B&W, 1937, 67 mins. 31 secs.
Directed by Harry Lachman
Starring Richard Dix, Fay Wray, Victor Kilian, Billy Burrud
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

B&W, 1938, 56 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Ross Lederman
Starring Paul Kelly, C. Henry Gordon, Lorna Gray, Robert Fiske
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

B&W, 1943, 63 mins. 58 secs.
Directed by Lew Landers
Starring Guy Kibbee, Lee Tracy, Gloria Dickson, Otto Kruger
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

B&W, 1949, 79 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Douglas Sirk
Starring Cornel Wilde, Patricia Knight, John Baragrey
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

B&W, 1952, 81 mins. 44 secs.
Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring Broderick Crawford, John Derek, Donna Reed, Rosemary DeCamp, Henry O'Neill
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

B&W, 1959, 81 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring Victoria Shaw, Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Twilight Time (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

B&W, 1961, 98 mins. 24 secs.
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, Paul Dubov
Indicator (Blu-ray) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Twilight Time (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Once It Happened in Hollywoodagain proving itself to be a It Happened in Hollywoodformidable force in Blu-ray box sets, U.K. label Indicator sets its sights on the Columbia output of writer-director Samuel Fuller hot on the heels of its exhaustive tribute to Budd Boetticher. As expected, it's an immersive experience basically offering a full film school course in a box and a must-have for fans of both crime films and Hollywood history, collecting seven titles previously released as a 2009 DVD package from Sony and improving it considerably with sparkling HD transfers and hours (and hours) of new extras.

The journey starts on the first disc with two atypical, non-crime titles from the early days of his career, and first up is the endearing meta-comedy It Happened in Hollywood. Fuller was one of three screenwriters on this tale of a young boy named Billy (Burrud) who, while convalescing in the hospital, gets to meet his idol, movie cowboy Tim Bart (Dix). Unfortunately it's 1928 and talkies are about to upend the whole industry, including the insecure Tim who's being shoehorned into non-oater roles against his wishes and being put out to pasture in the process. When Billy comes to see his idol after the collapse, Tim tries to cover up the sorry truth of his life and finds his line of work is still capable of a few surprises. Though invaluable as a snapshot of Hollywood's attitude to its most severe sea change less than a decade after the fact, the film is now equally effective as a showcase for Dix (a regular Columbia leading man who would be done from a heart Adventure in Saharaattack just over ten years later) and the much-loved Fay Wray, who had gone from King Kong to appearing in Columbia titles like the fascinating Black Moon.

Barely qualifying Adventure in Saharaas a feature at just under an hour and obviously made to fill out double and triple bill requirements, the following year's Adventure in Sahara is based on a Fuller story about a French desert outpost where pilot Jim Wilson (Kelly) has enlisted as a legionnaire to find out what happened to his late brother under the command of the sadistic Savatt (Gordon). When the commander turns out to be every bit as awful as Jim feared and with his girlfriend, Carla (Gray), stranded nearby as she tracks his whereabouts, it isn't long before Jim is forced to cross the desert on minimal rations and lead a rebellion to bring justice in more ways than one. A typical studio slot filler, it's an entertaining if entirely disposable adventure pilfering elements of recent hit films (including, as most critics noticed, Mutiny on the Bounty) and functioning as the movie equivalent of a thin paperback men's adventure novel.

Rounding out disc one, Fuller also wrote the story for Power of the Press, which is where things get more interesting as it pulls from his own experience as a crime beat Power of the Pressreporter. This wartime tale of turmoil at a New York newspaper determined to push an isolationist agenda kicks off with the murder of its editor, who was about to push for America's involvement in World War II and gets gunned down at a banquet just as he's about to name the "traitors" who have undermined the function of a free Power of the PressAmerican press. It's all a plot by the scheming editor Raskin (perennial bad guy Kruger) to seize control, but unfortunately there's already a successor in line: Ulysses Bradford (Kibbee), a small town all-American guy who sets the wheels in motion to right the course of a paper that seems about to crash into the rocks. Complete with frequent chatter about "fake news" and the real obligations of patriotic reporting, it's a film that carries a surprising amount of punch today in an era where the role of the press itself has been seriously called into question.

