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

UNDERWORLD U.S.A. was written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller and stars Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, Robert Emhardt, Larry Gates, Paul Dubov, and Richard Rust. The score is by Harry Sukman.

The great American auteur Samuel Fuller gives us, in Underworld U.S.A. (1961), a terrifyingly prescient look at a nation – on the surface serene and at peace – in which organized crime and big business have somehow merged. All this is seen through the eyes of a young man (Cliff Robertson) bent on avenging the death of his father at the hands of “punks” who turn out to be ubiquitous and working on both sides of the law. Also starring (wonderfully) Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, and Richard Rust, and memorably shot by the great Hal Mohr (Rancho Notorious, The Wild One).

This gritty 1961 crime-thriller follows Tolly Devlin (Cliff Robertson) who witnessed his father’s muder when he was just fourteen-years old. This tragic event left him scarred for life and filled with vengeance. Fast forward years later and Tolly now lives the life as a small time thief with the complete disapproval of his mother Sandy (Beatrice Kay) who doesn’t want him going down the dangerous road he’s headed. He ends up infiltrating the gritty underworld that’s full of corrupt cops and cold blood gangsters and within this group of shady characters are the men who killed his father.

Tolly wants revenge but he plays it cool and takes his time so he can build the trust of this sleazy organization but the deeper he gets, the deadlier things become. He ends up meeting the beautiful but damaged Cuddles (Dolores Dorn) and the two start an uncomfortable romance but Cuddles is a bit deranged and untamed in her own right so Tolly has to slowly earn her trust. What happens is, Tolly finally finds the perfect time to strike and get his revenge but getting out alive is the hard part for this young man who ultimately finds this out the hard way.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, an image, a few quotes, and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features an image from the movie. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inside is a booklet from Twilight Time that includes more images from the movie, some nice words about Underworld U.S.A. by Julie Kirgo and more original artwork on the front and back. You can see the front cover of the booklet down below. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio. This is a pristine upgrade by Twilight Time.

Bottom line is, Underworld U.S.A. was another first time watch for me and I really enjoyed it. This noir style crime-thriller is Samuel Fuller’s take on the gritty and corrupt underworld in this country that walks a fine line between good and bad – because the two are in bed with each other. The movie features gangsters, bad cops, drugs, booze, addiction and abuse. You have to remember that this was a 1961 release so it had to be a big risk or possibly controversial to push something like this back then. The story was interesting and the cast did a great job with their characters, plus it was cool to see a young Cliff Robertson in this lead because the only thing I’d ever seen him in before was the first big screen version of Spider-Man. Fuller did a fantastic job telling his story and bringing this violent world to life on screen. To me, the movie plays like a live-action graphic novel that was shot beautifully and it looks amazing in black and white. A movie like this just wouldn’t look right in color. Underworld U.S.A. is now available on Blu-ray and has a limited edition run of 3,000 units.

Distributor: Twilight Time

Run Time: 98 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High Definition (1.85:) B&W / Region Free

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH

Special Features: The extras include Twilight Time’s isolated music track, two featurettes and the original theatrical trailer.

  • Isolated Music Track
  • Sam Fuller Storyteller (24:14)
  • Martin Scorsese on Underworld U.S.A. (05:08)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (02:25)

 

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