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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

The Criterion Collection June 2021 New Releases

This June, the Criterion Collection will present Samuel Fuller’s crackling noir classic Pickup on South Street, with Richard Widmark as a pickpocket who unwittingly lifts a message from easy mark, Jean Peters. This simple set up leads to a taught story of petty thieves and high stakes espionage. Pickup on South Street is one of three films by Fuller selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. once. you. see it you will realize why this statement is absolutely true.

Petty crook Skip McCoy (Widmark) has his eyes fixed on the big score. When the cocky three-time convict picks the pocketbook of unsuspecting Candy (Peters), he finds a more spectacular haul than he could have imagined. A strip of microfilm bearing confidential U.S. information suddenly makes him a target for a Communist spy ring. Tailed by manipulative Feds Skip and Candy find themselves in a precarious gambit that pits greed against redemption, right against Red, and passion against self-preservation. With its dazzling cast and writer-director Samuel Fuller’s signature hard-boiled repartee and raw energy, Pickup on South Street is a true film noir classic by one of America’s most passionate cinematic craftsmen.

I saw this film when I was an undergrad at San Francisco State University. My professor was the renowned cinema expert, James Kitses, author of four highly regarded books on the auteur theory in western films including "Horizons West: The Western from John Ford to Clint Eastwood" and "Horizons West - Mann, Boetticher, Peckinpah: Studies of Authorship within the Western". Kitses was an enthusiastic professor who loved to talk about great films. Samuel Fullers masterpiece, Pickup on South Street was one of his favorites. I wish I could share with you the experience of sitting in on one of his classes, but that's a privilege of which only a live and in person presentation can do justice. I was enthralled with a lecture that left me in high anticipation of the film, and I was not disappointed. Pickup on South Street remains one of my favorite films to this day. And Fuller's directorial prowess made him one of my all time favorite directors.

The brand new Blu-ray special edition features a new 4K digital restoration, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. There's also a new interview with critic Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, which. is the perfect companion to a 1989 interview between film critic Richard Schickel and director Samuel Fuller. Also included is the 1982 French television program, Cinéma cinémas where the director discusses the making of the film. Plus the DVD extras include an essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién and a chapter from Fuller’s posthumously published 2002 autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking. Trailers and english subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing round out an impressive collection of bonus material.

Presented in glorious black and white cinematography, the 1953 thriller comes in at a sharp 80 minutes in the standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio of the era.


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