Underworld U.S.A.

Director: Samuel Fuller
Screenwriters: Samuel Fuller

Institute History

  • 1988 Sundance Film Festival


I wanted to do a contemporary crime story, with money and all the business that goes with it, excluding pointless melodrama. The censor rejected my story. I rewrote it and they refused it again. They said that the film gave the impression that crime paid. I replied that it did. I wanted to include authentic scenes of drug addicts going mad, but they said I’d never be allowed to do that. I was so disgusted that I said, “Here’s what I’ll do. the story of a guy who wants to avenge his father and I’ll include something about contemporary crime.” I wasn’t able to put in as much as I wanted but, in spite of this, I didn’t lose my enthusiasm during shooting.

I’ll tell you this: the man who was head of narcotics in Washington sent me a list of monies that the Department of Justice is cognizant of that is taken in every day in the USA for gambling, narcotics, whores and labor bribery. I wanted to make a picture—with no plot—where a the end every mother and father would say to their sons: “Don’t work hard. Don’t go to college and get worried about a job with a pension. Go in to one of those rackets, for crying out loud, and make yourself 50,000 bucks a day. I thought this would be a new approach to making a movie.
—Samuel Fuller

Underworld USA is Samuel Fuller’s most brutal picture. It adopts the methods of the crime reporter more completely than either Pickup on South Street or The Crimson Kimono. The film has the urgency of an on-the-spot report: Fuller’s images reproduce with extraordinary accuracy the texture of newspaper photographs. Fuller has carried this search for impact further in this than in any other of his films. Every shot is a smack in the eye. Every cut is a shock cut. Fuller evidently detests cold reason. And it is the rational nature of totalitarian systems that makes them abhorrent. Gus, the syndicate gun, is all the more chilling because he is not a psychopath; he kills without enjoyment. Tolly Devlin (Cliff Robertson) son the other hand, fights and kills with emotion; and he is a psychopath.
—V.V. Perkins

— V.F. Perkins

Screening Details

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