House of Bamboo

Robert Ryan as Sandy Dawson

In many ways an atypical Sam Fuller film, House of Bamboo does conform to Fuller type in one specific way – strong performances by his two leads. They are Robert Ryan and Robert Stack, as two guys involved in different ways in crime in post-War Japan. Doing almost nothing at all, Ryan acts Stack right off the screen as crime boss Sandy Dawson, an American who has found rich pickings in the debris of post-War Japan. And yet Stack is also pretty effective as a smalltime hoodlum who arrives in the country and immediately starts throwing his weight around and extorting money in the smallest of smalltime ways. What Eddie Spanier (Stack) doesn’t … Read more

The Crimson Kimono

Sugar performs shortly before dying

The posters are much more direct about what’s going on in The Crimson Kimono than the film itself is. Over a picture of a couple in a clinch they klaxon – “YES, this is a beautiful American girl in the arms of a Japanese boy!”. YES, this is a movie about a transracial relationship! Columbia boss Harry Cohn wasn’t convinced that American audiences would be interested, or happy about, a story about such shenanigans but greenlit the film anyway, undoubtedly influenced by writer/director Sam Fuller’s ability to turn out profitable films quickly and cheaply – this was his second of three in 1959. Perhaps Cohn’s doubts also influenced Fuller’s decision to open his film … Read more

The Naked Kiss

Kelly attacks in the film's opening moments

Tabloid journalist makes tabloid movie shock! Writer/director/producer and former newspaperman Sam Fuller demonstrates his nose for a story with The Naked Kiss, a lurid, headline-grabbing movie too sensational for a few jurisdictions when it came out in 1964. It is the whore-to-madonna tale of a prostitute who – either seeing the error of her ways or realising she’s too old for the job – gives it all up and becomes a teacher of disabled kids in a white-picket US town. But can the universe forgive her for her previous life, or will an avenging angel soon be winging its way towards her? You know it will. The film opens in spectacular fashion, with a one-two … Read more

Underworld USA

Cuddles and Tolly

Shock, horror, probe. Sam Fuller’s Underworld USA is further proof that the former crime journalist and pulp novelist’s knack for attention-grabbing material survived the transition from the page to the screen. Fuller was a newspaper copyboy aged 12, a crime reporter aged 17, a novelist aged 23 and a screenwriter aged 26. A man in a hurry with a newspaperman’s broad-brush approach, a desire to tell a story boldly and clearly… and then move on, in the early 1960s he became particularly associated with low budget issue-driven features that were all about the lurid sell – Shock Corridor (mental illness), The Crimson Kimono (interracial relationships) and The Naked Kiss (prostitution). Underworld USA fits that … Read more

Shock Corridor

Peter Breck with Hari Rhodes

Shock Corridor is a great example of the indie writer/director Sam Fuller’s ability to make films with a social subtext that weren’t overwhelmed by worthiness. Not being a studio movie it’s got no famous names in it, and isn’t shot in colour (apart from a few drop-ins). Instead Fuller and DP Stanley Cortez (who was instrumental in making The Night of the Hunter so memorably sinister) opt for a breezy film noir style of harsh lighting that’s quick to set up, effective and cheap – together they turned the film out in ten days. It also looks great in the Criterion Blu-ray I watched. A look at the plot tells us where Fuller’s real … Read more