Pickup on South Street (2004 DVD)
Directed by Sam Fuller
There's nothing like watching a grumpy old man pretend he invented patriotism to put you in the mood for a black and white movie from the Red Scare era, but even people who buy into John McCain's condescending "country first" flagwaving should find something of interest here. In this gritty '53 noir, apolitical pickpocket Skip McCoy (a sneering Richmard Widmark) finds way more than he bargains for after he picks somewhat dimwitted go-between Candy's purse on an NYC subway train--neither one of the characters initially realizing that Candy's intended delivery had featured a strip of microfilm with top secret info being peddled to the communists. When the cops and the feds get involved and the reds realize they're in danger of losing the classified information that they'd paid for, McCoy and Candy (Jean Peters) get sucked into a web of criminal and political intrigue where personal and political loyalties are all up for sale and seemingly everyone's out for themselves.
Fuller does a fine job of keeping the action moving, and a series of excellently-chosen Manhattan location shots gives this 80-minute movie an edgy urban feel akin to a rough draft of the crime films shot there in the '60s and the '70s. The political angle's approached in a fairly crafty way--Fuller himself has stated that Pickup was condemned as pro-Communist by conservatives and anti-Communist by leftists--so don't be surprised if the grandmotherly stool pigeon (Thelma Ritter) turns out to be the most morally-grounded and "likeable" character in the lot. Unfortunately, while Widmark and Peters cause sparks to fly in their scenes together, the relationship that develops between the pickpocket and his victim is the lone plot element that drags things down a bit. All in all, great film, totally entertaining, no partisan pandering...just one cheesy love story short of a masterpiece. (http://www.criterion.com/)
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