I've only seen one other Fuller movie (Verboten! is it's name, for those keeping score). "Pickup" is much better. Way better. No wonder it got the Criterion treatment. (Not that "Verboten!" is horrible or anything, in fact I really dug it, but mostly for the slight tinge of exploitation that hangs on it and the fact that insurgent Nazis get their asses whooped. I love seeing terrorists and/or Nazis get their asses whooped. When the Nazis ARE terrorists it's like a birthday party with two cakes.)
This subway car must smell like a heavy dose of summertime B.O. The sticky, ripe kind. You know it's true. Old movies in black and white rarely make you think about how things must've smelled (the celluloid back then being so ethereal and silvery and all), but this movie manages it. It smells from the hot subway cars to the fishy waterfront shack houses.
I loved this flick most of all, though, for the two leading ladies, Jean Peters and Thelma Ritter.
First: Jean Peters. It was my first time out with her and she delivered the goods. She's not setting any acting records or nothing, but she's about as brassy and used up as any noir dame I've ever seen. When Sam Fuller beats a girl up, he beats a girl up:
What meaner way is there to wake a girl up, and right after she got punched in the face too?
A gal like Jean Peters is the reason you watch Noir.Dig it. That's a Noir bubble bath: Cigarette required.
Peters' character has been around town, if you know what I mean, and she knows the score. For a whitebread girl like me, it's kinda fun to go around town with a chick who knows the score. For a couple of hours, at least. You watch Noir so you can see the street-hardened dame try to get a few answers out of a creep like this guy, Lightning Louie:
Look at her earrings! So, so traishy, and awesome. And look at that fat slob of a pig! Oh crazy characters of Noir, how you send me!
The premiere scenes in this movie, though, belong to The Great Thelma Ritter. She's a professional stool pigeon, selling her information to the cops, to anybody, for 50 bucks a pop. She's old and tired and she just wants enough money to buy herself a nice plot of land in a nice, fancy cemetery. For a hard-luck broad like herself, one who has seen and lived a thousand tough breaks, all she asks is that she not get buried in Potter's Field like the rest of the poor nobodies. She broke my heart.Just an old clock runnin' down.
In every movie I've ever seen her in, Thelma Ritter always gets the best lines. Or maybe, she just makes them the best. God, I love a good film noir. That's it; I'm spent.
Okay Dick, send us out with a hot, smoldering look of defiance.
Niiiiice. That's Noir, baby.