Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

Underworld U.S.A.
Directed by Samuel Fuller
Written by Samuel Fuller
Globe Enterprises
First viewing/FilmStruck


Sandy: Why don’t you take a good look at yourself. What do you see? A doctor? A scientist? A businessman? You see a scar-faced ex-con. A two-bit safecracker. A petty thief who don’t know when he really made the big time. Where do you come off to blast her? No matter what she’s been, what she’s done. She’s a giant! And you wanna know why? Well, I’ll tell ya. Because she sees something in you worth saving. If only one tenth of one percent of all the good in her could rub off on you, you’d be a giant, too. But you’re a midget! In your head, in your heart, in your whole makeup. You’re a midget!

This is Sam Fuller at his lurid best aided by the performance of Cliff Robertson and the cinematography of Hal Mohr.

Tolley Devlin had a terrible childhood.  He was raised in prison until his convict mother died.  His father is a small-time hoodlum.  Tolley is taken in hand by kindly Sandy.  Shortly thereafter as a young teenager, he witnesses shadowy figures beat his father to death.  Rather than cooperate with the police, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

This has to wait until 20 years later when Tolley is in prison for burglary.  One of his chief suspects is dying in the prison hospital and Tolley wangles a job there.  On his death bed, the suspect reveals the names of the other murders.

Tulley insinuates himself with the gang, now a major organized crime ring, and plays both ends against the middle.  In the meantime, he earns the love of a drug courier for the mob. Much violence and skullduggery ensue.

Any one familiar with Fuller’s work would not need to see the credits to know he directed it.  He takes a time-worn format and makes it quirky enough that the same old story seems new and interesting.  I had forgotten how good an actor Robertson was.


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