, barer and menacingly abstract portrayal of criminality. Fuller goes even further, however, by stripping his film of almost any sentimentality and by making even his protagonist deeply unsympathetic and possibly psychopathic. A revenge saga starring a remarkably sinister Cliff Robertson as a failed burglar determined to track down the killers of his criminal father, Underworld U.S.A. follows the young man's violent path up the crooked ladder of the syndicate that holds a stern grip over vice. For his unsparing depiction of brutal violence and his reduction of character to vicious and brilliantly efficient caricatures—such as Richard Rust's ruthless hit man—Fuller's hard-hitting film anticipates the blood-soaked yakuza masterpieces of Kinji Fukasaku.

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Friday July 10 at 9:15pm

The Baron of Arizona

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Vincent Price, Ellen Drew, Vladimir Sokoloff
US 1950, 16mm, b/w, 97 min

Fuller dove deep into the arcane early chapters of American history to create one of those wonderfully offbeat "yarns" that so delighted him as both a screenwriter and, before that, a crime reporter; the stranger-than-fiction true story of James Addison Reavis, a rogue forger and fraud who, in the late 19th century, almost convinced the US government that he was rightful heir to the former Spanish and Mexican land claims for the then new state of Arizona. The Baron of Arizona offered a classic part for Vincent Price, who effortlessly glides with unctuous theatricality between the roles of injured nobleman and devious blackguard, remaining strangely sympathetic throughout. Often dismissed as a minor Fuller entry, The Baron of Arizona is important for understanding the mode of critical and conditional history often engaged by his films, whose frequent and pointed questioning of the "what ifs ..." of America's past challenge assumptions about its present identity.

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Saturday July 11 at 9:30pm

Merrill’s Marauders

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown
US 1962, 35mm, color, 98 min

Rarely screened today, Merrill’s Marauders is a rousing widescreen adventure and heartfelt tribute to American heroism during WWII that draws heavily upon Fuller's own combat experiences. In retelling the little-known story of the incredible long march and intervention against the Japanese in Burma made by Brigadier General Frank Merrill's "marauders,” Fuller chose to focus not on the "action" of gunfights and raids but upon the less glamorous reality of fatigue, boredom and dull pain that was the foot soldier's everyday experience. The idea that heroism and victory lie in sheer endurance and willpower, and not simply in blowing up a bridge, is powerfully embodied in the restrained performance by Jeff Chandler, who gives stoic dignity to Merrill in one of his last roles before the actor's tragically early death. Print courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Sunday July 12 at 7pm

House of Bamboo

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Robert Ryan, Robert Stack, Shirley Yamaguchi
US 1955, 35mm, color, 103 min

Assigned to remake Fox's 1948 crime film The Street With No Name, Fuller transported the story of underworld racketeers to postwar Tokyo and Yokohama and joyfully seized the challenge of filming one of the first major Hollywood productions shot on location in US-occupied Japan. House of Bamboo is a brisk and violently beautiful tale of love and betrayal made vivid by bold expressions of Fuller's signature graphic style (an assassination in an ofuro tub, a gunfight on a rooftop amusement park) and extraordinary use of iconic Japanese locations, from Mount Fuji to gaudy pachinko parlors. The twin poles of the taut drama are Robert Ryan and Robert Stack as competing versions of steely and scarred masculinity, each with a secret vulnerability flickering beneath their shells of brooding bitterness that hint at a dark past. Fuller adds a subversive element by making House of Bamboo a kind of love story between men, with the gorgeous Shirley Yamaguchi caught somewhere in between. Print courtesy of Criterion

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Monday July 13 at 7pm

Fixed Bayonets!

