Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pickup on South Street

The camera flicks from face to face in a crowded subway car. It doesn't take long to decide which two out of the four faces belong to the stars of this film, namely Richard Widmark and Jean Peters. This 1953 noir thriller has more holes in its plot than a James Bond movie and like a good Bond movie, its panache carries it through. Only a noir hero can pick a girl's handbag when they first meet, punch her out and ransack her handbag on their next encounter, relieve her of $500 on their third and then walk into the credits with her on his arm.

The Feds know Joey is passing secrets to the Commies but want to catch the guy he is passing it to. Joey uses ex-girlfriend Candy (looking like a movie star on the way to the Oscars rather than a unobtrusive courier on the Subway, but hey this is the movies). The Feds are watching Candy when the film is lifted from her handbag by pickpocket, Skip McCoy (looking every inch the filmstar). Skip, who's profession relies on being unobtrusive, is now centre of attention. Everyone wants the film. Offers from Joey (via Candy) go up from $50 to $25,000. The police offer a clean rap-sheet. And Candy offers herself. Skip plays them off against each other and its the women, Candy and Moe (the police informer), who get shot.

This film was made at a time when people were looking for reds under every bed, and Communists were as unquestionably the enemy as 'Terrorists' are today. So director Samuel Fuller contrasts the treachery of passing US secrets to the Communists with the treachery of a police informer, and the trust governments expect from their citizens to the lack of trust when the citizen is a habitual criminal and the government is represented by the police. Watching this film in the George W Bush era adds an extra layer of irony that Sam Fuller couldn't have anticipated.

Ian's rating: 3/5

No comments:

Post a Comment