Film, Action and adventure

Time Out says

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.

By: TR


Release details

7 mins

Cast and crew

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