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Richard Basehart, Gene Evans, Michael O’Shea
US 1951, 35mm, b/w, 92 min

For his debut at Fox and follow-up to The Steel Helmet, Fuller returned again to the Korean War with an even bleaker and different perspective on the then-ongoing conflict, now seen from the vantage of an exhausted US Army platoon left behind on a frigid snowy mountainside to hold back the inevitable enemy advance. Although shot entirely on the studio lot, Fixed Bayonets! delivers a startlingly realistic and harrowing depiction of combat colored by Fuller's ace typecasting of weathered tough guy character actors—Skip Homeier and Gene Evans among them—as war-worn "grunts.” More unusual, however, is the film's frequent subjective turn, with interior voiceovers speaking of the fear, gnawing boredom and moral dilemmas gripping the men, most critically the singularly anxious solider subtly played by Richard Basehart. As in The Steel Helmet, Fuller again challenges Hollywood's all-too-often one-dimensional definition of war heroism by revealing the fear and frightful indecision that is the everyday reality of the battlefield. Look carefully for a young James Dean in his first, very brief, screen appearance towards the end of the film. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive

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Introduction by Christa Fuller
Friday July 17 at 7pm

Forty Guns

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 79 min

One of the great revisionist Westerns of all time, Forty Guns melds Greek myth and genre tropes into a stylistically audacious proto-feminist fairy tale built around the larger-than-life figure of Barbara Stanwyck's "Woman with a Whip," Jessica Drummond, a seductive and ruthlessly sensible tyrant who rules with unflinching authority over her vast Arizona cattle territory and faithful army of men. Drummond's sole weakness and source of tragedy is her inability to control her feckless and violent younger brother, who wrecks havoc on the town of Tombstone and draws the wrath of Griff Bonnell, a legendary ex-gunslinger turned US Marshall in town on a mission with his two brothers. Fuller uses a glorious black-and-white widescreen canvas to etch a bold woodblock vision of the West, ignited by stylistic flourishes—extreme close-ups of eyes, shots down the barrel of a gun—that would be openly imitated by the likes of Sergio Leone and Seijun Suzuki, among the many auteurs influenced by Fuller's visionary films.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Christa Fuller in person
Saturday July 18 at 7pm

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (Tote Taube in der Beethovenstraße)

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Glenn Corbett, Christa Lang, Anton Diffring
West Germany 1973, DCP, color, 127 min. English, German, French, Mandarin and Italian

Fuller's sole film comedy is a delightfully self-conscious and satiric detective thriller, a low-budget neo-noir confection funded by the popular German television series Tatort and buoyed by a lighter strand of the bold Pop sensibility defined in The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor. Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street is perhaps best understood, in Fuller's own words, as a "cartoon caper,” with Fuller outdoing even himself in outlandish action sequences—such as a gunfight in a maternity ward—and a cast of loony caricatures led by The Crimson Kimono’s Glenn Corbett, as a bumbling American detective in Berlin to track down his ex-partner's killers, and Fuller's wife Christa Lang as the beautiful and mysterious fräulein guide to the Berlin underworld. All-too-long unseen in its true form, Dead Pigeon has recently been expertly restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, who reconstructed Fuller's director's cut with the addition of twenty-five minutes that had been removed for the film's original release. DCP of the digitally remastered long version courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Samantha Fuller in person
Sunday July 19 at 7pm
Sunday August 23 at 7pm (repeat screening)

A Fuller Life

Directed by Samantha Fuller
US 2013, DCP, color & b/w, 80 min

In heartfelt tribute to her father, Samantha Fuller gathered a select group of actors and directors who either worked with Sam Fuller or count among his most ardent fans, inviting each to read passages from his autobiographical writings. Proceeding chronologically through the different chapters of Fuller’s remarkable past as reporter, novelist, soldier, director, A Fuller Life suggests that the greatest story told by Sam Fuller was perhaps the marvelous, courageous adventure of his own life so intensely lived. Fuller’s inimitable voice is made resonant by the charged readings, especially those by fellow legendary mavericks Monte Hellman and William Friedkin, emotions underscored by the inclusion of never-before-seen 16mm footage shot by Fuller as a soldier—harrowing, moving images that are, in fact, his first work as a filmmaker.

