Combustible Celluloid
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With: Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, Paul Dubov, Robert Emhardt, Larry Gates, Richard Rust, Gerald Milton, Allan Gruener, David Kent, Tina Pine, Sally Mills, Robert P. Lieb, Neyle Morrow, Henry Norell
Written by: Samuel Fuller
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 98
Date: 05/13/1961

Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Avenge Thy Father

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sameul Fuller crafted Underworld U.S.A. (1961) as a kind of anti-gangster film; his logic was that if the hero was a loner, then by definition, he could not be a gangster. As a kid, Tolly Devlin sees his father murdered by four thugs and identifies one of them. But before he can get his revenge, he learns that the murderer has gone to jail for life. Tolly gets himself thrown in jail and spends years trying to get to him and finally does; he also gets the names of the other three men. Released decades later (and played by Cliff Robertson), he learns that his three remaining targets have become powerful crime lords and will not be easy to get to. He begins working for one of them, and teams up with the District Attorney on the side, making plans to take down the others by playing them against one another. The character names in this film are priceless: Tolly meets a girl called Cuddles (Dolores Dorn), and the three crime lords are named Gela (Paul Dubov), Gunther (Gerald Milton) and Smith (Allan Gruener) -- no first names. Even more so than its plot, the film is notable for its very stark, sharp black-and-white look; each shot almost feels like a paper cut. It's closer in spirit to the films of the French New Wave than anything that was going on in Hollywood at the time.

[See also The Samuel Fuller Collection.]

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