Category Archives: Samuel Fuller

The Burglar and unbearable anxiety of late film noir

burglarlc8What I love about the canon of cinema known as film noir is just when you think you’ve seen the all important films, along comes something and blows you away.

Thus was the case recently when I watched the 1957 film The Burglar, based on the book by one of the doyens of classic noir fiction, David Goodis, who also wrote the screenplay.

It begins with a cinema newsreel story titled “Estate sold to spiritualist cult in strange bargain”. The breathless voiceover tells cinemagoers how a millionaire called Bartram Jonesworth has died and left his estate, including a mansion and an emerald necklace, to an aging spiritualist called Sister Sarah.

In the cinema audience is career burglar Nat Harbin (long time TV and movie actor, Dan Duryea). So keen is he to get to work on what could be the score of a lifetime, he doesn’t stay for the feature, he bolts outside and starts thinking about how they can steal the necklace.

He gets his stepsister, Gladden (Jayne Mansfield) to case the mansion under the pretences of visiting to make a donation to Sister Sarah’s work. Gladden informs Harbin and his associates, Baylock and Dohmer, the necklace is kept in a safe in Sister Sarah’s bedroom. The best time to make a move is the fifteen-minute window at eleven o’clock each night during which the spiritualist always watches her favourite news show.… Read more

Mr Fuller goes to Tokyo

Sam Fuller’s 1955 movie House of Bamboo isn’t one of the greatest film noirs ever made but it’s in there for one of the most interesting, and despite its flaws I have found myself watching it over again.

All the elements associated with Fuller’s style are on display, his ambiguous politics, break-neck story telling style and pulp sensibility, overlayed on this occasion with an oriental aesthete that veers between homage and cliché.

Fuller throws the viewer straight into the action, a precision heist of a US supply train as it speeds through the Japanese countryside by a gang of men dressed in traditional peasant garb, the magnificent snow-covered peak of Mount Fuji in the background.

They dispatch the crew without hesitation and unload the cargo into a waiting truck. Because the train was carrying small arms and ammunition and because one of the guards killed was a Sergeant in the United States military, the heat is on the local police to doing something.

We move quickly to the aftermath of another robbery. One of the assailants, Webber, lies squirming on a hospital-operating table. Wounded by police, he was left for dead after one of his own crew pumped three bullets into him before they escaped, the same bullets used in the train robbery.… Read more