Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Samuel Fuller

Samuel Fuller: Interviews

Edited by Gerald Peary
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 160
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Samuel Fuller
    Book Description:

    In the early twentieth century, the art world was captivated by the imaginative, totally original paintings of Henri Rousseau, who, seemingly without formal art training, produced works that astonished not only the public but great artists such as Pablo Picasso. Samuel Fuller (1912-1997) is known as the "Rousseau of the cinema," a mostly "B" genre Hollywood moviemaker deeply admired by "A" filmmakers as diverse as Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and John Cassavetes, all of them dazzled by Fuller's wildly idiosyncratic primitivist style.

    A high-school dropout who became a New York City tabloid crime reporter in his teens, Fuller went to Hollywood and made movies post-World War II that were totally in line with his exploitative newspaper work: bold, blunt, pulpy, excitable. The images were as shocking, impolite, and in-your-face as a Weegee photograph of a gangster bleeding on a sidewalk. Fuller, who made twenty-three features between 1949 and 1989, is the very definition of a "cult" director, appreciated by those with a certain bent of subterranean taste, a penchant for what critic Manny Farber famously labeled as "termite art."

    Here are some of the crazy, lurid, comic-book titles of his movies: Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss, Verboten!, Pickup on South Street. Fuller isn't for everybody. His fans have to appreciate low-budget genre films, including westerns and war movies, and make room for some hard-knuckle, ugly bursts of violence. They also have to make allowance for lots of broad, crass acting, and scripts (all Fuller-written) that can be stiff, sometimes campy, often laboriously didactic. Fuller is for those who love cinema--images that jump, shout, dance. As he put it in his famous cigar-chomping cameo, acting in Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le fou (1965): "Film is like a battleground . . . love, hate, violence, death. In a single word: emotion."

    After directing, Sam Fuller's greatest skill was conversation. He could talk, talk, talk, from his amazing experiences fighting in World War II to the time his brother-in-law dated Marilyn Monroe, and vivid stories about his moviemaking. Samuel Fuller: Interviews, edited by Gerald Peary, is not only informative about the filmmaker's career but sheer fun, following the wild, totally uninhibited stream of Fuller's chatter. He was an incredible storyteller, and, no matter the interview, he had stories galore for all sorts of readers, not just academics and film historians.

    eISBN: 978-1-61703-307-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    Pickup on South Street, Verboten!, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss. Do these loopy film titles mean anything to you? For a committed Fullerite, those four works with risible names, all produced on miniscule “B” budgets, are undisputed masterpieces, a quartet of American classics. And for the uninitiated public? To state the obvious, the late Sam Fuller, ace filmmaker, isn’t for everybody, or probably most people. And being cultured and educated might just get in the way.

    Fuller, who made twenty-three features between 1949 and 1989, is the very definition of a “cult” director, appreciated by those with a certain bent...

  4. Chronology
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Filmography
    (pp. xix-2)
  6. Fuller Makes Sleeper but Can’t Tell How
    (pp. 3-4)
    William R. Weaver

    One gloomy afternoon last January, a dozen trade press reviewers who’d rather have been wasting their time at Santa Anita filed forlornly into a studio projection room. They would watch a little picture garishly entitledI Shot Jesse Jamesfall apart in the middle, as such items generally do. But this one didn’t. On the contrary, it held this band of reluctant witnesses firmly in its grip for eighty-one attentive minutes, and sent them out asking each other how this could be. Then it went out and did the same thing to the plain people who buy the paid admissions,...

  7. Fuller Emblem: Big Red One Signifies Sammy’s Wartime Days
    (pp. 5-6)
    James Bacon

    Producer-director Sammy Fuller will be the first enlisted man ever to be the main speaker at the annual reunion of the 1st Infantry Division, come August 22 in Rochester, New York. The honor is usually reserved for generals, but Fuller’s devotion to The Big Red One has been so uncommon that he was bound to be acknowledged by his wartime buddies.

    Like every producer’s office in Hollywood, Fuller’s is plastered with photographs. There is a difference, however. Instead of movie stars and other celebrities, Fuller’s photos are all of officers and men of the 1st Division. There are also citations...

  8. Samuel Fuller: Interview
    (pp. 7-15)
    Stig Bjorkman and Samuel Fuller

    Stig Bjorkman: How do you prepare your pictures?