Now, on to a double feature on disc two. Written by Fuller (apart from some studio tinkering, most notoriously with the ending), the 1949 film noir Shockproof came at the end of a batch of thrillers helmed by the soon to be legendary Douglas Sirk, hot on the heels of Sleep, My Love and Lured. Here we have the twisty tale Shockproofof oddly-named parole officer Griff Marat (Wilde), who makes the questionable decision of taking the recently released and beautiful Jenny (Knight) under his wing after she's done time for a killing in defense of her shady boyfriend, Harry (Baragrey). Of course, things go south when she falls for Griff and takes him on a very life-changing path. The fact that Wilde and Knight were married at the time gives the film a particularly odd and perverse edge, and Sirk keeps things crisp and snappy Shockproofthroughout, resulting in a minor B-movie diversion noteworthy for some tight Fuller dialogue and a strong pair of lead performances. Unfortunately it all flies apart in the final stretch with a blatantly rewritten (by Helen Deutsch) resolution that's as ludicrous and unintentionally hilarious as possible. You won't believe it for a second.

Sharing space on that disc is Scandal Sheet, which is one for the history book since it represents an intersection of Fuller (who wrote the source novel, The Dark Page, another exploration of his newspaper experience) and director Phil Karlson, soon to become a crime movie titan with films like Kansas City Confidential, The Phenix City Story, and Key Witness. Young unscrupulous reporter McCleary (Derek) makes his living getting scoops by misleading witness Scandal Sheetand victims before the cops come, but he's an angel compared to his editor, Mark Chapman (Crawford, fresh off an Oscar win for All the King's Men), who's turned a formerly respectable newspaper into a sleazy tabloid. While the staff including uptight reporter June (Reed) and the more jaded Biddle (Morgan) is covering a Lonely Hearts Ball, Chapman runs into his deserted wife who threatens to expose some very dangerous secrets about his past. The ensuing argument sends her to her Scandal Sheetgrave thanks to an ill-placed bedpost, so the cynical Chapman figures out a way to use it to his advantage by unleashing McCleary on the story. Though Derek and Reed are essentially cardboard stiffs here, Crawford more than makes up for it with a terrific performance that wrings plenty of shading and depth out of an essentially reprehensible main character.

Finally we get a pair of features directed by Fuller himself, each on its own disc. 1959's The Crimson Kimono uses the backdrop of an L.A. crime investigation to explore the then-touchy topic of interracial romance. (Or, as the posters screamed, "YES, this is a beautiful American girl in the arms of a Japanese boy!) The action starts on a tawdry note with blonde burlesque performer Sugar Hill walking to her dressing room after a show only to encounter gunshots the send her Scandal Sheetfleeing into the street - and into the path of both a bullet and a passing car. Two detectives and fellow Korean War vets Charlie Bancroft (Homicidal's Corbett) and Joe Kojaku (The Yakuza's Shigeta) follow a trail that leads to an artist named Christine (Shaw) who ignites a romantic triangle that threatens to split the friends apart. It's a fascinating film with a surprisingly tender side as it mixes a social message with the obligatory tough crime bits and some great footage of Little Tokyo including theater performances and karate demonstrations. Shigeta gets top acting honors here, though Corbett (who was always a bit underrated and rarely got to The Crimson Kimonostretch much as an actor) and Shaw also acquitting themselves well in what could have been a quick programmer but now stands as something much richer.

The most critically covered film in the set, Underworld U.S.A., amps up the hard-hitting style considerably, opening with a flashback through the scarred eyes of Tolly Devlin to the fateful Christmas Eve he was sliced by a rough street kid, found safety courtesy of childless gin mill owner Sandy (Kay), and saw his father being beaten to death in an alley outside the bar. Unwilling to snitch to the district attorney's office despite the fact that he clearly saw one of the assailants, he finally grows up (to be played by Cliff Robertson) and gets out of jail after serving five years for robbing a safe. Now equipped with the Scandal SheetIDs of all his father's killers, he embarks on a ruthless undercover mission in the mob to take them down at any cost. Moody, visually striking, and about as lean and mean as a 1961 film could be in America at the time, it's a great showcase for Fuller at the peak of his powers and sports a great supporting cast including an indelible turn by Richard Rust (another Homicidal alumnus) as a particularly menacing mob killer who takes Tolly under his wing.

