A few words about…™ Underworld U.S.A. — in Blu-ray

A magnificent Blu-ray, with quality extras. 4 Stars

Sam Fuller began his film career as a writer in the 1930s, with his first directorial gig (he also wrote) I Shot Jesse James in 1949.

The films for which he is probably best known are Steel Helmet (1951), Pickup on South Street (1953) House of Bamboo (1955), Run of the Arrow (1957) Underworld U.S.A. (1961), and then Naked Kiss (1964), and The Big Red One (1980).

I got to spend some time with him in Telluride in (as I recall) 1981, and he was the very assured, cigar-chomping gentleman that one might suppose. He was also exceedingly nice and willing to share information.

Basically all of his film have an edge to them. Nothing wussy for Mr. Fuller.

And Underworld fits that to a T.

I mention most of above, as many people aren’t as familiar with his work, as they should be, and that work is essential in the history of the cinema.

What’s also important is that many of his films have been made available on DVD and / Blu-ray, so that his work may be appreciated and studied.

Now that Twilight Time has given us Underworld U.S.A. with a stellar new master from the gang at Columbia, we can check one more of this works off that “missing” list.

For those who haven’t experience the film, just go for it.

A magnificent Blu-ray, with quality extras.

Twilight Time’s resident monographist puts it all together beautifully.

“Fuller – ever the brilliant prognosticator – was able to foresee here, in the early 1960s, the awful confluence between corporatism and crime. He would offer the story to us as writer-producer-director, aided and abetted by the great cinematographer Hal Mohr (a double Oscar-winner whose fabulous career would encompass the likes of The Jazz Singer (1927) and The Wild One (1953), with an unflinching boldness that should serve as a model to contemporary filmmakers. … Martin Scorsese called it perfectly when he said, “If you don’t like the films of Sam Fuller, then you just don’t like cinema. Or at least you don’t understand it.”

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Absolutely

Highly Recommended

RAH

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

8 Comments

  1. Surprised that no one has responded to this post yet. Yes, Sam Fuller was and IS one of the greats, an indie director long before such a term existed, always going his own way, preferring to make a film outside the studio system for next to nothing, such as SHOCK CORRIDOR, so that he had the freedom to make it the way he wanted.

    And yes, I agree with Mr. Harris that UNDERWORLD USA is a totally original work that should be in everyone's collection. The film also contains what is my favorite Cliff Robertson performance.

    I also met Sam Fuller, and like Mr. Harris, found Mr. Fuller to be extremely affable, enthusiastic, and very open. Anyway, I thought I would share with you all how I came to meet him.

    I was at NYU Film School in the early 80's & had just gotten into the elevator after a production class when I realized that the other person with me, a short, silver haired man furiously smoking a stogie, was Sam Fuller.

    "Sam Fuller," I said. "You're the reason I'm here."

    He took the cigar out of his mouth and said, "Just keep doin' it, kid. Just keep doin' it."

    Anyway, we went across the street to a diner and I told him my story.

    When I was 6 years old, my mother took me to see CHINA GATE, mistakenly thinking it was a Nat King Cole musical. Actually, it was a weird mix of different genres, including a war picture set in Vietnam, along with musical numbers thrown in for good measure. (Nat King Cole was a mercenary soldier who also happened to be a singer.) It was the first time I had seen people bleed in black and white, and somehow it seemed more real. But what really got me was the strange hybrid style, which intercut grainy stock footage of an Asian war zone being bombed, with Nat King Cole singing the theme song surrounded by what looked like cardboard pagodas, and then the camera tracking through a bombed out building up Angie Dickinson's naked legs. Anyway, I was hooked. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to make movies like this one, with a very individual style and point of view, and strangely affecting in spite of (or perhaps because of) all the changes in tone and style, from real to fake and back again. Actually, CHINA GATE was so "fake looking" partially because of the low budget, that it somehow made that artificiality in terms of the sets and locations, seem all the more real, a background upon which these actors suddenly became complex individuals that the audience cared about, because of Fuller's dialogue and way of filming.

    And there I was 25 years later, talking to the man himself.

  2. lark144

    Surprised that no one has responded to this post yet. Yes, Sam Fuller was and IS one of the greats, an indie director long before such a term existed, always going his own way, preferring to make a film outside the studio system for next to nothing, such as SHOCK CORRIDOR, so that he had the freedom to make it the way he wanted.

    And yes, I agree with Mr. Harris that UNDERWORLD USA is a totally original work that should be in everyone's collection. The film also contains what is my favorite Cliff Robertson performance.

    I also met Sam Fuller, and like Mr. Harris, found Mr. Fuller to be extremely affable, enthusiastic, and very open. Anyway, I thought I would share with you all how I came to meet him.

    I was at NYU Film School in the early 80's & had just gotten into the elevator after a production class when I realized that the other person with me, a short, silver haired man furiously smoking a stogie, was Sam Fuller.

    "Sam Fuller," I said. "You're the reason I'm here."

    He took the cigar out of his mouth and said, "Just keep doin' it, kid. Just keep doin' it."

    Anyway, we went across the street to a diner and I told him my story.

    When I was 6 years old, my mother took me to see CHINA GATE, mistakenly thinking it was a Nat King Cole musical. Actually, it was a weird mix of different genres, including a war picture set in Vietnam, along with musical numbers thrown in for good measure. (Nat King Cole was a mercenary soldier who also happened to be a singer.) It was the first time I had seen people bleed in black and white, and somehow it seemed more real. But what really got me was the strange hybrid style, which intercut grainy stock footage of an Asian war zone being bombed, with Nat King Cole singing the theme song surrounded by what looked like cardboard pagodas, and then the camera tracking through a bombed out building up Angie Dickinson's naked legs. Anyway, I was hooked. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to make movies like this one, with a very individual style and point of view, and strangely affecting in spite of (or perhaps because of) all the changes in tone and style, from real to fake and back again. Actually, CHINA GATE was so "fake looking" partially because of the low budget, that it somehow made that artificiality in terms of the sets and locations, seem all the more real, a background upon which these actors suddenly became complex individuals that the audience cared about, because of Fuller's dialogue and way of filming.

    And there I was 25 years later, talking to the man himself.

    So…

    Who picked up the tab at the diner?

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