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Tough-guy maverick Sam Fuller's banned '60s moral melodramas resurface in all their bleak and bizarre glory

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In the early ’60s, both Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss were refused a certificate by the British censor. There was never much of the Geneva Convention about Sam Fuller. His genre was Cinema Fist. “Perhaps it would be better if you could fire real shots over the audience’s head every night, you know, and have actual casualties in the audience,” he once suggested.

Unlike John Milius, who was 4F (unfit for military duty) and lived in a boy’s fantasy world of violent deeds, Fuller had been America’s youngest crime reporter, and subsequently won the Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart as an infantryman in World War II. He was a tough guy, a genuine primitive with a tabloid sensibility and a good heart. It’s difficult to find any parallels among contemporary movie directors?perhaps aspects of Oliver Stone and Abel Ferrara?but you’ll find his bleak world view echoed in the novels of Norman Mailer and Jim Thompson.

The conditions in which Fuller operated have changed. He was a Poverty Row director, shooting films fast and cheaply to fill the bottom of the programme. His debut, I Shot Jesse James (1949), was filmed in 10 days. He was so far below the radar in Hollywood that nobody bothered him much. The French first woke up to him, pronounced him an auteur, and Godard gave him a part in Pierrot Le Fou where he says, “Film is a battleground, love, hate, violence, action, death, in a word?emotion.” Cahiers Du Cin


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