July 2, 2019  (Web Review)

Underground

Kino Lorber, 93 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Despite the ominous sounding title, Underground is a romantic triangle that plays out in the London subways, where two workers—thoughtful porter Bill (Brian Aherne) and burly, brazen electrician Bert (Cyril McLaglen)—become rivals for Nell (Elissa Landi). When she chooses the gentlemanly Bill, the bullying Bert schemes to get rid of the competition. This second feature from director Anthony Asquith offers a dynamic mix of romance, melodrama, and action thriller, directed with confidence and executed with striking imagery and stylistic flair. The scenes between Bill and Nell boast a gentle sweetness that captures the warmth of growing affection (not to mention Bill’s inherent decency), which stand in sharp contrast to the brutish portrayal of Bert, as he paws and pressures Nell, swaggers in pubs, and is blanketed in shadows as he toils in his subterranean station. It ends in a thrilling chase that begins in the depths of the underground, travels up to the roof for a fight set against the London skyline, and returns to the dark tunnels for the poetic justice of the climax. Though not a well-known silent film, it is a superb production and a standout drama from the peak year of the silent movie era. Mastered from a BFI restoration and presented with a superb orchestral score composed by Neil Brand—performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra—Underground also includes an alternate score and a featurette on the restoration of the film. Highly recommended. (S. Axmaker)