Sixty years ago, maverick director Samuel Fuller won the Bronze Lion Award at the Venice International Film Festival for his gritty film noir “Pickup on South Street” with Richard Widmark and Thelma Ritter.
Now, six decades later, Samantha Fuller, the filmmaker’s only child, is premiering “A Fuller Life,” a personal documentary on her late father at the festival Sunday in the Venice Classics section.
Samuel Fuller, who died in 1997 at the age of 85, certainly had a full and colorful life. Even before he became an influential, uncompromising filmmaker, he was a freelance reporter during the Great Depression and a member of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division during World War II.
During his career, he directed such seminal war films as 1951’s “The Steel Helmet,” 1957’s “China Gate,” 1962’s “Merrill’s Marauders” and 1980’s “The Big Red One,” which was based on his own experiences in the global conflict. Other classics in the Fuller canon include 1957’s “Forty Guns,” 1963’s “Shock Corridor” and 1964’s “The Naked Kiss.”
“He always assured me he would be around for his 100th birthday,” Fuller, 38, told The Times last year. “He died at the age of 85. I always knew in my head that his centennial would be something personally I would want to celebrate.”
So she decided on her father’s 99th birthday in 2011 that the best way to celebrate his centenary would be to make a documentary about him.
Fuller’s Kickstarter campaign last year brought in more than $25,000. Other funds came from “very generous donors who wish to stay anonymous,” said Fuller last week by phone. “I wanted to do it right. Doing it with professionals, that costs a lot of money. I wanted to take this project to the end no matter what.”
Fuller shot the film in the “shack,” her father’s office at his home in the Hollywood Hills that is overflowing with magazines, copies of screenplays he’d directed, unproduced manuscripts, rifles from the war and even his favorite Royal typewriter.
The documentary features actors who worked with Samuel Fuller, his friends and admirers -- James Franco, Jennifer Beals, Bill Duke, James Toback, Kelly Ward, Perry Lang, Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, Tim Roth, Robert Carradine, Wim Wenders, Monte Hellman, Buck Henry and Constance Towers -- who read excerpts from the filmmaker’s autobiography, “A Third Face.” Interspersed with the readings are clips from his features and recently discovered 16mm movies that Fuller shot on the front lines during World War II, as well as location scouts and home movies.
“It’s 80 minutes,” Fuller said of the documentary. “I wanted to keep it very tight. I wanted a quick flow.”