    Samuel Fuller: If you notice this blackboard here, you can see that it’s separated into columns for the three acts of the film. The fourth column is for the cast. I haven’t filled the board yet. Most of it will be written in white chalk. When I introduce a character, I use yellow chalk. When I have a romantic scene, it’s blue chalk, and when I have action, violence, it’s red chalk. When the whole board is finished, I can sit back and look at it with my crew, and when we...

  9. Samuel Fuller
    (pp. 16-38)
    Eric Sherman and Martin Rubin

    Eric Sherman and I were two enthusiastic but inexperienced undergraduates when we interviewed Samuel Fuller at his home in Los Angeles in November 1968. Sam and his lovely wife Christa graciously invited us over for dinner first. After much wine and conversation, the interview did not commence until nearly midnight. Sam frequently addressed one or the other of us as “lad,” and he seemed to take a sly delight in plying us with Cuban cigars and high-proof Polish vodka. The shot glasses would be quickly refilled after the merest sip, with the encouragement to drink up. Eventually one of the...

  10. Samuel Fuller: A Cinema Interview
    (pp. 39-44)
    Ian Christie and Samuel Fuller

    Samuel Fuller was interviewed at the Edinburgh Festival in August 1969 by Ian Christie, Nicholas Garnham, Angela Kirtland, Lynda Myles, Robert Mundy, Mike Wallington, David Will, and Peter Wollen.

    Q: We’d like to start by asking you why you prefer camera movements to cutting.

    A: To me it’s a natural instinct. Let’s say I want to shoot a scene with this group of us here. I don’t think there is anything unusual or brilliant doing a pan shot from half-a-dozen different angles, and then let the cutting room put it together for me. I’d much rather bring in a camera...

  11. Proust’s Madeleine, That’s Pure Cinema
    (pp. 45-49)
    Dominique Rabourdin and Tristan Renaud

    Q: Could you talk about shootingCaine?

    A: When I got married to Christa Lang, who I met here in Paris, we went to Mexico for our honeymoon. That was a joke! I thought it was funny to bring my wife to Mexico on our wedding voyage, in order to make a movie there that I’d written in six, no five, days. Crazy! I told the Mexican producer I’d written it for children, the men living under the sea, and the sharks.

    Q: After you finished the film, it was recut by the producers and retitledShark!

    A: I don’t...

  12. Sam Fuller’s Suicide Note
    (pp. 50-58)
    Richard Thompson and Sam Fuller

    Sam Fuller was twelve when, in the early 1920s, his father died and he moved with his mother and brothers to New York City from Worcester, Massachusetts. There, he continued his vocation: newsboy. “My mother did nothing—she was a mother,” Fuller says. His brothers—one an excellent cartoonist—are now dead.

    At fourteen and a half, he became Arthur Brisbane’s private copyboy, going everywhere with Brisbane, then editor-in-chief of all Hearst papers. Fuller even rode to work in Brisbane’s car, which was equipped with a dictaphone for each day’s page-one editorial. At seventeen, Fuller wanted to be a police...

  13. “Being Wrong Is the Right Way of Living”: An Interview with Samuel Fuller
    (pp. 59-65)
    Russell Merritt, Samuel Fuller and Peter Lehman

    Samuel Fuller, Hollywood director, was the guest of the 1980 Athens [Ohio] International Film Festival. He proved ideal for a festival dedicated to showcasing fiercely independent filmmakers. During an audience question-and-answer session, he explained that his films depart from classical narrative construction. Rather than situations developed leading up to climaxes, they are a series of shocks and explosions. Fuller himself is a never-ending series of explosions. Vigorous, enthusiastic, exciting, he delighted everyone he spoke to during his visit.

    RM: The most common word applied to your films is “primitive.” Do you like that?

    SF: It doesn’t bother me at all....

  14. Rough Trade on Ivar Boulevard: Griffith Meets Sam Fuller
    (pp. 66-69)
    Russell Merritt

    This is best told, I suppose, as a long-ago bedtime story about D. W. Griffith. It could also be called, “How I Bonded with Sam Fuller (Sort of).” But it’s really an account of how Griffith appeared in the wild-eyed vision of one of America’s great maverick directors, and how Fuller gave the father of film a new kind of patrimony.

    My conversation with Fuller took place, appropriately enough for him, in a noisy downtown Ohio bar. Fuller, the guest of honor at the 1980 Athens International Film Festival, was holding court off-hours at a large table amidst smoke and...

