Underworld ★★★★½

Bull Weed (George Bancroft) is the big man in the underworld. He gives his girl, Feathers (Evelyn Brent), anything she wants, even if he has to steal the item first. Weed pays for the rehabilitation of a bum (Clive Brooks), who labels himself the Rolls Royce of drunks. The cleaned-up Rolls Royce looks and acts like a million, and Feathers falls for him. However, they owe Weed and try to ignore their feelings in order to maintain their relationship to him. Weed kills Buck Mulligan (Fred Kohler) after he attacks Feathers. The killing leads to a thrilling, and sentimental, ending.

Josef von Sternberg treats Evelyn Brent to some of the same types of close-ups he later gave Marlene Dietrich, the results are a treat for the eye. A gangster’s ball and the shoot-out ending demonstrate von Sternberg’s mastery of scenic effects.

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