List Film

A Fuller Life (3 stars)

Samantha Fuller's documentary celebrates her legendary filmmaker father

A Fuller Life

Question the likes of Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese on their cinematic influences and cult director Sam Fuller's name is always close to the top of their lists. This entertaining documentary paints a vivid portrait of Fuller's life and career, though the structure of the film means that it's disappointingly light on analysis of his work, particularly in terms of his place in film history.

Directed by Fuller's daughter Samantha, the film features an array of collaborators and admirers (including James Franco, Joe Dante and Wim Wenders) reading chapters from the director's acclaimed 2003 autobiography, A Third Face. This has the benefit of the film effectively unfolding in Fuller's own distinctive voice, preserving his hardboiled rhythms and punchy prose. Some of the participants even smoke the director's beloved, ever-present cigars for a fuller Fuller flavour. These excerpts are illustrated with newsreel footage, home movies and clips from Fuller's filmography.

Fuller himself was heavily influenced by his background in the newspaper industry, first as a copy boy, then later as a crime reporter. His strong sense of injustice was further honed during the Great Depression, when he travelled across America and witnessed the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan, a theme that surfaces brilliantly in his hard-hitting 1963 asylum drama Shock Corridor.

A significant portion of the film is given over to Fuller's World War II experiences; he served as an infantryman and war photographer and witnessed the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp – a key focus of his 1980 war film The Big Red One. Finally, there's a wealth of fascinating, anecdote-heavy detail on Fuller's Hollywood career, where the director worked on the fringes of the system across a number of genres, frequently kicking against taboos and serving up scathing social commentary.

Ultimately, despite the lack of critical perspective, this is an enjoyable and informative trawl through Fuller's life and career that will leave you wanting to fill up on his films.

Selected release from Fri 15 May.

A Fuller Life

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 80 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Samantha Fuller
  • Cast: Samuel Fuller, Jennifer Beals, Robert Carradine
  • UK release: 15 May 2015

Enjoyable and informative documentary on director Sam Fuller (Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss, The Big Red One), among whose fans are Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Although disappointingly light on analysis of his work, it's a vivid portrait of his life and career with a wealth of fascinating detail.


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