Underworld U.S.A. (1961) Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller Cinematography: Hal Mohr Editing: Jerome Thoms Music: Harry Sukman
Cast: Cliff Robertson (Tolly Devlin), Dolores Dorn (Cuddles), Beatrice Kay (Sandy), Paul Dubov (Gela), Robert Emhardt (Earl Connors), Larry Gates (Driscoll), Richard Rust (Gus Cottahee), Gerald Milton (Gunther), Allan Gruener (Smith). B&W, 99min. DVD letterboxed
Samuel Fuller’s incredible hard-boiled tale of revenge is finally available on DVD, and it’s a must-see. Try not to read too much about the movie beforehand (and don’t watch Scorsese’s intro until after seeing the movie—he reveals too much info), just rent it and be exhilarated by Underworld U.S.A.’s intensity.
It’s a rotten world for juvenile delinquent Tolly Devlin, made worse when he sees his dad brutally beaten to death by four shadowy figures in the first minutes of the film.
Rather than use his remarkable talent to lift himself out of the cesspool, Tolly dives further in, seeking to exact revenge on the killers— and thereby seals his own doom.
Tolly’s got no use for anything that isn’t related to killing these guys— Because his life is nothing without revenge.
(Of course, it’s never asked or mentioned about Tolly’s dad maybe deserving to get iced? Like, what does someone have to do to get beaten to death? Something big, you’d think.)
It’s one of those Noir Bridges between the Old School (“social problem”) Crime Films (Little Caesar, Scarface) and the 1970s Neo-Noir Madness (Dirty Harry, The French Connection, The Outfit, Scarface) that essentially ignores Film Noir’s “Fallen Noble Hero” subset, like most of Bogie’s movies.
At DVD Talk, Glenn Erickson writes: Cinematographer Hal Mohr may be the key factor in Underworld U.S.A.'s enhanced impact; the modestly budgeted film can boast superior imagery. The mob's glass and steel offices equate organized crime with big business, while some of Dolores Dorn's close-ups are breathtakingly beautiful. Fuller blocks his compositions the way an editor blocks out a page of newsprint. And what about this: Fuller describes a crime syndicate hiding behind a legitimate business façade, but what if he’s alluding to crime in the US being supported by big business? Not just “equating,” but pointing-the-finger: Big Business has its fingers in the dope & whores racket!(or am I looking too hard for subtext? Heck, that’s what Samuel Fuller movies do to you!) Underworld U.S.A. has a feral energy that’s infectious/ the darn thing never stops moving— all credit to the late, great Sam Fuller, an Ivanlandia favorite!
Co-star Dolores Dorn(who plays the prostitute who falls for Tolly; in the photos up top, gazing into Cliff Robertson’s soulless, revenge-hungry eyes; and at right) went on to be in the awesome The Candy Snatchers(1973) (good band, too!—not that Ms. Dorn was in the band…), then later became a noted acting teacher for the American Film Institute in 1977, and with the Lee Strasberg Institute in 1983, according to IMDB.
Stone (1974) Directed, produced and production designed by Sandy Harbutt Screenplay by Sandy Harbutt and Michael Robinson Cinematography: Graham Lind Editing: Ian Barry Music: Billy Green
Cast: Ken Shorter (Stone), Sandy Harbutt (Undertaker), Helen Morse (Amanda), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Toad), with Rebecca Gilling, Vincent Gil, Bindi Williams, James H. Bowles, Bill Hunter, Garry McDonald 99 min. DVD Letterboxed
Because of that, Stone is one of the best motorcycle gang B-movies made, much better than 99% of its American counterparts, with a semi-documentary feeling that keeps things raw and authentic. Forget about the plot— it’s the flimsiest of excuses to allow the viewer to groove on the exclusive world of the Gravediggers Motorcycle Club— and unlike US biker films, Stone is very sympathetic to the gang, without emasculating them or turning them into clowns and harmless goofs.
(In fact, I’d say Stone has more in common with its fellow Aussie B-movie masterpiece Mad Max and the English biker/ horror movie Psychomania, than with any of its Yankee equivalents.)
While Stone is very docu-like, the movie also has a very strong stoner aesthetic (or “trippy vibe”) that really passes on the feeling that you’re smoking as much dope as the bikers are on-screen (which makes sense since the flick is called “Stone” and the tagline from the poster was “TAKE THE TRIP”).
And it’s true: Stone has a great ending.
Lots of credit should be heaped on writer-director-actor-designer Sandy Harbutt— if anyone deserves to be called an auteur, it’s him.
That was my original idea for the title of this blog, a sort of summation of nearly everything I'd ever wanted cinematically: regularly playing on the ABC Channel 7 4:30 movie--or on WOR-TV Channel 9's 4 O'Clock Movie--the greatest monster movie in the universe, and incredible combo of miniatures, men in suits and stop motion, with entire continents destroyed!
But then there was a coup d'etat, and Tzar Ivan I of Ivanlandia took charge.