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Description

Samuel Fuller was not the sort of guy who seemed like one of America's great filmmakers -- he was a sawed-off former reporter and Army veteran whose tastes ran the stuff of pulp novels and lurid magazine fiction. But for all his roughhouse populism, Fuller was a director with a keen eye, a talent for dialogue that always rang true, a surprising social conscience and a bold vigor when it came to telling a story. Fuller directed his first three films for the low-budget studio Lippert Pictures, and the Criterion Collection has brought them to DVD as part of their Eclipse series in a three disc box set simply titled The First Films Of Samuel Fuller. The set includes two idiosyncratic dramas set in the Old West, I Shot Jesse James and The Baron of Arizona, and the powerful Korean War story The Steel Helmet, which is where Fuller's pure beef, no filler style emerges in its full flower for the first time. All three films have been transferred to disc in their original full frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and look excellent (especially The Baron of Arizona, which was photographed by the legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe); while Poverty Row productions of the 1940's and 50's often suffer from poorly archived elements when they emerge on DVD, the prints used for these discs look clean and well cared for, and all three films have been given transfers that make the most of the images. The audio for all three films has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono and the quality is quite good, especially considering the vintage (and budgets) of these pictures. These films are all in English with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. As is the custom for Eclipse releases, no bonus materials have been included for this set, though each film's slim case includes a short, well-written essay on the picture, and this certainly represents the best quality video releases of these films to date. While Samuel Fuller's work would get stronger and more audacious with time, the three pictures included in The First Films Of Samuel Fuller represent a gifted director with a powerful vision, and anyone with a taste for his work will be pleased with this set.