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The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I'll Kill You


A cigar-chomping storyteller who signaled ?Action!? by shooting a gun, Samuel Fuller has been lionized as one of the most distinctive writer/directors ever to emerge from Hollywood. In such films as The Steel Helmet, Pickup on South Street, Shock Corridor, and The Big Red One, Fuller gleefully challenged classical and generic norms?and often standards of good taste?in an effort to shock and arouse audiences. Tackling war, crime, race, and sexuality with a candor rare for any period, Fuller?s maverick vision was ...
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A cigar-chomping storyteller who signaled “Action!” by shooting a gun, Samuel Fuller has been lionized as one of the most distinctive writer/directors ever to emerge from Hollywood. In such films as The Steel Helmet, Pickup on South Street, Shock Corridor, and The Big Red One, Fuller gleefully challenged classical and generic norms—and often standards of good taste—in an effort to shock and arouse audiences. Tackling war, crime, race, and sexuality with a candor rare for any period, Fuller’s maverick vision was tested by Hollywood’s transition from the studio system to independent filmmaking. Now, in the first full account of all of the director’s audaciously original work, author Lisa Dombrowski brings his career into new relief. The Films of Samuel Fuller features close analysis of Fuller’s pictures and draws on previously untapped production and regulatory files, script notes, and interviews to explore how artistic, economic, and industrial factors impacted Fuller’s career choices and shaped the expression of his personal aesthetic. Fans of Fuller and American cinema will welcome this in-depth study of a provocative director who embodied both the unique opportunities and challenges of postwar filmmaking.
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What People Are Saying

Andrew Sarris
“This book explodes on the printed page with all the fury and ferocity of her subject’s most vivid explorations of the cinema of violence. Dombrowski has marvelously managed to make Samuel Fuller, the man, emerge more clearly from the mists of mythology he himself helped create. Splendid film scholarship!”
Jim Jarmusch
“In the strange universe of American cinema Sam Fuller is a certified bad-ass—stylistically visceral, thematically contentious, but always brutally honest. Lisa Dombrowski has written an invaluable and focused portrait of Fuller’s work, deftly placing it in the context of both a shifting studio system and the moral instability of the world at large.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819568663
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2008
  • Series: Wesleyan Film
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

LISA DOMBROWSKI is an associate professor of film studies at Wesleyan University.
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Table of Contents

The Fuller Biographical Legend
Fuller as Storyteller
Movement and Conflict
The Marketplace for Low Budget Films
Early Experiments: I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona
Establishing a Voice: The Steel Helmet
The Trade-offs of Studio Filmmaking
Return to War: Fixed Bayonets • Complete Independence: Park Row
Brutality: Pickup on South Street
Classical Style: Hell and High Water, House of Bamboo
The Challenges of Independence
No Holds Barred: Run of the Arrow, China Gate, Forty Guns, Verboten!
Sensational Style: Crimson Kimono, Underworld USA
CHAPTER FOUR: THE FREELANCE YEARS, 1961-1965 Return to War: Merrill’s Marauders
Adult Exploitation: Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss
Fuller Goes to Vietnam: The Rifle
Critical Recognition, Professional Frustration
Loose Ends: Shark!, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
A Personal Journey: The Big Red One
Inciting Controversy: White Dog
In Exile: Thieves After Dark, Street of No Return
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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    director Sam Fuller in the context of post-War Hollywood

    In contrast to the majority of works on film directors based largely on biography, psychology, and analyses of recurring motifs in the films, Dombrowski--associate professor of film at Wesleyan--considers the American director Sam Fuller in the context of the Hollywood of his times. Fuller was a leading director in the first generation of American film directors following World War II though some of his films go back before then. Dombrowski's approach to studying him is based on 'economic, industrial, and institutional forces' Fuller had to deal with and confront in making his films. For the rawness of parts of Fuller's films--brutality, cruelty, or sadism--he is usually seen as deliberately trying to break conventions and provoke or outrage the audience. But Dombrowski's regard is more involved. Unfailingly seeing him in the context of Hollywood and implicitly understanding Hollywood in the context of American culture of the time, the author sees him as 'an adaptive provocateur' never losing sight of his goals of 'revealing truth and arousing emotion.' Dombrowski also recognizes the fact--often seemingly forgotten in film studies--that Fuller could not have made his high-budget films intended for a mass audience without the support of others in the film industry. Nor would he have achieved the success he did without connecting with the interests and dispositions of movie-goers. Fuller was the director of The Big Red One, Fix Bayonets, China Gate, Merrill's Marauders, and Shock Corridor, among other films and he wrote or co-wrote many movie and TV scripts and documentaries. In war, urban, and other contemporary or recent settings, he dealt unsparingly with issues of race, war, crime, and sexuality at the core of American society. Fuller remains a somewhat ambivalent figure in American film a view Dombrowski's summation of him as the 'adaptive provocateur' seconds. Despite ambivalences pertaining to Fuller, there is no doubt that he was a precursor of both mainstream filmmakers doing movies involving crime and other social topics in a style of gritty realism such as Scorcese and also independent filmmakers exploring new techniques and dramatizations. Different aspects of Fuller's ambivalences have influenced different veins of American filmmaking.

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