Welcome to this week’s installment of FilmStruck Friday! Every Friday here on TMP (with the exception of the first Friday of the month), I feature a review of a movie from the TCM and Criterion streaming service, FilmStruck. Today, a 1961 crime drama starring Cliff Robertson. Happy viewing!
Fourteen-year-old Tolly Devlin has an experience no child should: watching his father die. In a darkened alley, Tolly watches his father be beaten to death by four men.
Twenty years later, Tolly’s (Cliff Robertson) anger has had plenty of time to marinate. He’s become set on avenging his father’s death. Knowing the identities of the four men involved, he sets out to track them down and kill them.
Underworld, U.S.A. was directed by Samuel Fuller.
Cliff Robertson, better known ’round these parts as Gidget‘s “Big Kahuna,” gives quite the sinister turn here as our revenge-obsessed central character. The film builds a fantastic, grim atmosphere from the very beginning, very appropriate to the character’s killer quest.
But it’s not just a revenge story. Underworld, U.S.A. also takes a wider look at the crime world, and at the battle between the law and society’s underbelly. Police efforts to bring down crime rings are explored, as well as corruption within the ranks of those supposed to enforce the law.
Alongside Robertson, nice performances are given by Beatrice Kay as mother-figure “Sandy” and Dolores Dorn as “Cuddles,” as well. The women are just as memorable as Tolly, though their roles are smaller. Several of the film’s most gripping scenes involve them, and Cuddles offers up my favorite quote: “We’ve got a right to climb outta the sewer and live like other people.”
With a tense, fascinating crime story wrapped up in a fantastic ending, I would highly recommend Underworld, U.S.A.