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New Left Review I/23, January-February 1964


Lee Russell

Samuel Fuller

Samuel Fuller was one year old when Walsh made his first film, three years old when Chaplin made his first, four years old when Griffith made Birth of a Nation, six years old when Ford made his first. Many veterans of the silent film are still alive, working or looking for work: Dwan, Lang, Hitchcock, Hawks, Renoir, Vidor. Fuller made his first film, I Shot Jesse James, after two decades of sound, in 1949. He is a post-Welles director, a little older that Welles, whose films appear along with films made by directors whose cinema careers began before Welles was born. The fantastically foreshortened time-scale of the cinema has meant that few American directors are seen in their proper perspective. Fuller perhaps least of all. Even an informed critic like Andrew Sarris, writing in Film Culture, has described Fuller as a ‘primitive’; his failure to treat ‘contemporary’, ‘real-life’ subjects and situations has led most critics to lose sight of his distinctiveness and to relegate him into the ranks of the ‘action directors’ who are thought of as making up the solid, traditional rearguard of American cinema rather than its brilliant, exceptional vanguard. Ritt, Cassavetes and Sanders excite critical attention, while Fuller is neglected.

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