The Sony DVD set of all seven films was fairly skimpy on extras, which consisted of four featurettes including the substantial "Sam Fuller Storyteller" (24m17s) featuring contributions from Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Wim Wenders, Tim Robbins, and Fuller's wife Christa and daughter Samantha, and appraisals from Robbins (7m10s) about Fuller's link to the press, Scorsese on Underworld U.S.A. (5m11s), and Hanson (9m26s) on The Crimson Kimono. Underworld U.S.A. first appeared on Blu-ray from Twilight Time, featuring an isolated score track, "Sam Fuller Storyteller," the Scorsese interview, and the theatrical trailer, with the label also issuing a Blu-ray of The Crimson Kimono with an isolated score track, the "Storyteller" featurette again, the Curtis Hanson piece, and two trailers. Underworld USA

The Indicator box features gorgeous transfers of all seven films with nary a scratch or speck in sight, and the monochrome photography on all them really shines. English SDH subtitles are also Scandal Sheetprovided for the films, which have pristine English LPCM mono audio tracks. Disc one features the Robbins interview, a gallery devoted to the first three features, and a useful "All-Star Party" (6m17s) guide to who actually impersonated that eye-popping array of celebrities during the big finale of It Happened in Hollywood. It's also handy if you can't quite pinpoint who some of those famous faces are supposed to be, too. Disc two has a gallery dedicated to Shockproof and Scandal Sheet, with the latter also getting a theatrical trailer.

The disc for Crimson Kimono features the Hanson piece, "Sam Fuller Storyteller," and a new video essay, "Switch-Hitting Between Three Triangles (14m50s) by Cristina Álvarez López, exploring the idea of romantic entanglement between three people as a complicated narrative lynch pin for the entire feature. Televised on French TV in 1989, the quirky "Sam Fuller on Henry Chapier’s Couch" (21m45s) has the stogie-puffing filmmaker providing off-the-cuff answers to questions about his life from childhood onward, but the real gorilla here is six tapes' worth of rushes from what would become Adam Simon's 1996 documentary The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera. Conducted by Tim Robbins, it runs a whopping 3 hours, 13 minutes and 42 seconds for an unedited, very compelling sit down with the director as he charts his life and career with a lot of colorful detours along the way. (And yes, he's smoking Underworld USAthrough almost all of it!) Several times he keeps yakking after the film has run out and only sound is recording, so stay tuned when the screen goes black. It's Underworld USAactually several tapes in before he even gets to his films, with tons of tales about his colorful path through the journalism world providing some of the many highlights. Three theatrical trailers are included, all playing up the "American Girl / Japanese Boy" angle in different ways.

Underworld U.S.A. brings back the Scorsese featurette and adds "Barry Forshaw on Underworld U.S.A." (9m35s) with the American Noir author examining how his "primitive" status and journalistic style married perfectly with the demands of crime films. The 1992 "Sam Fuller Masterclass with Wim Wenders" can be played as a 62-minute alternate audio option for the main feature, covering everything from Sachia Guitry to the difference between "bone" and emotional writing and the wide differences in financing the arts in Europe and the U.S. Oh... and it has the remaining six tapes of Fuller interviews from 1996, running 3 hours 30 mins. 50 secs. This one launches off with very candid accounts of his time in combat and takes a conversational tour through the rest of his life, including a great, lengthy anecdote about the WGA and Joseph Mankiewicz. Given that the finished documentary came in at under an hour, it's an incredible sight to see such a wealth of material here preserved for posterity. In addition to an image gallery of stills and poster, the theatrical trailer is also included-- and it's a doozy with Fuller himself presenting the film with his own style of sales pitch. The limited edition (6,000 units) box also includes a booklet with new essays by Jeff Billington, Pamela Hutchinson and Lindsay Anne Hallam, plus more archival interviews with Fuller and samples of contemporary reviews and news coverage from the films' releases.

Reviewed on June 18, 2018.