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Introduction by Samantha Fuller
Monday July 20 at 7pm

Dogface

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Luke Anthony, Neyle Morrow, "JR"
US 1959, digital video, b/w, 30 min

During her research for A Fuller Life, Samantha Fuller rediscovered this truly intriguing television pilot written and directed by her father for a proposed series, Dogface, focused on the ongoing adventures of a US infantry troop fighting the Nazis in North Africa, all purportedly based on real-life incidents. The pilot is a fascinating companion to Fuller’s combat films, slightly lighter in tone yet equally invested in the daily life of the war-weary American soldier. A classic example of Fuller’s unrivaled storytelling bravura is the outrageous yet emotionally resonant narrative, which follows the group’s mission to hunt and destroy a highly intelligent Nazi dog trained to locate and reveal the enemy for German bombers. Fuller uses the arresting story to again explore the moral quagmire of war and killing. A special treat in Dogface is the larger role given to Fuller regular Neyle Morrow, who makes a cameo appearance in practically all of Fuller's features.

Dogface will be presented by Samantha Fuller and accompanied by a selection of 16mm WWII footage shot by Corporal Samuel Fuller, 16th Regiment, US 1st Infantry Division. Samantha Fuller will also read a selection of her fathers letters written from the battlefield to his mother and brother.

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Friday July 24 at 7pm

White Dog

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Kristy McNichol, Paul Winfield, Burl Ives
US 1982, 35mm, color, 90 min

With his controversial late masterpiece White Dog, Fuller offers a brutally direct yet disturbingly nuanced allegory of American racism, a recurrent topic of previous films but returning now with a dark and furious vengeance. Fuller adapted a 1970 "non-fiction novel" by Romain Gary—purchased years earlier by the now-deposed Paramount chief executive Robert Evans—into an intensely efficient and hard-hitting message film punctuated by extreme close-ups and explosions of raw violence. Categorically refusing any kind of complacent viewing, White Dog reveals racism to be both a darkly aberrant and frighteningly normalized reality of American life, an uncomfortable truth embodied in the titular canine, a white German shepherd carefully trained to brutally attack black skin. Fuller's typically overripe dialogue is evident but sparer here, as are his symbolically charged characters, led by Kristy McNichol in her first film role as the struggling actress—and symbol of uncertain Hollywood—who first encounters the wounded stray dog and an avuncular, oracular Burl Ives as a veteran animal trainer and talismanic figure of the now-defunct studio system. Yet strongest still is Paul Winfield as the African American trainer obsessed with defusing and reconditioning the white dog's hatred. Unfairly condemned as a racist film by an NAACP advisor, White Dog was deemed too incendiary and shelved by Paramount for almost a decade, a cowardly and ridiculous move that drove Fuller into self-imposed exile in Paris, effectively ending his Hollywood career. Print courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Saturday July 25 at 9:15pm

Hell and High Water

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Richard Widmark, Bella Darvi, Victor Francen
US 1954, 35mm, color, 103 min

Invited by Darryl Zanuck to direct his first CinemaScope film, Fuller made the unexpected and deliciously perverse choice of a submarine drama set almost entirely within the claustrophobic confines of a U-boat. A brisk Cold War thriller colored by bold action sequences and Fuller’s inventive expansion of the submarine’s chambers, Hell and High Water stars Richard Widmark as an embittered, retired Navy officer hired by a team of international scientists to lead a secret mission pursuing a mysterious Chinese boat suspected of involvement in a sinister atomic plot. Complicating the action is the lead scientist’s comely and talented daughter, who unexpectedly joins the mission, disrupting the submarine’s typically all-male regime. A commercial hit for Fox, Hell and High Water has remained a cult classic, beloved by, among others, Steven Spielberg, who reportedly long kept a print of the film in the trunk of his car. Print courtesy of Criterion

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Sunday July 26 at 4pm

Falkenau, the Impossible

Directed by Emil Weiss
France 1988, digital video, color and b/w, 62 min. French and English with English subtitles

French documentarian Emil Weiss returns with Fuller to the site of the Falkenau concentration camp in former Czechoslovakia, which Fuller had helped to liberate forty years earlier. Images from haunting footage shot by Fuller at the camps—his first motion pictures—are carefully interwoven into this powerful and understated film. Print courtesy of the Academy Film Archive

Sam Fuller: White Dog

Directed by Christian Blackwood
US 1981, digital video, color, 20 min

A riveting glimpse of Fuller at work on his controversial and later-suppressed masterpiece is provided in this short film by veteran documentary portraitist Christian Blackwood.

