Review: Undertow (1949)

This cracking little noir film is directed by schlockmeister William Castle, but there are no gimmicks here. Instead, we have a pure and simple noir plot involving a returning military man who happens to be the perfect patsy for a frame-up job. Character actors will enjoy seeing Scott Brady (Johnny Guitar, later the sheriff in Gremlins), Dorothy Hart (1948's The Naked City), Peggy Dow (soon to appear in Joseph Pevney's exceptional noir Shakedown), John Russell (Pale Rider, The Outlaw Josey Wales), and even a fresh-faced Rock Hudson in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it role. The action takes place in Chicago, though rear projection and studio sets occasionally fill in for expensive location shooting. At a brisk 71 minutes, this one flies by and unfolds in something close to real time. 

Universal International cranked out scores of these cheap noir and noir-adjacent B-films during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. Some are more memorable than others, but all of them exhibit a basic competency due to the efficiency of the studio production system and the quality of Universal's stable of contract players. There's little to set Undertow aside from so many other movies that are just like it, but it sure is fun while it lasts. 

A new 2K master of the film is included in Kino Lorber's Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema  XII Blu-ray box set and features an audio commentary by Scott Brady's son Tim Tierney and Jason A. Ney. 


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