Cinema Sunday discusses film noir “Pickup on South Street”


Illustration by Alexa Druyanoff

Vasilia Yordanova

Jazz bassist and self-taught film enthusiast Mike Merritt discussed the 1953 film “Pickup on South Street” during Cinema Sunday on Dec. 12.

Cinema Sundays are discussions of films hosted by Performing Arts teacher Ted Walch. Each event features a different film and a guest speaker who worked on the film or is knowledgeable about it.

Ted Walch said he saw “Pickup on South Street” as a child when it came out during the Cold War, and he took the anti-Communism theme of the film very seriously at the time.

Merritt began the conversation by discussing the plot of the movie as opposed to its production. He said “Pickup on South Street” is directed by Samuel Fuller, who is known for his low-budget yet controversial films.

“‘Pickup on South Street’ is a violent Cold War thriller film disguised as a film noir,” Merritt said. “It was shot rather aggressively for its time.”

Merritt said he is not formally trained in studying or creating films, but the art of cinema has always been fascinating to him, even throughout his career as a musician.

“My knowledge comes just from experiencing the films themselves,” Merritt says. “I never studied [film] and I never attempted to make a film, but cinema was my first passion.”

Merritt said “Pickup on South Street” is Samuel Fuller’s most popular film, but Fuller’s films always have a unique female lead.

“The female characters [of Fuller’s films] are always distinctive from the typical Hollywood woman of the era,” Merritt said. “[The women] always have something different in their personality, some sort of inner strength rather than just being beautiful.”

Middle School Computer Programming and Mathematics Teacher Jessica Kaufman said she enjoyed watching “Pickup on South Street” and attending the Cinema Sunday.

“I enjoyed the movie’s twists and people turning on other people,” Kaufman said. “I found it interesting that the director filmed this movie on a low budget and during the McCarthy Era.”