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  • 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.
  • This is an odd case of a film having the same title as a film from twenty years before with absolutely no relation between the two. 1930's "Undertow" was about a lifeguard who marries a selfish party girl and then moves her to a lighthouse where things go downhill from there for both of them. This film has nothing to do with that forgotten but still surviving early sound film by the same studio and has nothing to do with an undertow, but I digress.

    Tony Reagan used to be in the rackets, but after two stints in the military he is ready to go straight. He wants to buy and run a hunting and fishing lodge in the Rocky mountains and marry his girl, the daughter of an old rival of his back in his racketeering days. The movie starts in Reno where Tony runs into one of his old friends who is running a casino. While there he helps a schoolteacher on vacation (Peggy Dow as Ann McKnight) win 120 dollars rolling dice. You see, Tony still knows some of the tricks of the house. They share a plane ride home, and you can tell Ann thinks this might be headed some place romantic, something Tony does not pick up on. When he mentions his fiancée to her you can see her facial expression sink along with her hopes.

    When they arrive in Chicago, Tony is met at the airport by the police. They take him to headquarters and say that the word is on the street that he is there to murder "big Jim", his fiancée's father, and tell him to leave town. Tony says to book him or leave him be. They leave him be, but soon he'll wish they had put him in jail because he would have been safer. That night he is knocked unconscious and when he comes to he is sitting in a parking lot in the car he rented earlier with a gunshot wound to his right hand and a gun sitting in the seat next to him. Then he learns on the radio that "Big Jim" has been killed that very night and that he is suspect number one. He tries all of his old friends looking for a hideout - the police have them all covered.

    Then it hits him - the cops don't know about Ann, the girl he met in Reno. He dials her up and she helps him, even though she knows that he is a hunted murder suspect. So together this street smart fellow and naïve schoolteacher have to figure out who has framed him before the police can catch him. The suspense never lets up and there is some great photography and camera work involved here. I'll let you watch and find out what happens. Highly recommended.
  • William Castle was always a B movie director .His talent -amounting almost to genius -elevated some of his 50's work to the status of "event movies" but works like "The Tingler" "Homicidal"and "Macabre"were nothing but glorified B pictures wrapped in the razzle -dazzle of showmanship.

    "Undertow"makes no pretense at being other than what it is-a brisk programmer for the bottom half of double features-and satisfies on this level Scott Brady is Tony Reagon,an ex-con going straight who is framed for the death of a mob boss,Big Jim,and the movie deals with Reagon's fight to clear his name with the help of a sympathetic cop and a schoolteacher with whom he struck up a friendship while en route to Chicago where the bulk of the movie is set.

    Good use of the Chicago locations and a brisk pace compensate for moderate acting.Its predictable but narrative pace stops it getting tiresome
  • Scott Brady meets Peggy Dow at the Reno gambling spot run by John Russell. He helps her win $120 at the craps table. They are seated next to each other on the flight to Chicago. He tells her he's going to propose to Dorothy Hart. He doesn't notice, but she looks disappointed.

    In Chicago, Miss Hart is enthusiastic, but she warns him her uncle will object. He's the head of the Syndicate and he doesn't want her wedding anyone from the criminal world. Brady says he'll talk to him, but on the way he is grabbed, shot and moved. When he wakes, he discovers her uncle has been killed and he's been identified as the killer. The cops are on to his old friends. His only possible help is Miss Dow and his old friend Bruce Bennett, now a Chicago detective.

    William Castle directed this with a lot of Chicago location shooting. It's more a Black Mask sort of story than a straight noir, with the lighting touches limited to the El system and the final couple of minutes. The movie is directed for speed and efficiency -- a Universal programmer, but with a decent number of red herrings and good performances (particularly by Bennett) until the murk begins to clear for the viewer about two-thirds of the way through.

    Observant fans will want to keep an eye out for Rock Hudson in his first credited role.
  • Today ,William Castle is known as the man who bought Ira Levin's "Rosemary's baby " rights and produced one of the best horror movies of all time.

    "Undertow" has a quite derivative screenplay but the director made the best of it and any film noir buff can give it a chance :it thoroughly deserves it.It features at least one unforgettable scene: the chase in the long corridor which gives you goose flesh.Of the two female leads,I prefer Dorothy Hart to the rather bland Peggy Dow.

    In the 1968 movie Castle produced ,there was a corridor which played a prominent part too.
  • "Undertow" is a simplistic example of a good 'B' picture, your basic Film Noir 101 movie. There are no surprises, lots of coincidences and plot contrivances, and the endgame is telegraphed about midway through. Screenwriters could have written this one in their sleep, which may account for the flawed, unsatisfying nature of Undertow.

    The cast is attractive; several familiar 'B' actors put this picture over with performances that infuse it with much-needed energy. I thought Scott Brady, John Russell, Bruce Bennett and Peggy Dow were just fine, production values were good, but the movie lacks suspense and tension. Every time a crucial scene would come up you just knew the outcome.

    Nevertheless, 'Undertow" succeeds in its own unsophisticated way, and for 40's theater audiences it would have been a good time killer while waiting for the main feature to come on.
  • Tony (Scott Brady) is the perfect patsy. He's an ex-con and the Chicago police are more than willing to believe the worst of him. So, when some unknown people kidnap him, shoot him and set him up for his future father-in-law's murder, the case seems pretty air-tight. However, like so many noir films, he investigates the case himself and aims to prove his innocence. Along the way, he gets the help from a nice lady and even from a cop.

    "Undertow" is an excellent and enjoyable film. While Peggy Dow's character makes no sense (why would anyone help a wanted man when they barely know them?!), the overall story is quite well made and keeps your attention. It has some excellent twists and the acting is quite good despite the actors mostly being second-tier. It sure helped having the excellent director William Castle in charge, as he had a habit of making the most of lower budgets.
  • sollyharv21 May 2019
    Fine little entertaining suspense flick. Short and to the point, no wasted time.