Underworld

  • Film
  • Action and adventure
Ex-reporter Ben Hecht drafted the script for Underworld, and clearly saw the project as a reflection of his experiences on the crime beat. Sternberg had no interest in Chicago realities, but it took him a while to muster the confidence to abandon Hecht's outline. Hence the clumsiness of the opening scenes, which introduce the central triangle (bank-robber Bancroft, his girl Brent, and alcoholic lawyer Brook) and establish the deadly rivalry between Bancroft and gangster Buck Mulligan (Kohler), whose front is a flower-shop that specialises in wreaths. Sternberg comes into his own with the scene of the gangsters' ball, where emotional and physical violence erupt amid a storm of confetti and streamers. Thereafter, the film radiates total confidence in its own means and methods, and the themes are wholly Sternberg's: a woman breaks free of the codes that imprison her, a macho thug discovers the depths of his own feelings, and sexual love proves stronger than hand-guns, prison bars, and the entire police force. Hecht wanted his name taken off the film, but that didn't stop him from accepting an Oscar for it the following year.

Release details

Duration: 7 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Screenwriter: Robert N Lee, Charles Furthman
Cast: George Bancroft
Evelyn Brent
Clive Brook
Larry Semon
Fred Kohler
Helen Lynch
Jerry Manda
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