Prof. Andrew Gentling, in Los Angeles to help found a new college, is inveigled by old flame Catherine Sykes into a midnight drive. Next day Catherine is missing, believed killed; friend ... See full summary »
After witnessing an incident on a foreign ship off California coast, a U.S. Treasury agent aboard a Coast Guard vessel decides to further investigate the matter by following a crime trail leading to China, Egypt, Lebanon and Cuba.
Pretty much pure plot, still, one of the bricks making up the noir cycle
There's more to Undertow than the first screen credit of young `Roc' Hudson (in fact his tiny role as a police detective barely registers). It's one of a handful of noirs that William Castle directed before turning his attention to, and making his name in, gimmicky schlock. While none of them is so good as his first When Strangers Marry, with Robert Mitchum and Kim Hunter they're more than passable. As is Undertow.
Scott Brady looks like Lawrence Tierney's kid brother (which in fact he was). In Reno after a stint at a mountain lodge he wants to buy and run, he bumps into an old pal from mobbed-up Chicago (John Russell). They compare the diamond rings they've bought for their respective fiancees, though that doesn't stop Brady from flirting with a girl (Peggy Dow) he met in a casino and shares a flight home with. Since the police meet him at the plane, any extracurricular romance comes to naught, so Brady dutifully hooks up with his intended (Dorothy Hart). Next thing, he's taken for a ride and framed for the murder of unseen crime boss Big Jim, who happens to be Hart's uncle. Trying to clear himself while on the lam, he enlists Dow's help; he also happens to stumble onto the fact that his fiancee and Russell's are the same woman....
Undertow is pure story, competently enough executed if devoid of anything particular to lodge in the memory. It preserves evidence of why Brady stayed in his brother's imposing shadow, and leads one to wonder why Hart made so few movies (though, of her handful of credits, roughly half are noirs). While not an essential title in the noir cycle by any means, Undertow was one of the hundreds of titles that went into making it a cycle, and far from the weakest of them.
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