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Pickup on South Street

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Samuel Fuller, Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, Murvyn Vye
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Feb. 17 2004
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00012L786
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,488 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

Product Description

Petty crook Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) has his eyes fixed on the big score, but when he picks the purse of unsuspecting Candy (Jean Peters) he finds a haul bigger than he could imagine: a strip of microfilm bearing confidential U.S. secrets. Tailed by both Feds and the unwitting courier’s Communist puppeteers, Skip and Candy find themselves in a precarious gambit that pits greed against redemption, Right versus Red, and the passion against self preservation. A dazzling cast, hardboiled repartee and director Samuel Fuller’s signature raw energy combine to create a true film noir classic.

- Hour long documentary on Fuller
- Stills gallery of photos, posters, lobby cards and original paintings
- Trailers for this and other Fuller features


Director Sam Fuller's biggest success of its time (and, superficially at least, his most conventional film) is the l953 noir effort Pickup on South Street. Candy (Jean Peters) has her purse picked on the subway by small-time thief and ex-con Skip (Richard Widmark), neither of them realizing that the purse contains microfilm bound for Communist spies and that they are being watched the whole time by Federal agents. The New York police and the Feds catch up with Skip and try to cajole him into turning over the microfilm, but as he's one of Fuller's "outsider" antihero protagonists, the patriotic angle cuts no ice with him. He plays both sides against the middle when he finds out that the Communists are involved, hoping to make a big score off the deal, but eventually he comes around when he realizes that he's smitten with Candy. Finally Skip plays ball with the authorities, but is it out of his love for both his friend Moe and Candy, or is he swayed by the patriotic urgings of the FBI, or does it just come from some inner core of decency? You decide. When Skip is asked, "Do you know what treason is?" he smirks, "Who cares?"; when the Feds try to appeal to his patriotism, he sneers through several layers of Sinatra cool, "Are you waving the flag at me?" Pickup is set almost entirely in the garbage-strewn alleys, grimy subways, seedy waterfront dives, and gloomy streets of New York City; it's marked by extremely lengthy takes and fluid, mobile camera work. The closing scene when Skip tracks down another character in the subway and administers a brutal beating to him is one of the more violent scenes you'll find in '50s film noir. --Jerry Renshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Samuel Fuller's "Pickup on South Street" is easily one of his better films and as cynical and tough as crime dramas got in the 50's. Richard Widmark is excellent as a cocky pickpocket who swipes the wallet of sexy Jean Peters that contains microfilm of government secrets to be delivered to a Communist agency. Peters is unaware of the Communist angle and is only doing a "job" for her slimy ex-boyfriend Richard Kiley (who's also excellent). Getting mixed up in the mess to get back the microfilm is street peddler/police informant Thelma Ritter who sells information to whoever wants to buy it. The film is gritty and unsentimental and none of the characters are saints. New York City is depicted as a tough place to survive especially on the dirty waterfront where Skip McCoy (Widmark) lives and stashes his loot and Moe Williams (Ritter) plies her trade. Candy (Peters) is a girl who's been around due to a shady past and never known a decent man in her life. She's trying to survive too. Peters (who's miles away from her ingenue in "Niagara" also the same year} is sexy and streetsmart with the bad-girl swagger that only Gloria Grahame knew how to pull off. Ritter earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Moe and she is simply fantastic as a doomed fringe-dweller who's getting tired. The film is a good hard look at crime and the school of hard knocks. The Communist plot line is only that---a plot line. The film takes no political stand. It's a story of people doing what they do to survive and the understanding between them that "everybody's gotta eat". "Pickup on South Street" is a fine noir crime film and another excellent DVD package from Criterion with lots of good extras. THIS is a collector's item.
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Format: VHS Tape
The camera angles, the emotion, the violent outbursts of its characters and the suspense can be sensed in every frame of this film. Sam Fuller did create a masterpiece and it won him the Best Film Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1954 - deservedly!
The acting: Widmark is at his best. His Skip is a bomb threatening to explode any time. This is probably Jean Peters's best acting job in a movie. This actress has a lot of fire in her that she seems to keep under control, but - like Widmark - you can sense it can explode any time. Thelma Ritter (who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance) is tops as well and so is Richard Killey. These four actors in fact should have all been nominated for awards and certainly the film should have been - but that was Hollydwood in the 50's - the film was controversial, a film noir at that and Cinemascope and spectacles had entered the picture and sweeping all the awards then selected by fools enchanted with special effects, color and big screens.
This film is a jewel and it should be given more attention, more credit, and you should see it!!!
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Format: DVD
The Criterion Collection presents "PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET" (1953) (80 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Extravagant claims are made for this noirish spy film and for its director, Sam Fuller --- It has its moments of technical brilliance in lighting and camera placement and two superb performances (by Richard Widmark as Skip, a professional pickpocket just released from his third prison term, and Thelma Ritter as Moe, who sells information and ties) --- The plot centers on microfilm being followed by FBI agents en route to a Soviet agent when a pickpocket takes the billfold it is in out of the courier's purse on a subway.

Two of my favorite actors Widmark and Ritter, hit the bullseye in another great film about the life and times of people trying to make it in this crazy world of ours.

Need to pick this up on Criterion, for any film collector this is a must have in your ever growing collection on noir.

Under the production staff of:
Samuel Fuller [Director/Screenplay]
Dwight Taylor [Story]
Jules Schermer [Producer]
Leigh Harline [Original Film Score]
Joseph MacDonald [Cinematographer]
Nick DeMaggio [Film Editor]

1. Samuel Fuller [Director]
Date of Birth: 12 August 1912 - Worcester, Massachusetts
Date of Death: 30 October 1997, Hollywood, California

2. Richard Widmark
Date of Birth: 26 December 1914 - Sunrise Township, Minnesota
Date of Death: 24 March 2008 - Roxbury, Connecticut

3. Jean Peters
Date of Birth: 15 October 1926- Canton, Ohio
Date of Death: 13 October 2000, Carlsbad, California

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Format: DVD
Reviewer displacedhuman has already provided a solid synopsis of our favorite Sam Fuller film, so I'll focus most of my comments on the quality of this DVD release.
I wish all such releases of older films were this well-planned and well-executed. "Pickup On South Street" originally came out more than 50 years ago. If its modern-day distributor, Criterion, was -- like some of the characters in "Pickup" -- just looking to make a quick buck, it could have made a cheap transfer to DVD and released the disc to movie lovers like you and me who, let's face it, would have been grateful to even have this classic film noir on disc at all. But the Criterion team has instead gifted us with a superb transfer. The sound and picture are excellent, from opening credits to the final fade. Do you know what that says to all of us who love this film? It says, "We respect your high standards and we respect the filmmaker's vision and creation."
But the good news doesn't stop there. There's some nifty bonus material on the disc itself; interviews with Sam Fuller, trailers for other Fuller films, stills galleries, and a text-only interview with Richard Widmark are among the special features. We also get a 20-page booklet that has excerpts from Fuller's autobiography (including filmmaker Martin Scorsese's introduction) and an essay by cultural historian Luc Sante. The whole booklet is a great read. And both the booklet and the disc's special features provide some wonderful anecdotal material that enhances one's enjoyment of the film and advances one's understanding of the sociopolitical atmosphere in which the film was made and initially released.
The people who created the film -- Fuller, the actors, the production crew -- will always have my thanks and admiration.
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