HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Cryptozoo
Weathering with You
Rim of the World
Love & Basketball
JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time
Trapped
We Need to Do Something
Falbalas
Vanguard
A-X-L
Injustice
Bigfoot Hunters
Armitage III: Polymatrix
Girls Nite Out
Moxie!
Five Women for the Killer
Dolce Vita, La
Pig
I Am Belmaya
Lodger, The
Show, The
Beta Test, The
Medium, The
John and the Hole
Survivalist, The
Ape Woman, The
Black Widow
Cop Secret
Dark Eyes of London, The
V/H/S/94
Fay Grim
Night of the Animated Dead
Freshman Year
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Anne at 13,000 Ft.
Even Mice Belong in Heaven
Death Screams
Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr.
Demonia
East, The
   
 
Newest Articles
You Have No Choice: Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Blu-ray
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
   
 
  Valachi Papers, The There's a rat in my prison, what am I gonna do?
Year: 1972
Director: Terence Young
Stars: Charles Bronson, Lino Ventura, Jill Ireland, Walter Chiari, Joseph Wiseman, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Amedeo Nazzari, Fausto Tozzi, Pupella Maggio, Angelo Infanti
Genre: Drama, Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Based on the biography of the same name written by journalist Peter Maas, The Valachi Papers recounts the true story of mobster Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) who in 1963 famously testified to the U.S. Senate Committee about the activities of the mafia. The film opens with an aged Valachi shunned by his fellow inmates in prison. After narrowly escaping an assassination attempt in the shower, Valachi grows so paranoid he mistakes a convicted cheque forger for a mob hit-man and kills an innocent man. His meeting with jailed boss Don Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura) does nothing to allay fears of him being a marked man, especially when the don plants the kiss of death. Nevertheless, the gutsy Valachi rebukes the don and agrees to name names to his F.B.I. handler Ryan (Gerald S. O’Loughlin).

Thereafter Valachi narrates in flashback his younger days as a criminal on the make. Lured into the mafia by the sagely Don Salvatore Maranzano (Joseph Wiseman, formerly Dr. No (1962)) and sharp Gaetano Reina (Amedeo Nazzari), Valachi earns their trust after salvaging a botched assassination attempt on the unholy trinity of Don Vito, Albert Anastasia (Pupella Maggio) and “Lucky” Luciano (Angelo Infanti). After Gaetano’s murder, Maranzano briefly maintains peace among the various families as the “boss of all bosses”, but angers Vito with his refusal to traffic in drugs. Eventually, Vito murders Maranzano and hires the ever-pragmatic Valachi as his trusted driver. During the war years, with Luciano in jail and Vito briefly exiled in Europe, Valachi prospers running legitimate businesses including a restaurant and a race-horse outfit. But things take a turn for the worse following the don’s return as a spate of vicious mob wars convince Valachi that maybe a life in organized crime wasn’t such a hot idea after all…

While it has been said some of what Valachi disclosed to the senate committee regarding the mafia’s history, inner workings and rituals was a load of hot air (notably the phrase “Cosa Nostra” - an ambivalent Italian idiom misidentified as the definitive term for the crime syndicate), there is no denying his testimony damning enough that the mob were suitably embarrassed and wanted him dead. The Valachi Papers closed arguably the most rewarding phase in Charles Bronson’s career, when he was making offbeat, intelligent movies in Europe, and reunited him with his Cold Sweat (1970) and Red Sun (1971) director Terence Young for a film whose tone lies midway between the star’s other two true crime pictures: the lurid excess of Machine-Gun Kelly (1958) and the sober realism of Act of Vengeance (1986).

Young opts for a confusing flashback within flashback structure that inevitably ties itself in knots. Shaky on period detail (including the World Trade Centre visible in a Thirties flashback and characters driving vintage roadsters across contemporary streets), the film nonetheless evokes the breakneck pace and snappy wit of the old Warner Brothers classics. Bronson gives a lively, swaggering performance as a self-pitying brute. Valachi is drawn as an opportunist which seems perfectly accurate, even though the film is riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations. For example, Valachi’s best friend Gap (Walter Chiari) pays the ultimate price for getting friendly with Don Vito’s girlfriend (portrayed as bisexual, just to inject another sensationalist layer) and is castrated before Joe’s horrified eyes. No such incident occurred in real life. Furthermore the closing caption informs us Valachi died of a heart attack in prison six months after the death of his nemesis Vito Genovese, when in fact he outlived him by two years.

As usual, Bronson shoehorned his wife Jill Ireland into a supporting role. She plays Maria, the daughter of his murdered boss Gaetano Reina, whom Valachi eventually marries (although his wife’s real name was Carmela). Her presence leads to a pleasing comedic scene wherein Don Vito serves as Valachi’s go-between, negotiating their marriage with Maria’s stern Mama (Pupella Maggio). At the time, xenophobic film critics mocked the casting of European actors in American roles but they sound far more authentic than the broad caricature drawn by Joseph Wiseman, with his “What’sa matter for you, ah?” accent. In fact, even Bronson is almost eclipsed by the masterful Lino Ventura, icon of the European gangster film, as the slyest mafia boss on the block.

In mimicking Valachi’s testimony, the plot leans towards the anecdotal and at one stage boils down to one anonymous mafia goombah getting whacked after another, with little dramatic meat to sate our appetite between gangland thrills. As with many mafia pictures, the true crime expose masks a grudging, yet deeply problematic respect for sharp-suited psychos and their blather about honour and family. Nonetheless it is a consistently fascinating, occasionally gripping crime thriller and a fine showcase for Bronson the actor rather than Bronson the action star.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 3186 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: