There’s a biting moral edge to Sam Fuller’s Park Row, a masterful look at the rise of a small independent newspaper during New York City’s journalism boom in the 1880’s. The importance of a free press rests at the heart of Fuller’s expose, a riveting theme which feels just as vital today as it did at the height of the McCarthy era.
As in The Steel Helmet and Fixed Bayonets, Fuller puts Gene Evans front and center as the director’s alter ego, this time playing hard-nosed newspaper editor Phineas Mitchell. Showing a true testament to ethics and ambition, Mitchell fights off doubt and economics and challenges the behemoth publishing giant The Star, brutally reminding the big business/yellow journalism types of the core values newspapers must abide by.
In typical Fuller fashion, the colorful characters and snappy dialogue crackle, highlighting a professional life brimming with passion and heartache. Fuller hypnotically glides through his layered set design with a fluid camera, the highlights being a series of tracking shots that foreshadow the steadicam some thirty years later, proving once again Fuller’s innovation as a filmmaker. Park Row, made for a modest 200,000 dollars out of Fuller’s own pocket, represents a true independent vision built around universal commentaries worthy of discussion.