• Underworld U.S.A. (Twilight Time) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: March 27th, 2017.
    Director: Samuel Fuller
    Cast: Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, Paul Dubov, Robert Emhardt, Larry Gates
    Year: 1961
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    Underworld U.S.A. - Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Samuel Fuller and released in 1961, Underworld U.S.A. begins in New York City where a fourteen-year-old boy named Tolly Devlin sees four gangsters beat his father to death only to escape without any repercussions at all. Two decades pass and Tolly, now clearly a man (and played by Cliff Robertson) has hardly forgotten the incident. In fact, Tolly’s been planning his revenge for quite some time now.

    When he lands in the clink for a burglary rap, he’s able to track down the leader of the four men on the inside. Not only that, he’s able to get the names of the other three, each of whom is running part of a ‘respectable’ business named National Projects that’s actually a front for various criminal endeavors. After he’s let out, Tolly winds up saving a woman named Cuddles (Dolores Dorn) who just so happens to be a low-level mob employee. They hit it off and he figures he can use what she knows to get in tight. Meanwhile, an F.B.I. agent named John Driscoll (Larry Gates) hopes he can convince Tolly to let him in on what he knows so that they can make the bust, promising to convict the guilty parties and send them off to see a judge. It’s an offer that Tolly declines until he realizes that he needs help getting to the top man, Earl Conners (Robert Emhardt), at which point he and Driscoll decide to work together…

    In Fuller’s world, everyone is corrupt and nobody can be trusted, which is why it takes a fairly unhinged antihero like Tolly Devlin to set things right. Tolly’s more than happen to do whatever it takes to see his obsessive quest through to the end, and if that means bending or even breaking the law, well, that isn’t a problem for him. He’s the consummate Fuller-style tough guy, and Robertson (who had a long career but who younger viewers might recall as kindly Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man film!) plays him well. Fuller uses quite a few interesting facial closeups to focus on his eyes and Robertson responds in kind with some impressive steely-eyed glaring that helps to solidify his cinematic toughness. Given the quality of his work here, he really should have gone on to become a bigger name than he did – he’s great in this movie!

    Fuller keeps the pacing tight and the tension thick. The stark black and white photography suits the gritty tone of the film perfectly, the visuals complement the storytelling and the storytelling complements the visuals. Hal Mohr, who shot loads of movies in the forties and fifties (including The Wild One) before moving on to more frequently work in television, delivers some exceptional cinematography while Harry Sukman’s score is also very strong.

    Underworld U.S.A. - Blu-ray Review:

    Underworld U.S.A. comes to Blu-ray from Twilight Time Releasing framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in a very nice AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. Detail is very strong throughout and the picture benefits from really strong black levels and spot-on contrast. The picture is clean, without losing its natural film grain, and shows very little print damage at all. There’s good depth and texture here and the image

    An English language DTS-HD Mono track is the only option on the disc, but it sounds fine. No alternate language or subtitle options are provided. Regardless, there are no issues here. The single channel mix is clean and properly balanced, relaying clear dialogue and strong background music.

    The main extra on the disc is a twenty-four-minute featurette entitled Sam Fuller Storyteller that is made up of input from Fuller’s wife Christa and daughter Samantha Fuller as well as filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders, Tim Robbins and Curtis Hanson. It’s an interesting look back at his life and work. We also get a five-minute piece called Martin Scorsese On Underworld U.S.A. in which he talks more specifically about his thoughts on the film and what makes this particular entry in Fuller’s filmography stand out the way that it does.

    The disc also includes a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Julie Kirgo contributes a booklet of liner notes that offer some welcome background information on the film and its storied directed as well as some opinions on the film itself and how it deals with its themes.

    Underworld U.S.A. - The Final Word:

    Underworld U.S.A. is moody, atmospheric, tense and tough – top notch Fuller! Twilight Time’s Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent and features a few decent extra features. Anyone interested in the director’s work or anyone who just appreciates a good crime thriller should consider this one highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Underworld U.S.A. Blu-ray screen caps!