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Saturday August 1 at 9:15pm

Thieves After Dark
(Les voleurs de la nuit)

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Véronique Jannot, Bobby Di Cicco, Victor Lanoux
France 1984, 35mm, color, 98 min. In French - NO ENGLISH SUBTITLES

One of the low budget films made by Fuller during his self-imposed exile in Paris, Thieves After Dark is a romantic thriller about two unemployed lovers on the run from the police and their own bad luck. Bobby Di Cicco of The Big Red One stars as a hapless cellist who falls for the wrong girl, while Claude Chabrol, Christa Lang and Fuller himself count among the film’s memorable caricature cameos. Rarely screened today, Thieves After Dark is a playfully minor Fuller film nevertheless animated by the same visual daring and stylistic audacity of his masterworks. Print courtesy of Luxembourg Film Archive

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Sunday August 2 at 7pm

Run of the Arrow

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Rod Steiger, Sarita Montiel, Brian Keith
US 1957, 35mm, color, 86 min

A bold retelling of American history that reveals the Civil War as a still-open wound haunting and defining the imagination of the US, Run of the Arrow opens on the last day of the war between the States as a haggard Southern "rebel" shoots the last bullet of the devastating conflict. Despite his strangely uncertain Irish-Southern-Brooklyn accent and Actor's Theater ticks, Rod Steiger is mesmerizing as the Southerner who refuses to capitulate and heads West to seek out the Native Americans still proudly free of the shackles of imposed nationality. Fuller's courageous and gripping scrutiny of race, prejudice and patriotism was, once again, far bolder than anything Hollywood had seen, and the film, as a result, was woefully misunderstood and neglected. In typical fashion, the fragrantly and clumsily plagiarized Kevin Costner version, years later, was garnished with Oscar trophies. The closing admonition of Run of the Arrow—“The End of this film depends on you”—resonates today with its powerful reminder of still-unsettled race and class tensions that, Fuller suggests, are seemingly ingrained in American soil. Print courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Thursday August 6 at 7pm

Park Row

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs
US 1952, 35mm, b/w, 83 min

Park Row counts among Fuller’s least known yet most personal films, an affectionate and vivid tribute to the pioneering days of American journalism that is colored by his own clear nostalgia for his youthful experience rising up from “printer’s devil,” on the same eponymous street, to teenage crime reporter. Fuller’s lifelong passion for history inspired his exhaustive research into the life and drama of the colorful figures responsible for the birth of modern American journalism on Park Row. Chafed by Zanuck’s insistence on a musical version of the film, Fuller went out on his own, largely self-financing his film and spending exorbitantly on a stunningly detailed building used for reconstructing Park Row itself. Fuller’s evident love for the journalistic enterprise is earnest and infectious and everywhere imbues Park Row with a spirit of optimism and pride in journalistic integrity that sets it far apart from the darkly cynical vision of the press typically seen in Hollywood cinema (including Scandal Sheet, Phil Karlson’s adaptation of Fuller’s novel The Dark Page) and the bleaker worldview expressed across Fuller’s other films. Working with talented cinematographer John L. Russell (Moonrise, Psycho), Fuller continued to push his bold, graphic and physical style, defining a kind of eccentric framing and bravura camera movement that would become major signatures of his cinema. And thus a barroom brawl gives way to a scene of cinematic sublimity, a beautifully extended shot that follows an elaborately choreographed fight winding its way down the historic street, capturing not only the rousing fisticuffs but also the rough texture and jagged rhythms of turn of late 19th century New York City.

