Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cliff Robertson tribute programming

TCM has set aside its previously scheduled programming on Monday morning and afternoon to show seven movies starring Cliff Robertson, who died last week at the age of 88:

Picnic at 6:00 AM;
Autumn Leaves at 8:00 AM;
Underworld USA at 10:00 AM;
Gidget at 11:45 AM;
Sunday in New York at 1:30 PM;
The Best Man at 3:30 PM; and
PT 109 at 5:30 PM.

One that I haven't blogged about before but is worth mentioning is Underworld USA. In this movie, Robertson plays a man who, at the age of 14, saw his father get murdered by a gang of thugs. So he vows to gain revenge. What's the best way to do it? Well, that way might not be the way Robertson goes about it, but we wouldn't have such a good film if Robertson had selected some other way. What Cliff does is to become a criminal himself, so that he can move about in the same circles as his father's killers. In fact, Cliff meets one of them when he gets sent to prison. Working in the prison hospital, he finds that one of the patients, a man who is now old and dying, is also one of his father's killers. Cliff isn't content to let the man die a peaceful death, however. It's for a good (to him) reason: he wants information about the identities of the other three guys who did it. So, he roughs up the man and dispatches him a few days earlier than the man would otherwise have died.

So, Cliff eventually gets out of prison, which is where the real fun of the movie begins. Cliff begins to worm his way into the organization headed by the man responsible for Dad's murder all those years ago, without them realizing what's going on. Along the way, Cliff is helped by an older woman (Beatrice Kay) who, unable to have children of her own, treats Cliff as a sort of son as well as keeping dolls in her apartment. In fact, that apartment is the location for some of the film's more interesting set pieces. And then there's Dolores Dorn, playing the unwitting drug courier and moll with whom Cliff falls in love, which is what really gets him in trouble with the bosses.

Underworld USA is one of those movies like Brighton Rock that showed up once on TV quite a few years back and I watched because it sounded interesting. Unfortunately, since it doesn't show up so much, my memories on the movie are probably a bit hazy at points (such as the involvement of the police). But it's a movie that left me satisfied and wanting it to show up again so that I could recommend it to other people. And now it's on TCM again.

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