We’re all familiar with the cinematic simulation of a punch by having an actor pretend to punch the camera lens. The best-known examples of this technique are in Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest (’59), first when a South Dakota state trooper decks Cary Grant at the end of Act Two, and then 15 minutes later when James Mason does the same to Martin Landau.
It’s been asserted, however, that Samuel Fuller trail-blazed this effect in I Shot Jesse James (’49). It happens when a barroom brawler delivers a right cross at the camera. Jean-Luc Godard reportedly once referred to this visual device as “cinema-fist.”
The problem is that I’ve never seen I Shot Jesse Jamesall the way through. I tried watching the first 10 minutes and gave up. I tried a few years later…ditto. Has anyone?