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Saturday August 8 at 9:30pm

Street of No Return

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Keith Carradine, Valentina Vargas, Bill Duke
France/Portugal 1989, 35mm, color, 93 min. English with French subtitles

Street of No Return opens with a hammer slamming ruthlessly into a face, a visceral image expressive of the shocking confrontational cinema that Fuller continued to make right up to his final films. An uncompromising adaptation of David Goodis' bleak and beautiful pulp novel of the same name, Street of No Return follows a crooked path through a noir underworld inhabited by Keith Carradine as a down-on-his-luck former rock star looking for redemption in all the wrong places. From its race riot beginning to its desolate ending, Fuller's penultimate film is an edgy and quintessentially Eighties art film, stylistically garish and neon lit, with a soundtrack featuring Carradine's own rock songs.

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Monday August 10 at 7pm

China Gate

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Gene Barry, Angie Dickinson, Nat King Cole
US 1957, 35mm, b/w, 97 min

A fascinating crystallization of Fuller's major themes of war, flawed heroes, indomitable women and ugly Americans, China Gate is a bold CinemaScope epic that is possibly the first American film about the Vietnam War, set as it is in the final year of the conflict's French phase. Fuller furiously packs in the action and sharp topicality—racism, Communism, imperialism—in his story of Lucky Legs, an Eurasian smuggler and bargirl (brashly played by Angie Dickinson) stranded in Vietnam and determined to find a better life in the US for her illegitimate child. She agrees to guide a secret mission into Communist territory not knowing that joining them is her child's racist father, an ex-American-GI-turned-mercenary-solider. In stark contrast to the embittered and confused masculinity of Gene Barry's soldier is the voice of calm and stoic dignity sounded by explosions expert and sole African American on the team, Nat King Cole, in a rare screen performance. Cole also sings the film's haunting theme, one of the last compositions of Victor Young, who died before finishing the score, which was completed by his friend Max Steiner. Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

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Thursday August 13 at 7pm

I Shot Jesse James

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland
US 1949, 35mm, b/w, 81 min

Predicting the cycle of "psychological Westerns" that flourished in the 1940s, I Shot Jesse James also makes clear Fuller's passionate interest in the untold chapters of American history. For his debut feature, Fuller gives fresh perspective to the figure of Jesse James and his tormented assassin Bob Ford, vivid characters offered as complications of founding myths of the West and American masculinity. In I Shot Jesse James, the taming of the West is held up as both a predictable fall from grace and a cautionary tale, a saga of capitalism's inexorable and corrosive rule and chivalry's vainglorious failure. Character actor John Ireland is arguably at his finest, giving real human dimension and sympathy to the tormented, guilt-ridden and luckless Ford. Print courtesy of the George Eastman House

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Friday August 14 at 9:30pm

Scandal Sheet

Directed by Phil Karlson. With Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, John Derek
US 1952, 35mm, b/w, 82 min

Director Phil Karlson hit an important stride in the 1950s with a series of tough, low-budget noir thrillers that cast an unpitying eye on the tawdry, violent, lonely lives of hard-bitten petty crooks and gangsters. A high point of Karlson's exploration of America's shadowy lower depths is Scandal Sheet, a relatively faithful adaptation of Fuller's celebrated pulp novel, The Dark Page, published in 1944 while Fuller was fighting the war in Europe. Fuller's portrait of amoral yellow journalism was directly inspired by his years working for the notoriously sensationalistic New York Daily Graphic, given a savage twist by his taut story of a muckraking newspaper editor trying to cover up a crime and evade his own ace reporter. In the hands of Karlson and master cinematographer Burnett Guffey, Fuller's fable of ruthless ambition becomes palpably dank and claustrophobic, thanks especially to the snarling, sweating presence of Broderick Crawford as the hounded editor—in a mesmerizing performance equal to his starring role in All the King’s Men just a few years earlier—and pretty boy star John Derek as the impishly devious protégé with an insatiable appetite for red meat. Print courtesy of Swank Films

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Saturday August 15 at 7pm

Shark!

