- 1 hr 22 min
Underworld is an American silent crime film released in 1927. This film was directed by Josef von Sternberg, who later directed The Blue Angel, and starred George Bancroft, Clive Brook, and Evelyn Brent. The movie was based on a story by Ben Hecht and featured the spectacular camerawork and moody lighting for which von Sternberg became famous.
The story revolves around a former rum runner named Bull Weed, played by Bancroft, who has grown rich in the criminal underworld. He is known for his violent approach towards his enemies, as he believes that strength and not love is what counts in the world. Bull's gang is informed of an opportunity to kidnap and ransom the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. They plan to execute the plan, but their carefully laid out operation goes haywire when Bull falls in love with the beautiful girl, played by Evelyn Brent.
Bull turns out to be a surprisingly gentle and loving person in his interactions with her. When his lieutenant "Rolls Royce", played by Clive Brook, tries to snatch her from him, Bull decides to protect her no matter what. In the end, Bull realizes the gravity of his actions, and after a stickup artist accidentally wounds Rolls Royce, Bull brings him to the couple's hiding place to recuperate.
The movie's strength lies in the acting of its leads. Bancroft is magnetic, and his portrayal of Bull Weed is quite chilling. Clive Brook brings a great deal of charm to his role as Rolls Royce, Bull Weed's lieutenant, and the chemistry between him and Bancroft make their scenes together crackle. The female lead of the movie, played by Evelyn Brent, imbues the character with fragility and grace. The relationship between Bull and the girl is one of the highlights of the film.
One of the most striking aspects of Underworld is its visual style. The images in the film are seeped in shadows, and the camera is always moving. Von Sternberg's innovative and dramatic lighting is celebrated to this day, and it set the trend for later film noirs. His skillful use of close-ups creates an intensity that is quite effective in making the audience feel the emotions of the characters.
The movie's score is also notable. The composer, Heinz Roemheld, used leitmotifs to emphasize the different themes of the film. Characters have their own musical cues, which helps to bring out the subtleties of their personalities. Roemheld's compositions also heighten the sense of tension in the film, making it an integral part of the narrative.
Underworld is often cited as a groundbreaking film for its depiction of the criminal underworld. It was one of the first films to portray criminals as the protagonist. Rather than showing the police as the heroes, it humanized the criminals, making the audience sympathize with them. This approach was quite daring in its time, as it subverted the societal norms of the day.
Overall, Underworld is a film that has stood the test of time. It's a well-crafted and solidly entertaining crime drama that features excellent performances, striking visuals, and an emotionally resonant storyline. It's a must-watch for fans of the genre and a testament to the artistry of filmmaking.
Underworld is a 1927 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 22 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.5.