Underworld U.S.A. (1961): Samuel Fuller’s Brisk Revenge Noir Thriller, Starring Cliff Robertson

Samuel Fuller produced, wrote and directed Underworld U.S.A., a crime noir about a boy who becomes obsessed with getting revenge against the mobsters who beat his father to death.

Producer Ray Stark asked Fuller to write and direct a film based on the title of  magazine article written by Joseph F. Dinneen. Fuller also was inspired by the book “Here Is to Crime,” by newspaperman Riley Cooper.

In the first reel, Tolly Devlin, a boy of 14, sees how several hoods beat his father to death.

Cut to two decades later, when the killers have risen to the top of crime syndicate.

Ever since his adolescence, the sole goal of Tolly (now played as a mature man by Cliff Robertson) has been to avenge his father.

Tolly has become a criminal and got himself sent to prison so that he could get close to the perpetrators. He becomes as vindictive and sadistic as the men he is pursuing.

Meanwhile, he rejects the two relationships that could redeem him, his mother-figure (Beatrice Kay) and his girlfriend (Dolores Dorn).

As a secret informant for the government, Tolly ends up playing both sides against the middle in his campaign to bring down the mobsters, but his nihilistic vendetta eventually robs him of his humanity.

An opening scene with a Union of Prostitutes was deleted by Columbia executives.


Cliff Robertson as Tolly Devlin
Dolores Dorn as Cuddles
Beatrice Kay as Sandy
Paul Dubov as Gela
Robert Emhardt as Earl Connors
Larry Gates as John Driscoll
Richard Rust as Gus Cottahee
Gerald Milton as Gunther
Allan Gruener as Smith


Produced, directed by Samuel Fuller
Screenplay by Fuller, based on articles in The Saturday Evening Post by Joseph F. Dinneen
Music by Harry Sukman
Cinematography: Hal Mohr
Edited by Jerome Thoms
Production company Globe Enterprises
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date: May 13, 1961
Running time: 99 minutes


TCM showed the movie June 21, 2020.