Rarely has the dark, grimy reality of human nature been so expertly dissected as in the work of journalist/director Sam Fuller. Well regarded now as one of the earliest masters of the pitch-black B-movie, Fuller was, in his day, accused of nothing short of fascism for his sharp critique of the latent racism in America. While films like Shock Corridor and White Dog are now widely celebrated, they were once used to fuel the fire of essentially ex-communicating Fuller from the studio system. Fuller was undeterred and continued to make devastating, wicked and gorgeous films.
One of Fuller’s blackest and most cold-blooded films is Underworld USA (1961), a story of revenge and cruelty. The story of a juvenile delinquent who sets out to take on the criminal underworld to avenge his father’s murder, Underworld USA is relentless in its depiction of human nature as essentially corrupt and brutal. The film is even nastier when there are moments of kindness, including the baby-faced murderer below (who will later run down a little girl riding her bicycle) talking about acting as life-guard for underprivileged kids at a swimming pool for a day (“I liked that,” he said with a genuine smile). The impossibly-cool, methodical hit-man sets fire to a screaming man in a car, below, without batting an eye.
By Britta R. Moline 4/16/2011
Underworld USA is shocking, far more so because of its unapologetic darkness than for any particular act, and is a sorely underrated Fuller powerhouse.