Join the Boston Sunday Night Film Club this Sunday, Jul 5th at 7p for Underworld U.S.A. at the Harvard Film Archive . Look for Sean wearing a nametag in the theatre lobby about 15 minutes before the film. As always, after the film we will descend on a local establishment for dinner/drinks/discussion.
Underworld U.S.A. is among the fiercest, starkest and most unsparing of the many studio films made about organized crime, a popular and perennial topic in Hollywood since the mid-1940s. Like Joseph H. Lewis’ The Undercover Man (1949) or Phil Karlson’s The Brothers Rico (1957) before it, Fuller’s film turns away from the expressionist noir vision of crime long favored in Hollywood and towards a bleaker, barer and menacingly abstract portrayal of criminality. Fuller goes even further, however, by stripping his film of almost any sentimentality and by making even his protagonist deeply unsympathetic and possibly psychopathic. A revenge saga starring a remarkably sinister Cliff Robertson as a failed burglar determined to track down the killers of his criminal father, Underworld U.S.A. follows the young man’s violent path up the crooked ladder of the syndicate that holds a stern grip over vice. For his unsparing depiction of brutal violence and his reduction of character to vicious and brilliantly efficient caricaturessuch as Richard Rust’s ruthless hit manFuller’s hard-hitting film anticipates the blood-soaked yakuza masterpieces of Kinji Fukasaku.