Underworld U.S.A. (1961)

UnderworldUSA_1Starring Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, Paul Dubov, Robert Emhardt, Larry Gates, Richard Rust, Gerald Milton, Allan Gruener, David Kent

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High.

fourstar


Samuel Fuller is known as the director who makes direct films that punch you viscerally with their ferocity, but Underworld USA is perhaps the leanest, meanest, most consistently thrilling Sam Fuller picture I’ve seen yet. Not only is this one instantly rocketing up near the top of my favorite Sam Fuller movies, there are few noir films that I enjoy as much as this one. I must admit that I’m not as well-versed as I ought to be in the noir genre, but if there were more noir films as jam-packed with excitement as Underworld USA is, that might be a different story. It’s absolutely criminal that Underworld USA isn’t better known and respected. Who knew that one of the best noirs out there was made in the ’60s?

As all Fuller films do, Underworld USA begins with a strong premise. We meet Tolly Devlin, a 14-year-old kid hiding out in an alleyway, waiting for his opportunity to lift some valuables from drunk New Year’s Eve partygoers. He is firmly entrenched in the criminal lifestyle, and soon we learn why. His father is a career criminal, but tonight is not his lucky night. Tolly watches four men beat his father to death in the alley. He only sees the face of one of the men, but when given the opportunity to tell the cops what he saw, he refuses. Instead, he bides his time as a career criminal like his father, working towards the day when he might exact revenge on the men responsible for his father’s murder.

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Escape from L.A. (1996)

escape_from_la_poster1Starring Kurt Russell, Georges Corraface, Steve Buscemi, A.J. Langer, Stacy Keach, Michelle Forbes, Cliff Robertson, Peter Fonda, , Valeria Golino, Pam Grier, Bruce Campbell

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. I remember not liking and liking this one.

twohalfstar


I’ve never watched the two Escape films in such close proximity before, and I think this is why I never really got what Escape from L.A. was going for. I always found it a chaotic, spastic piece of fun, but all of its nuances were completely lost on me. Coming at it with a full head of Escape from New York definitely helped the film, and it made for a much more enjoyable experience than I remember it being the last time, but it still doesn’t make up for all the flaws that this one holds. It’s unfortunate in this way, because when this film is good, it’s really good fun.

1998
In the late 20th Century, hostile forces inside the United States grow strong. The city of Los Angeles is ravaged by crime and immorality. To protect and defend its citizens, the United States Police Force is formed. A presidential candidate predicts a millennium earthquake will destroy L.A. in divine retribution.

“Like the mighty fist of God, Armageddon will descend upon the city of Los Angeles, the city of sin, the city of Gomorrah, the city of Sodom, and waters will arise and separate this sinful, sinful city from out country.”

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