Pickup on South Street Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 24, 2013
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
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2011
One of the great film noir's and my favorite early work of Sam Fuller.
Super Reviewer
½ June 27, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Utterly brilliant movie, I loved Widmark's performance, I just fell in love with him by watching this movie. If you love 50s thrillers, you can't miss this one.
Super Reviewer
½ January 13, 2009
Richard Widmark is a petty thief hungry for that one big score. Jean Peters is a kind-hearted but gullible beauty who is unknowingly involved in international espionage. Thelma Ritter, God bless her, is a street peddler and police informant saving her pennies to pay for her own funeral.

Samuel Fuller's Pickup on South Street illustrates that heroes can sometimes spring from some very dark places.

High on my list of favorite film noirs.
Super Reviewer
February 12, 2010
A good suspense film about a pickpocket (Richard Widmark) who unknowingly picks some microfiilm from a woman's (Jean Peters) purse. The cops saw him do it because they had their eye on the girl, who was taking the film to a "Mr. Big" type. The rest of the film is Widmark being pursued by the police and by the people who want the film. Not as exciting as it sounds, but it holds your attention.

Widmark was always good at playing sleazeballs, and he doesn't disappoint here. You wanna slap him every time he's on screen. But more memorable are Thelma Ritter -- was she EVER bad in a role? -- as Mo, the police informant who sells ties as a front and is saving money for her funeral (it's implied that she is dying), and a horrible scene in which Richard Kiley beats the $#!+ out of Jean Peters. To his credit, director Sam Fuller did not make this one of those old "guy slaps girl around, girl likes it, falls into guy's arms". Nope -- Kiley gives Peters a workover that would make Mike Tyson jealous -- he punches and slaps her, throws her against the dresser, the wall and the floor in a complete rage. And all because she lied to him.

The only real problem I have with this is the happy ending. It seems tacked on, and kinda messes up the momentum the film had going. Otherwise, a good evening's entertainment.
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2007
"pickup on south street" is samuel fuller's gritty noir interpreted in the his trademarked journalist perspect, within a disorietated world, in lack of humprey bogart's sam spade or philip marlowe. inevitably, director fuller infuses his political cynicism upon the scenario of communist apprehesion as well as the anarchic disbelief in patriotism.

richard widmark plays a pickpocket whose thievery casts great hinderance to communist conspiracy so he sinks into a target as the ultimate wanted man. it evocates the involvements of walks of life in the ghetto, such as thelma ritter's stool pidgeon who is keen to gather the sum of her final decent funeral; jean peters as the sappy girl who descends as the mistress of abusive communist agent. the usage of slangs are a hard-boiled defiance for certain audience to follow. eventually widmark vows to beat down the communist not for the sake of his devoted enthusiasm over this country but for avid sense of vegence for his beloved girlfriend who refuses to doublecross him.

"pickup on south street" might be a new breed of film noir then, and absolutely iconclastic to the classic noir heroism magnefied by humprey bogart or dick powell as the die-hard noir savior who straightens things off with un-fading mettle and belief into the righteous. the abscence of heroism is one particular trait for this flick as well as the specific indication toward fanatic maccathyism. fuller cannot help but vent his patterned reel of newspaper realism.

and also, the major star richard widmark does ignite the screen with his irreconciled paroteriat pride while thelma ritter sneers at you with her street-cred then it shatters into pieces of broken ghetto dream as she gets shot to death by the communist at last.
Super Reviewer
½ December 16, 2007
grade A 50's noir. thelma ritter will break your heart
Super Reviewer
½ May 4, 2007
Awesome Fuller Film Noir. Richard Widmark shines in another smarmy star performance!
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2006
Great latter-day film noir.
Super Reviewer
½ July 7, 2009
One of Sam Fullers better films. I always respect what Fuller brings to the table,but I never love any of his films. Maybe he was making films in the wrong decade,because his films are very gritty and ahead their time content wise.I still think he never took the next step as Pekinpah did in the late 60's. This film is about a pickpocket who steals a piece of microfilm on a subway and the cops and commies want a piece of him. Beautifully played by Widmark and also a Oscar nominated performance by Thelma Ritter. The main problem I had was the love story was a bit rushed,but Widmark and Jean Peters have great chemistry and Peters was perfectaly cast. The movie was made in the early 50's so it is very anti-red.The Hays office and FBI wanted to censor this film,but the studio stuck by Fuller and the film was barely touched. The brutality is very graphic and still is jarring today.Widmark shines again and this film proves to me again that Thelma Ritter was the best character actress of her time.
Super Reviewer
April 21, 2006
Loved Moe.
December 28, 2010
Finally checked out this early Fuller film that I had always been aware of yet had never gotten a chance to sit down with.

A small time thief finds himself on the wrong side of both spies as well as the law when he pick the wrong pocket, and while it ends on a possibly far-fetched note, it's still amazingly watchable and holds up rather well even after all these years.

Well worth a look, give it a rental.
September 28, 2009
good about spies & real patriotism... don't take money from the enemy of your country... Richard Widmark was fantastic... cool scene & great attitude & performance from Thelma Ritter's final scene which was fantastic...
½ January 18, 2010
Jan 2010 - An interesting noir which is distracted by the little bit of the american hatred toward communism. The happy ending also is fake and puts the movie behind other great noirs of the same era. It is interesting to compare this with Bresson's masterpiece The Pickpocket and see how Bresson manages to penetrate the character of the pickpocket in a much deeper way.
March 3, 2009
All the stars we're in alignment. A high water mark for Samuel Fuller, Richard Widmark, Jean Peters and especially Thelma Ritter in a pivotal role. Violent and harsh but even manages to be touching in parts. The ending has a bit of the "epilogue" quality, but I can't hold that against it.
½ April 5, 2008
Richard Widmark and Samuel Fuller make a great team. a grand noir from the 50's with dark characters and themes that seem ahead of their time. the opening sequence, and many others that follow, command your attention.
½ June 15, 2008
A gripping noir with intense buildup and terse, explosive action perfectly crafted by Samuel Fuller. Widmark is totally badass. Excellently done.
July 25, 2007
Packing Fuller's trademark breathless pace but less in your face as his other work. So okay, not great.
January 23, 2007
One of the greatest film noir films ever. Widmark plays the cool anti-hero perfectly. Peters and Ritter played their roles wonderfully and usual good guy Kiley made a good and believable villain.
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