Pickup on South Street

Fuller’s Anti-“isms” in Pickup on South Street College

As The Red Scare infiltrated American culture and consciousness in the 1940’s and 50’s, few prominent players within the Hollywood film industry dared to challenge the accusations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC); the fear of losing credibility and being blacklisted even ruffled the feathers of Bogey, arguably one of the most powerful presences on and off screen during that era. But it was Sam Fuller’s gritty 1953 crime film, Pickup on South Street, which rose to the challenge of McCarthyism: through the tough, independent, street-wise character of Skip McCoy, Fuller not only questions the motivations of these finger-pointing patriots and their opposing Communist sympathizers, but he also questions the very notions of dogmatic belief itself.

In Pickup on South Street, Fuller’s Skip McCoy is quickly established as an outcast from society: apart from being a pick-pocket recently released from the joint, “he lives in a (barely) converted tackle and bait shack overhanging the river. It is connected to the mainland [only] by a long plank” (Shadoian 222). Instead of having a bed, Skip sleeps in a hammock that hangs above his unfurnished flooring and walls which are decorated only with few small pictures of...

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