“Well, can I take it or can I take it?”
“You can take it. Some people aren't sensitive to pain, especially moronic types.”
“Hey, did you hear that, Slick? I'm a moronic type.”
The moment King of the Underworld started and I saw Humphrey Bogart as an ignorant gangster I had a feeling this film would not go well… and it certainly did not.
One of gangster Joe Gurney’s (Bogart) men guys is shot. They take him to doctors Niles and Carol Nelson (Kay Francis) to be operated on. The operation is a success the gangster lives. Joe goes to see Niles in his office to give the doctor five hundred dollars for the operation. Joe tells the doctor they should do business together, he could make a lot more money. Niles takes Joe’s advice and he and Carol move uptown. He never tells his wife he is working for Joe.
Carol gets upset with Niles. He keeps missing work and keeps patients waiting. She thinks her husband is playing the horses. One night Joe calls he needs help another one of his men is shot. Niles refuses at first until Joe threatens to bring the man to his house. When Niles leaves Carol decides to follow him. She follows Niles to a bad part of town and sits in his car. An officer tells her to stay in the car because they are going to raid the place. After the raid the police interrogate Carol thinking she knows where Joe and his men disappeared to. She tells the police officers to ask Niles. Unfortunately he has been killed. The DA wants to convict her no matter what her story because the citizens of the city think the DA’s office is not doing its job. The medical board of the hospital Carol works in give her three months to prove her innocence.
Carol moves to a small town and opens a practice. She figures Joe will come to her in a small town while he is on the run. The town’s doctor does not like that she has moved in on his territory but Carol could care less.
Joe’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. On the side of the road is a man. Joe and his men think he is up to no good until Joe finds out the man is the author of his favorite book about Napoleon. Two of Joe’s men have been captured and put into jail in the same small town Carol is in. He has the two men broken out of the jail. A gun fight erupts and Joe is shot in the arm.
The author, Bill Stevens, tries to get away from the car and also gets shot. The police think he was in with Joe and throw him in jail. Carol is sent to tend to Bill’s wounds since the other doctor refuses to help thinking Bill was in on the break with the gangsters. Joe goes to Carol’s house for help. He knows who she is. Carol fixes him up and he gives her one hundred dollars.
Bill is let out of prison. He goes over to Carol’s house to thank her for her help. Bill does not plan on staying long but Carol and her aunt make him stay with them. Joe finds out Bill is at Carol’s house. He has his men kidnap Bill so he can talk to him. Bill founds out that Joe wants him to write his autobiography. He overhears Joe tell his men that he does not want the book to be published until he dies and that he plans to kill the author when the book is done. Carol and her aunt become upset thinking Bill has run away.
Joe sends his men to pick up Carol. His arm is infected. At the house Joe is staying at outside of the town, she sees Bill. He tells her about the book and that it will be his swan song. She understands what he means. When Carol gets back to her house the following day, the grocer comes over to tell her the hundred dollar bill she used to pay her bill was a fake. The police know it was one of the bills that Joe stole from the bank and now the police are coming after her. She gets back to Joe. She comes up with the idea to tell him that because he was touching his infected arm he now got the infection in his eyes and if she does not treat the infection he could go blind. Carol put a chemical in Joe’s eye that will make him temporarily unable to see. He makes her try it on Bill so he knows it is safe.
While Joe and his men are blinded Carol makes an attempt to get Bill out of the house. Joe is on to what she has done and walks all over the house trying to find her. Fortunately the police come. They begin to shoot up the house getting Joe in the process. Most of the men surrender yelling that they cannot see.
As with all happy Hollywood endings, Carol is cleared of any crime she was convicted of and she and Bill live happily after.
I hated seeing Humphrey Bogart as a gangster in this film. The writers made the character out to be such a dummy and that totally did not fit Bogart. I know he played gangsters before this and I have to see him but I am sure the characters were not as ignorant as Joe Gurney. Kay Francis was alright. I liked her character’s determination. I would have liked to have seen other actors in the lead role. I am not sure who I would have liked to have seen in Bogart and Francis’s places though.
King of the Underworld is an alright film. It is not a film I highly recommend seeing unless you are a fan of either Humphrey Bogart or Kay Francis. Or if you are like me and are trying to watch as many films from 1939 as you can find.