David Ehrenstein: Pickup on South Street is Sam's masterpiece. In The King of Comedy Jerry watches it on TV -- the sequence where Widmark picks Peters' bag in the subway. later this same shot is re-created when Dihanne Abbott lifts the ashtray from Jerry's house wehn he throws them out.
Pickup is a 9/10's of a great noir. The ending's too sunny side of the streetish. Fine acting, tough story, toughly told (and "toughly you may thole", as John Crowe Ransom might have it), though. Ritter was better there than I've seen her anywhere. She subsequently ended up working the smartass slattern maid type into the ground. Peters is not only sexy as hell, in that beat-me/curse-me/make-me-write-hot-checks way that appeals to all us guys at a core level, but she gives a damn good performance--she's the young Ritter. Of course, Widmark makes that movie really something special. Among those in the Cagney line, there are many who can't traverse that razor thin line (besides Cagney) between the operatically pathological and the pathetically all too human. Widmark's not Cagney, but he ain't Tom Cruise acting tough, either. He's real thing. Somewhere between Cagney and James Wood (who I also like). Widmark's still living, too, I think. Wonder how he's doing?
David: He's doing OK. There was an NYT interview with him about a year or so ago.
"The ending's too sunny side of the streetish"
That's something a lot of Hollywood films had to contend with at the time; even Touch of Evil has that ridiculous subplot of 'breathing marijuana' on Janet Leigh's clothes (can we say gang rape?). Nowadays we have the liberal regulations to really say something strong (well, in the '70s anyway), but nowhere near as many good filmmakers.
And I totally believed in Peters; there are women like that, many of them married to their abusers.
And Fuller's a terrific actor. I loved him as the Nazi killer in Larry Cohen's Return to Salem's Lot.
David: We can say a lot more than gang rape. The look on Mercedes McCambridge's face when she says "I wannawatch!" is unforgettable.
Ted: Hey, Widmark didn't abuse her. He just popped her now and then. As Joe Bob Briggs use to say, "I never hit a woman unless she begs for it." All joking aside, Peters is all you can ask for in that role.