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Director Samual Fuller Dies at 86

October 31, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Director Samuel Fuller, whose direct and often violent films reflected his experience as a Depression-era drifter, a World War II hero and a crime reporter, died Thursday. He was 86.

Fuller died of natural causes at his home in the Hollywood Hills, said family friend Joseph McBride. Fuller, who lived in France until recently, had suffered a stroke several years ago.

One of the kings of the B movies, Fuller became disheartened and left the United States after his 1982 film, ``White Dog,″ was denounced as racist.

``His films may have not been the most polished films, but they were incredibly dynamic,″ director Joe Dante said Thursday.

Fuller became a copyboy on the New York Journal when he was 12 and a crime reporter for the San Diego Sun at age 17. During the Depression, he lived a drifter’s life, crisscrossing the country aboard freight trains.

He wrote short stories and published the several pulp novels, starting with ``Burn Baby Burn,″ in 1935. The next year he became a screenwriter, collaborating on ``Gangs of New York″ in 1938.

During World War II, he fought in North Africa and Europe and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and a Purple Heart. He returned to Hollywood after the war and, in 1949, directed his first film, ``I Shot Jesse James.″

Most of his movies were action pictures that reflected his experiences. Fuller, who wrote most of his screenplays and often produced his own films, was hailed as ``an authentic American primitive″ by critic Andrew Sarris.

His gritty war films ``The Steel Helmet″ in 1950, ``Fixed Bayonets″ in 1951 and ``The Big Red One″ in 1979 portrayed war unromantically. The action pictures were direct with a brutal violence.

``Shock Corridor,″ released in 1963, was a story of a reporter undercover in a mental institution. ``He managed to take on every single social problem and treat it in a very broad but nonetheless revealing way that films at the time just weren’t dealing with,″ Dante said.

``You could describe him with three things _ the typewriter, the rifle and the camera,″ said McBride. ``All those things combined in his work. He was a hardboiled reporter at heart, exposing things that made him angry.″

A 1996 documentary about Fuller and his films was titled, ``The Typewriter, the Rifle and the Movie Camera.″

Other Fuller films included ``The Baron of Arizona″ in 1950; ``Hell and High Water″ in 1954; ``Run of the Arrow″ and ``China Gate″ in 1957; ``Verboten!″ in 1959; ``Merrill’s Marauders″ in 1962; ``Shark!″ in 1969; and ``Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street″ in 1972.

Retrospectives of Fuller’s films are often shown in Europe, where some considered him one of the most influential post-World War II directors.

Fuller is survived by his wife, Christa, and his daughter, Samantha.