Underground U.S.A. (1980)

Underground U.S.A. (1980)

“This whole set-up is a mess.”

In New York City, a penniless actress (Patti Astor) living with a younger man (Rene Ricard) and a chauffeur (Tom Wright) begins an affair with a drifter (Eric Mitchell) who moves in with them, and tries to revive her career.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Has-Beens
  • New York City

Response to Peary’s Review:
The opening sentence of Peary’s review for this “cult film by Eric Mitchell” — about “a bisexual Greenwich Village street hustler” (played by Mitchell himself) “who latches on to a former movie actress… only to discover that she has no money or friends and is weirded out from taking drugs to relieve her depression”:

— dates his book in ways that the majority of his writing doesn’t, given that he notes it “has had some success as a midnight movie (particularly in New York) and has played on PBS as an example of arty/avant-garde independent films currently being made.” He writes that he wishes writer-director “Mitchell hadn’t decided to make another variation on Sunset Boulevard, especially since Andy Warhol had already made a pretty good counterculture version in 1972, Heat” — and “at this point the story hasn’t many surprises left.” *

Peary points out that “from this film it’s hard to tell how talented or original Mitchell is” — and while “there are some interesting scenes, use of color, and camera angles,” “in general [he finds] the characters uninvolving, the dialogue trite, and the pacing too slow.”

I’ll say! Even at just 85 minutes long, this movie feels positively glacial. I was only able to start understanding the “plot” about a third of the way through, and the uniformly amateur acting didn’t help matters any. These days, this arthouse film is incredibly challenging to find, with zero user reviews on IMDb; it will primarily (perhaps exclusively) be of interest to devotees of this particular time and place in cultural history.

* Spoiler alert: things end badly for Astor’s character.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • A time capsule glimpse at a particular moment in the NY art scene

Must See?
Nope; skip this one unless it’s exactly your cup of tea.


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