Underworld U.S.A.

Underworld U.S.A. (also known as Underworld USA) is a 1961 American neo-noir[2] film produced, written and directed by Samuel Fuller. It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old boy who goes to enormous lengths to get revenge against the mobsters who beat his father to death. It stars Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, and Beatrice Kay.[3]

Underworld U.S.A.
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySamuel Fuller
Produced bySamuel Fuller
Screenplay bySamuel Fuller
Based onarticles in The Saturday Evening Post
by Joseph F. Dinneen
StarringCliff Robertson
Dolores Dorn
Beatrice Kay
Richard Rust
Music byHarry Sukman
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byJerome Thoms
Globe Enterprises
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
May 13, 1961 (1961-05-13TUnited States)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[1]


Fourteen-year-old Tolly Devlin sees four hoods beat his father to death. Twenty years later, the killers have risen to the top of the crime syndicate. Ever since his adolescence, Tolly (Cliff Robertson)'s goal has been to avenge his father. Tolly has even become a criminal and gotten himself sent to prison so that he could get close to one of the perpetrators. He becomes as vindictive and sadistic as the men he is pursuing, and rejects the two relationships that could redeem him, his mother-figure (Beatrice Kay) and his girlfriend (Dolores Dorn).

Becoming a secret informant for the government, Tolly ends up playing both sides against the middle in his cagey campaign to bring down the remaining mobsters. His nihilistic vendetta eventually robs him of his own humanity (and more).



Producer Ray Stark asked Fuller to write and direct a film based on the title of a magazine article written by Joseph F. Dinneen. Fuller also was inspired by a book, Here Is to Crime, by newspaperman Riley Cooper.[4]:383–384

An opening scene with a Union of Prostitutes was deleted by Sam Briskin and other Columbia executives.[4]:383–384 Fuller's character Tolly is a loner motivated by revenge using the United States Government as well as his own devices to even the score. Fuller heard the reaction of a real life gangster who reportedly said "If only my son would have that kind of affection for me!".[4]:390


Critical response

Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film, and wrote, "Samuel Fuller's revenge crime thriller is shot in the same brisk and violent manner he shoots his war films. The timely crime film hopes to cash in on the public's thirst for mob stories, as it takes place after the well-covered mob gathering in Apalachin, New York; Fuller based his film on a series of exposé articles in The Saturday Evening Post ... Fuller's violent noir film shows the inhumanity of the soldiers in the war on crime, where neither the syndicate or Tolly react with basic human responses. Their drive to succeed overrides everything, even love. The FBI is shown as stymied without the help of the public coming forth with information or willing to act as witnesses despite the risks, but the lawmen do not play fair by not telling how dangerous it's to be a witness against the mob."[5]


A wanted poster of Tolly Devlin appears in a police station in Columbia's film of Sail a Crooked Ship (1961).


The Academy Film Archive preserved Underworld U.S.A. in 2000.[6]


  1. Fuller in Running With 'Mob' Movie: Enters 'Underiworld, USA'; 'Burlesque' Up Again--Berle Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 2 July 1959: B7.
  2. Schwartz, Ronald (2005). Neo-noir: The New Film Noir Style from Psycho to Collateral. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-8108-5676-9.
  3. Underworld U.S.A. on IMDb.
  4. Fuller, Samuel. A Third Face, Pages 383-384. Alfred A Knopf (2002).
  5. Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, February 27, 2009. Last accessed: December 3, 2009.
  6. "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
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