|Index||3 reviews in total|
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Paul Bronson (Sol Johnson) graduates from a Southern college but instead of getting a great job, he's lured to Chicago by gambler LeRoy Giles (Slick Chester). Soon Paul strikes up a relationship with Dinah (Bee Freeman) who just happens to be with the gambler and not long after a murder occurs.
UNDERWORLD is another low-budget film from director Oscar Micheaux. The director had dozens of titles under his belt by this point in his career but the budgets were certainly getting smaller and smaller. For the most part this here is an entertaining picture, although like most race films from this era, it has to deal with a very low budget as well as some technical limitations, which prevent it from being better.
I was actually surprised at how good the performances were here. Usually these types of films had to deal with bad actors but that really wasn't the case here. Yes, there are a few times where lines are messed up but this here is more of an issue with the budget and the fact that they simply couldn't re-do the scene. I thought both Johnson and Chester were good enough in their roles and I thought Freeman made for a good love interest. Again, none of the three were Oscar-worthy but they were good enough to hold your attention and keep you into the picture.
At just 63-minutes the film goes by extremely quick. I'm not sure if the available prints are missing any footage or if the IMDb just has the wrong running time listed. It seemed pretty complete from what I could tell. Either way, this isn't a masterpiece or even a good film for that matter but if you're a fan of the director then it's certainly worth watching.
After Paul Bronson graduates from a black college in the South, he accepts the invitation of Chicago gambler LeRoy Giles to vacation in Chicago. LeRoy, who has been having a secret affair for three years with singer Dinah Jackson, the wife of Sam Brown, owner of the Red Lily nightclub, has brought Paul to Chicago to fleece him, but Paul attracts Dinah's attention and they become involved during the next month. Paul wants to marry Dinah, but she refuses, saying she only wants their affair to continue as it is. After Paul refuses money offered by Dinah, he meets Evelyn Martin, who recognizes him from college and who is trying to run a beauty parlor. Evelyn and Paul have lunch together and are seen by LeRoy, whom Dinah has supported financially and who is upset about her affair with Paul. LeRoy tells Dinah about Evelyn, and she threatens to ruin Paul. After Paul tells Dinah that he has decided to go home, she arranges for LeRoy to drug and rob him. LeRoy doubles the dose and almost kills Paul. After Paul overhears LeRoy and Dinah discussing his money, he gets it back from LeRoy and, still groggy from the drug, goes to the Red Lily. Meanwhile, Sam's detectives tell him about Dinah's affair with LeRoy. When Sam catches them together, he orders her bank accounts closed and charge accounts canceled. LeRoy shoots Sam and puts the gun by his body. After Paul comes in dazed and picks up the gun, Dinah accuses him of killing Sam. She pays LeRoy to leave town and is able to keep Paul in town and away from Evelyn because of his confusion about the murder. However, Paul, now the manager of the Red Lily, meets Evelyn again, and after he tells Dinah he is through with her, she reports him to the police. After Dinah, on drugs and intoxicated, has a mental breakdown, her car is hit by a train and she is killed. Her affidavit seems certain to convict Paul when Ching Li, a Chinese man who worked and lived at the Red Lily, confesses to police that he witnessed the murder. Paul is freed and leaves the city with Evelyn.
This adaptation of Edna Mae Baker's short story, 'Chicago After Midnight', is the equivalent of Hitchcock's adaptation of 'The Lady Vanishes', or DeMille's adaptation of 'Lafitte the Pirate' (better known as 'The Buccaneer'). They're not very good films, but at least 'Underworld' is presented from a black perspective.
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