Stars: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, Murvyn Vye, Richard Kiley
Genre: Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 80 minutes
Director Sam Fuller's biggest success of its time (and, superficially at least, his most conventional film) is the 1953 noir effort Pickup on South Street. Candy (Jean Peters) has her purse picked on the subway by small-time thief and ex-con Skip (Richard Widmark), neither of them realizing that the purse contains microfilm bound for Communist spies and that they are being watched the whole time by Federal agents. The New York police and the Feds catch up with Skip and try to cajole him into turning over the microfilm, but as he's one of Fuller's "outsider" antihero protagonists, the patriotic angle cuts no ice with him. He plays both sides against the middle when he finds out that the Communists are involved, hoping to make a big score off the deal, but eventually he comes around when he realizes that he's smitten with Candy. Finally Skip plays ball with the authorities, but is it out of his love for both his friend Moe and Candy, or is he swayed by the patriotic urgings of the FBI, or does it just come from some inner core of decency? You decide. When Skip is asked, "Do you know what treason is?" he smirks, "Who cares?"; when the Feds try to appeal to his patriotism, he sneers through several layers of Sinatra cool, "Are you waving the flag at me?" Pickup is set almost entirely in the garbage-strewn alleys, grimy subways, seedy waterfront dives, and gloomy streets of New York City; it's marked by extremely lengthy takes and fluid, mobile camera work. The closing scene when Skip tracks down another character in the subway and administers a brutal beating to him is one of the more violent scenes you'll find in '50s film noir. --Jerry Renshaw
I know you pinched me three times and got me convicted three times and made me a three time loser. And I know you took an oath to put me away for life. Well you're trying awful hard with all this patriotic eye-wash, but get this: I didn't grift that film and you can't prove I did! And if I said I did, you'd slap that fourth rap across my teeth no matter what promises you made!
You've been recommended as the best pickpocket stoolie in the business.
What kind of talk is that, calling me a stoolie? I was brought up to report any injustice to the police authority. I call that being a solid citizen.
But you get paid for it.
You gonna knock it?
What's the matter with you? Playing footsie with the Commies!
You waving the flag, too?
Listen, I knew you since you was a little kid. You was always a regular kind of crook. I never figured you for a louse.
Stop, you're breaking my heart.
Even in our crummy line of business you gotta draw the line somewhere.
I've got almost enough to buy both the stone and the plot.
Capt. Dan Tiger:
If you lost that kitty, it's Potter's Field.
This I do not think is a very funny joke, Captain Tiger!
Capt. Dan Tiger:
I just meant you ought to be careful how you carry your bankroll.
Look, Tiger, if I was to be buried in Potter's Field, it would just about kill me.
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