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Burt Reynolds, Barry Sullivan, Arthur Kennedy
US 1969, 35mm, color, 92 min

Although Fuller ambitiously intended to direct his story of a mercenary gunrunner turned treasure hunter as a tribute to Greed, the production itself sadly became a dark cautionary tale, as dogged and seemingly jinxed as von Stroheim’s mangled 1925 masterpiece. Indeed, Shark! occupies a parenthetical place in the Fuller canon as a film that was ignominiously taken from its director and shoddily recut by its producers. Adding insult to injury, Fuller was also thwarted in his subsequent attempts to remove his name from the picture. In truth, the film’s production was troubled from the start, with Fuller reportedly clashing with his lead actor, the young Burt Reynolds, and having to fight off interference from his impatient and meddling producers. And then a stunt man was killed on camera by an improperly sedated shark, a fact that the producers sought to exploit, much to Fuller’s disgust. Despite its unsavory production history and deep flaws, Shark! has become something of a cult film, important for any Fuller retrospective, full as it is with classic Fuller imagery and ideas, and featuring strong performances by Reynolds and Buñuel favorite Silvia Pinal. Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

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Sunday August 16 at 5pm

Verboten!

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With James Best, Susan Cummings, Tom Pittman
US 1959, 35mm, b/w, 87 min

Verboten! marks a crucial turning point in Fuller's cinema by focusing at last, and in an unusual way, upon the war in which he had actually played a role, WWII. Fuller chose a radically different kind of film from his previous combat pictures, a story not of the battlefront but of the ongoing and unresolved war that lingered in Germany after the fighting was officially done—in this case, against the fascist element that smoldered unrepentant in the bitter embers of 1945. The late and underrated James Best personifies America's best yet misguided intentions as a wide-eyed GI who breaks Army rules of nonfraternization by falling head over heels for a German fräulein and even joining US occupational forces just to stay with her. Fuller offers a justifiably cynical perspective on the de-Nazification program, and even, in the film's heart-wrenching climax, restages the Nuremberg trials to reinforce his still-urgent warning against the insidious rise of fascist beliefs in Europe. The searing concentration camp footage and voiceover narration is Fuller's own, shot as an infantryman and witness to the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp. Print courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Friday August 21 at 7pm

The Steel Helmet

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie
US 1951, 35mm, b/w, 84 min

A surprise critical and commercial hit that won Fuller a directorial contract with 20th Century Fox, Fuller's first war film was also the first American feature to depict the Korean War, released while the conflict and US Red Scare hysteria were furiously ablaze. Not just a visionary war film that captures the confusion of combat like none before, The Steel Helmet is also an important early expression of the bravely critical gaze that Fuller would cast upon the American experience throughout his career. Shooting largely in Los Angeles' Griffith Park on an absolutely minimal budget, Fuller plunges the viewer into the miasma of war with a taut and emotional intensity, guided by Gene Evans’ Sergeant Zack, a WWII veteran (or "retread") and grizzled Everyman who regards everyone he encounters on the battlefield with the same unpitying honesty and anger. Wounded and abandoned deep behind enemy lines, the disoriented sergeant seems to rise from the dead, giving an almost dream-like, or nightmarish, quality to the wandering path that leads him to a precious Korean war orphan and a ragged group of lost fellow soldiers, including an African American medic and a Nisei, who form a pointedly composite and complex image of America. Although The Steel Helmet was based on Fuller's own combat experience, the finished film drew heavy criticism from Army officials unaccustomed to critical depictions of American soldiery and war. Print courtesy of the Kit Parker Films Collection at the Academy Film Archive.

