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Pickup on South Street

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Director: Samuel Fuller
Writers: Samuel Fuller (screenplay), Dwight Taylor (story)
Cast: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter
Genre: Film Noir, Crime Melodrama

Skip (Richard Widmark) is a three time convicted pick-pocket. When he unknowingly lifts stolen film from a woman's purse, his troubles then begin. The film contains a secret chemical formula that was being sold on the black-market to the Communist.

Candy (Jean Peters) is the young woman who was carrying the film. She's sent by her ex-boyfriend to recover the stolen film. When she can't find the film on her own, she seeks out Moe (Thelma Ritter). Moe's profession is selling information and Moe has heard about the film. Meanwhile the FBI and police are looking for Skip and the hot film too.

What's special to me about Pickup On South Street is, Samuel Fuller is an auteur film maker. He wrote it, cast it and directed it. It's full of human expressions and details that other directors don't always bother to show.

Here's an example of why I think Jean Peters is one of the best femme fatales I've seen. She's acting with 'method acting' like James Dean and Marlon Brando did. She's not just giving a dramatic reading of her lines....she's actually become her character.

Watch this 1 minute clip (it's not a trailer, no spoilers). You can see and feel her emotions at work. I love the way she instantly responds in character when she is impromptu bumped in the face with the chop sticks. The scene itself, the dialogue and the characters are rich. The actor who plays Lighting Louie is pretty great too.

Pickup on South Street is a classic film noir, one that should not be missed. It contains what might be some of the best acting in a film noir. Jean Peters is so real in this film with her expressions that you would think she was the real Candy, a street wise B-girl. Jean's performance in this film is one of my all time favorites.

Richard Widmark is no slouch either. He's one heck of a colorful, smart and defiant pick pocket, who's living on the edge while thumbing his noise at the Police, FBI and the Reds. He's one cool dude.

Thelma Ritter's performance as Moe, the old lady informer with a heart of gold and a head for money, is amazing. Thelma was Oscar nominated for best supporting actress. She deserved to win.

The bulk of the credit for this fine film goes to director/writer Samuel Fuller. He populates his movie with rich scenes and well though out details that makes what we're watching so rewarding.