Pickup on South Street (1953)

Dir. Samuel Fuller
Starring: Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, etc.
80 minutes

The film is about a pickpocket who unintentionally steals secrets that was going to be sold to Communists. Well cast, easy to watch and interesting characters. Not a great film, but may be deserving of being on a top 100 list for the characters in the film.


Having seen Shock Corridor, I expected this to be a “B” movie, but it wasn’t. The acting, direction and script was solid (except for maybe the romance, which wasn’t unnusal in “A” films of that time period. The problem was that the romance just seemed to happen without effective development from the filmmakers.)

I liked the way the film focused on these unlikely protagonists (a pickpocket, a kind of floosey, and a “snitch”).and made you care about them. In the initial phases of the film, it seems as if Skip McCoy (Widmark) is the typical bad guy, and the police the good guys after him. Gradually, we see another side of Skip and eventually root for him. The way Fuller makes this transition is one of the best things about the film. Yes, he’s a pickpocket, but we learn about his background to understand the reason for him doing that. We see that Tiger’s (Murvyn Vye), the police captain, utter contempt for Skip and his belief that Skip is irredeemable and when undestand why Skip is cynical and continues his life of crime. However, Candy’s love for him not only reveals the positive qualities of Skip, but she shows that he is redeemable. This story arc may not be that shocking with so many independent films exploring non-conventional heroes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of the first films to do this and do it well. If that’s the case, that would be a solid reason for putting this on a top 100 list.

Thelma Ritter ’s performance doesn’t hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was nominated for an Academy Award. She’s a snitch–which is a crummy sort of “job,” but her performance is such that you don’t care; you like her anyway; you see that there are compelling reasons for this behavior. I liked the fact that we see her character by her unwillingness to turn over secrets to Communists, even at the cost of her life.

The biggest problem I had was with the relationship between Skip and Candy. Fuller doesn’t do a good job of showing how or why Candy falls in love with Skip. It just happens out of the blue, but, again, I don’t think that is atypical of films from that era.

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