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Saturday August 22 at 7pm

The Big Red One

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine
US 1980, 35mm, color, 158 min

Fuller’s dream of making an epic autobiographical film closely based on his own experiences as member of the legendary 1st Infantry Division began in the late 1950s when he first developed the project for Warner Bros, directing Merrill’s Marauders for the studio as a “test” for the larger-budget picture. But after balking at Jack Warner’s insistence on John Wayne as lead, Fuller was forced to wait more than twenty years before realizing The Big Red One, true to his original vision, starring his friend and fellow WWII veteran Lee Marvin as a hardened officer leading a troop of young soldiers along the same harrowing path traversed by Fuller: from North Africa to Sicily, to Omaha Beach and to Germany and the liberation of the concentration camps. At its Cannes debut, The Big Red One was immediately recognized as a different kind of war movie whose detached realism of action and character was shaped by bracing violence, dark absurdism and a welcome lack of sentimentality. The great strength of the film lies in Fuller’s refusal of any simplifying, overarching narrative by instead unfolding a series of fragmentary episodes, each a floating variation on the theme of survival and focused on four young recruits watched over by Marvin’s nameless Sergeant. Outstanding among the cast is Mark Hamill as a reluctant soldier destined to look deep into the dark eyes of death. Before its 1980 release, Fuller was reluctantly forced to cut the original four-and-a-half-hour version by forty-seven minutes. In 2004 this wrong was corrected by the premiere of a scrupulously researched 158-minute restoration of The Big Red One supervised by veteran film critic Richard Schickel. Print courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Saturday August 29 at 7pm

Shock Corridor

Directed by Samuel Fuller. With Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans
US 1963, 35mm, b/w & color, 101 min

Granted total freedom as screenwriter and director—in a crooked handshake deal that ultimately robbed him of any profits—Fuller created Shock Corridor, an electrifying and disturbing tabloid thriller that reinvents a mental hospital as a dark metaphor for Sixties America. Recklessly pursuing an unsolved murder and the Pulitzer Prize, an overzealous crime reporter uses his stripper girlfriend to convince a mental ward to admit him as a raving sex maniac so he can have access to the patient inside who may know the murderer's identity. Shades of late Fritz Lang haunt the dark cautionary tale, together with ghosts of Fuller's past lives and films—from The Steel Helmet’s Gene Evans as a scientist driven mad by his guilt at having invented the atomic bomb to an African American college student turned imaginary and rabid KKK member, recalling Fuller's brave coverage of the Klan as a young crime reporter. Visited on set by his hero John Ford, Fuller was thrilled to learn that his favorite Ford film, The Informer (1935), had made similarly transformative use of the same confined former RKO backlot. 35mm restored print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive; restoration funded by The Film Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

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Sunday August 30 at 7pm

Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made

Directed by Mika Kaurismäki
Brazil/Finland/Germany 1994, 35mm, color & b/w, 75 min. English, Portuguese and Karajá with English subtitles

Almost lost among Fuller’s many unrealized films was Tigrero, an adventure picture he was to direct for Fox, starring John Wayne as a fearless jaguar hunter hired to lead a stranded couple (Ava Gardner and Tyrone Power) out of the Amazon. Yet in preparation for Tigrero Fuller did more than simply write a script—he also made a long fact-finding/location-scouting journey all the way to Brazil, spending weeks deep in the Amazon, armed with endless cigars, a 16mm camera and his unbounded curiosity. Forty years later, Finnish director Mika Kaurismäki offered Fuller the irresistible chance to “return” to Tigrero, staging a pilgrimage back to Brazil and to the Karaja Indians he had befriended, filmed and never forgotten. Inviting a laconic Jim Jarmusch to serve as interlocutor and travel companion to the still-feisty Fuller, Kaurismäki (and the film’s co-producer Christa Lang-Fuller) followed the unlikely pair from Rio and into the jungle, with Fuller all the while recalling and recounting fascinating stories from his past. Tigrero: A Film That Was Never Made is not simply a poignant final portrait of the indomitable Fuller, completed just a few years before the director’s passing, but also a gentle meditation on memory, ethnography and the power of the cinematic imagination. Especially moving and unexpected is the moment when Fuller shares his original footage with the latest members of the Karaja tribe, revealing an ethnographic authenticity and rare power at the earnest heart of Fuller’s fanciful project.

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