  15. Cigars and Cinema with Sam Fuller
    (pp. 70-72)
    Gerald Peary

    He resides way up in Laurel Canyon, in a narrow, outdated, unglamorous house that Phillip Marlowe could have inhabited in the 1940s. At this very moment you can be sure that Sam Fuller is puffing a long cigar, pounding out yet another script on a ratty typewriter, or reminiscing with a visitor—usually someone less than half Fuller’s sixty-seven years—about his golden days as king of the “B” directors, even though he insists he makes “A” pictures on “B” budgets. In France, Samuel Fuller is practically a national hero, adored by a generation of cineastes led by Godard and...

  16. Samuel Fuller: Survivor
    (pp. 73-84)
    Tom Ryan

    Q: You seem to have heroes and heroines in films likeChina GateandThe Naked Kisswho live on the borderline, or outside of middle-class morality, outside the law.

    A: I think they make the best characters, anyone who is involved in what we call “the lower depths,” whether it is Dostoyevsky withThe Idiot, Jean Valjean inLes Miserables, the Count of Monte Cristo, or anyone who has been double-crossed by society. The melodramatic characters seem to last, and they ensure much more interest, as far as the reader or viewer is concerned, than the saintly do-gooder.


  17. Fuller without a Script
    (pp. 85-91)
    Noel Simsolo

    For the opening of his latest film,White Dog, Samuel Fuller stayed in Paris for several days. I knew from before that he was a big talker, and I was able to verify that he hadn’t changed since our last meeting. It was not an easy interview to lead. Fuller follows his train of thought down to the smallest details. He can dwell for hours on someone that he likes, but just as easily evoke the essence of his work in a single phrase. So, we decided to conserve the unscripted quality of our meeting, instead of summarizing what was...

  18. An Interview with Sam Fuller
    (pp. 92-99)
    Don Ranvaud and Sam Fuller

    Don Ranvaud interviewed Samuel Fuller during the Salsomaggiore Film Festival in Italy, 1982.

    DR: A lot of things started in Edinburgh. Did the rediscovery of your films at the Edinburgh Fest cause you to change your attitudes to cinema, to make you more self-conscious?

    SF: Yes. But I would call it discovery rather than rediscovery because I had never had any kind of accolade before then. When I was invited to Edinburgh, [the Scottish filmmaker] Murray Grigor was there, [programmer] Linda Myles, [critic] Peter Wollen, [critic] Kingsley Canham, and people like that. From Edinburgh Ken Wlaschin called from the London...

  19. A Long Chat with Sam Fuller
    (pp. 100-119)
    Richard Schickel and Sam Fuller

    Q: How did you get into movies from being a newspaperman?

    Fuller: I never thought I’d be in the picture business, number one, ever. Though I loved movies … Tom Mix and William S. Hart. When I was a kid, I always tried to figure out how Tom Mix had that big hat on in a fight. I saw him go through a glass window and jump off a cliff with [his horse] Tony. There’s the water, they get a close-up shot, and his hat is on. I don’t know. I didn’t understand it.

    I was on an unsolved murder...

  20. Seven Questions for Foreign Filmmakers Shooting in France
    (pp. 120-123)
    Hubert Niogret, Michel Ciment, Philippe Rouyer and Jean A. Gili

    Q: Why did you decide to shoot a film,Les Voleurs de la Nuit/Thieves After Dark, outside of your country? Why did you choose France?

    A: I have made movies in Japan, in the Philippines, in Israel, in Ireland. Why not in Paris?

    Q: Was one of the reasons the image of French cinema?

    A: I came to Paris at the request of Paramount to prepare for the premiere ofWhite Dog.

    Q: What has been your experience with producing in France? In what way has this changed your work methods?

    A: Shooting here has not changed my methods of...

  21. Interview with Samuel Fuller: “I Was at the Premiere of Dracula”
    (pp. 124-126)
    François Guerif and Samuel Fuller

    Q: How did you end up with a role inReturn to Salem’s Lot?

    A: It all started with a conversation between director Larry Cohen and me about Nazi hunters, who became vampire hunters in the film. He wrote the part for me.

    Q: What interested you about the script?

    A: I liked the idea of a film about children and vampires. I don’t really know if the idea comes through clearly, but it’s the first film about children’s sexuality. The vampires are adults who never grew up. It’s original.

    Q: Do you like the horror genre?

    A: I like...

  22. Additional Bibliography
    (pp. 127-128)
  23. Index
    (pp. 129-135)