Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

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Pickup on South Street (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on November 20, 2010

A risky purchase from the recent Criterion sale at Barnes & Noble.  I don’t particularly like Sam Fuller, and the Communism angle really bugged me the first time, over 5 years ago.  But with a greater appreciation for noir (even Fuller’s noir), I decided to take a chance.  And I must have been out of my goddamned mind giving this movie a 6.  It’s fantastic.  The hard-boiled dialogue, the grittiness, the beautiful cinematography (I know I sound like a broken record praising the photography of so many noirs, but it’s one of the big reasons I love the genre), the memorable performances by Widmark, Ritter, Peters, Kiley… heck, everyone.  There’s a lot of wonderful moments and touches, like Widmark pouring a beer over Peters’ head, or the business with the dumbwaiter, or the detail of Widmark’s grubby little shack and Ritter’s ties.  Ritter’s final scene is absolutely brilliant, one of the most poignant and touching scenes I’ve ever seen in a noir.  I also love the structure of the bookending the film with pickpockets… it takes one to spin everything into chaos and another to set everything right again.  Yes, it’s a little silly how people keep talking about “commies” and “Reds,” but it’s nowhere near as extreme as the last two movies I watched.  Communism here is just the force that throws the characters’ lives out of balance… like the child murderer in M, it upsets the lives of “ordinary” criminals.  No one is really all that worked up about the Communism itself.  “I know one thing: I just don’t like ’em” is about as heated as it gets.  And if Widmark is the hero of the film (and he primarily is, although we probably spend more time overall with Peters), then he’s as apolitical as it gets.  To him, Communism is a profit opportunity, or a nuisance, or the people responsible for hurting his girl.  He doesn’t care about the ideals of either side.  “Are you waving the flag at me?”  Really glad I took the plunge on buying this… I thought my opinion on it would improve, I didn’t think it would improve this much.  A true classic.  Rating: 9

IMDb

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