Pickup on South Street (1953)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Joey, lowlife grifter, and his unsuspecting girlfriend, Candy, become involved in what appears to be a simple matter of corporate theft. But, it turns out to have grave international implications when Candy's wallet is stolen. Now, Joey and Candy are the key to saving the world from Communism.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Samuel Fuller
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 8, 2005
Twentieth Century Fox



as Skip McCoy

as Candy

as Capt. Dan Tiger

as Winoki

as MacGregor

as Dietrich

as Police Clerk

as Police Commissioner

as Lightning Louie

as Stranger

as Librarian

as Mr. Victor

as Lean Man

as F.B.I. Agent

as F.B.I. Agent

as Captain

as Sandwich Man
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Pickup on South Street

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (6)

As good as are Widmark, with his proto-Method grin, and Peters, with her tawny, untutored naturalism, this is Thelma Ritter's movie. She transforms what could have been no more than a colorful eccentric to a figure of unshakable dignity.

Full Review… | May 26, 2015
Village Voice
Top Critic

Fuller's pugnacious direction and his gutter-up view of city life romanticize both the criminal code of honor and the jangling paranoia of global plots; his hard-edged long takes depict underworld cruelty with reportorial wonder ...

Full Review… | May 25, 2015
New Yorker
Top Critic

Pickup for the most part falls flat on its face and borders on presumably unintended, comedy.

Full Review… | December 1, 2008
Top Critic

Sam Fuller, who wrote it and directed, appears to have been more concerned with firing a barrage of sensations than with telling a story to be believed.

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Perhaps finally flawed by its overt political assumptions, but the film remains a desperate kind of masterpiece.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

It isn't his best, but this 1953 feature may be the archetypal Sam Fuller film, a condensation of his themes and techniques with the steam still rising.

Full Review… | October 2, 2002
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Pickup on South Street

Pickup On South Street is one of the most brilliant movies ever made. An example of the directing: When Candy (Jean Peters) starts going through her purse and notices her wallet is missing, an alarm goes off in the background in the building she's in -- as if it's an alarm going off in her head. It's not cartoon-like -- it's subtly woven into the background in a way that strikes you on a subconscious level until you've seen the film a few times and it just "clicks" that there's an alarm bell going off when she starts frantically going through her bag.

Richard Widmark is way on top of his game as a smart-alec -- he's really great -- but the highlight performance of the film was the first scene for "Moe," the street peddler/informer, played by Thelma Ritter. Later, in her apartment, you are not seeing a movie -- you're seeing a real person. I've never seen anyone "act" so real I felt like I was looking into a real room until Ritter's performance -- right down to the way her hair stuck out a bit when she removed her hat.

About a million other things just *worked,* from the way Lightning Louie picks up money with his chopsticks to the way Candy's jewelry clicks when she flicks Moe's hand away from her brooch, to the way Moe gets the dollars and change from the police captain across the FBI guy's chest -- and even the way the captain opens his filing cabinet, like he's been doing it in that way in that room for many years. "Pickup On South Street" is detailed moves (directing) with consummate performances (acting) and superb now-nostalgic visuals of the day, such as the panel truck, the boards leading to the shack out on the water, the dumbwaiter, -- and the unforgettable place Skip stashes his pocket pickings. Wonderful stuff.

"Pickup On South Street" is also one of the few movies where, even though the characters aren't perfect, you do care about them -- perhaps because they have been somewhat branded by their pasts in ways that are hard to escape: Skip as a "three-time loser" and Candy as a youngish woman who has "knocked around" a lot. When these people behave a little more badly than you'd expect, it's in sort of novel ways that make it seem you're looking in at people you'd never otherwise imagine -- and yet you know that they are possible because the actors make them so recognizably human. 5 Stars. 4-20-13

Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

One of the great film noir's and my favorite early work of Sam Fuller.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer


A classic Sam Fuller film Noir. While it features all of the trappings of a detective story during the peak years of the Red Scare (communist spies, atomic espionage), Fuller makes these characters multi-dimensional. Not only are the cops less than honorable in their pursuit of the criminals, but the criminals themselves aren't particularly maladjusted people. In fact, Fuller shows that in many ways they are a victim of circumstance. Americans aren't basking in their lavish houses and doing their part to preserve their freedom and access to copious amounts of material wealth. Many have been worn down by the system and find that getting popped by a "red" is better than facing another day. And sometimes...just sometimes, being a pickpocket is more honorable than being a cop.
With this, Fuller throws a monkey wrench in the classic battle between American good versus Communist evil. I don't know how this one got passed the censorship, but maybe as long as Communists were vilified, then they didn't care so much about the subtext. It is a smart and subtly subversive noir and is well worth a watch.

Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

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