Too often dismissed as little more than a genre filmmaker, Samuel Fuller was instead one of the earliest and most uncompromising forces in American independent cinema. Noted for his tabloid-influenced storytelling style, breathless camera work, and extreme close-ups, Fuller was a pugnacious, tough-as-nails man whose movies reflect a uniquely personal vision; obsessed with themes of falsehood and deception, his films illuminated the cultural divisions at the heart of American society, depicting a grim, immoral world far removed from the placid surface typically on display in more mainstream fare. Celebrated as a genius by his fans -- and denounced as a sensationalist by his detractors -- Fuller was a deeply patriotic man quick to criticize his country's flaws, as well as a raw, anarchic filmmaker capable of moments of inexpressible beauty; such contradictions fueled and ultimately defined both him and his body of work, which continues to exert tremendous influence over such prominent filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch.
Samuel Michael Fuller was born August 12, 1911, in Worcester, MA, and raised in New York City; at the age of 13 he quit school to work as a copy boy for the New York Journal and within two years was working as the personal copy boy of the tabloid's crusading editor, Arthur Brisbane. When Brisbane quit after an explosive quarrel with his boss, the infamous William Randolph Hearst, Fuller exited as well, briefly joining the staff of the New York Evening Graphic before moving west to accept a position with the San Diego Sun, where he became one of the youngest crime reporters in the country. While honing a brash, no-nonsense style of journalism, his job led him back and forth across the United States, interviewing notorious murderers and the like; he finally quit the position to pursue his wanderlust full-time, spending much of the Depression era riding the rails throughout the American South. In 1935 Fuller finally settled down long enough to write a pulp novel, Burn Baby Burn; other titles like Test Tube Baby and Kiss and Make Up followed in the years to come, many of them published under pseudonyms.