Two American soldiers are captured by the Germans on the Western Front during World War One and escape a POW camp only to stumble into further life-threatening adventures when they come across an Arabian king's daughter while on the lam.
'Nobody helps me -- I help them!' boasts open-handed gangster Bull Weed, handing over what will prove to be the best investment in his high-spending career: a thousand dollars that will put the literate 'Rolls Royce' of vagrants back on his feet. Living it up in the Twenties with the aid of cool but smouldering moll Feathers, the Bull lords it over the law and his rivals alike -- specifically big Buck Mulligan, whose floral-tributes business echoes that of a certain real-life Chicago gangster... Yet Feathers, prize possession and object of envy, proves his weak point; and in the end, Bull Weed will indeed come to need help from others, and more than he has ever needed it before. But can Rolls Royce and Feathers still give it to him? And will the Bull accept?Written by
The film was predicted to be a flop, was shelved by Paramount and eventually released in only one theater in New York. Screenwriter Ben Hecht demanded that his name was taken off the credits. As a result of strong word-of-mouth the movie became an enormous hit and won Hecht the first of his two Academy Awards. See more »
[Referring to Rolls Royce]
Look at him - Cost me a thousand - Looks like a million.
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A Lost Gem That Deserves to Be Seen (Especially with New Soundtrack!)
I just saw a re-issue of this film tonight as part of the 26th annual Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh and I was highly satisfied. The Alloy Orchestra were on-hand to provide an all-new live score, which created a near-perfect match for this underrated classic.
The acting was spot-on (although admittedly a much different style than modern audiences are used to), the set design and lighting were pitch-perfect (check out the copious amounts of confetti at the Underworld Ball), and the complexities of the characters and plot line far exceeded anything I was expecting from an 80 year-old film. Suffice it to say that modern cinema has not cornered the market on engaging, surprising and provocative storytelling.
If you have a chance to see Underworld, particularly when accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra, take the opportunity. It's a rarefied experience that's well worth your 90 minutes.
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