Peter Maas (book ‘Le Dossier Valachi’)
Dino Maiuri (screenplay)
Massimo De Rita (screenplay)
Charles Bronson (Joe Valachi), Lino Ventura (Vito Genovese), Jill Ireland (Maria Reina Valachi), Walter Chiari (Gap), Joseph Wiseman (Salvatore Maranzano),
Gerald O’Loughlin (Ryan), Amedeo Nazzari (Gaetano Reina), Fausto Tozzi (Albert Anastasia), Pupella Maggio (Letizia Reina), Angelo Infanti (Lucky Luciano)
Joe Valachi is not a name that is spoken of with much respect in mob circles. He was the first Mafia rat and gave up the entire hierarchical structure of the Mafia to a crime committee. He revealed the five families of New York – Gambino, Lucchese, Colombo, Bonanno and Genovese – that were named after the ruling bosses at that time. This film tells Valachi’s life story. At the height of the Castellammarese war (1929 – 1931), the bold, small time crook Joseph ‘Joe Cargo’ Valachi joins the side of Don Salvatore Maranzano, an old Mustache Pete who is fighting a bloody war with his rival Joseph ‘Joe the Boss’ Masseria.
After the deaths of the two old Don’s, Valachi’s crime family evolves. First Lucky Luciano becomes boss, and after his imprisonment Vito Genovese takes over. In a Mafia-career spanning over 30 years, Valachi is involved with New York’s most legendary Mafia figures. He steals, frauds and murders for them, until finally the FBI manages to turn Genovese against Valachi in order for him to testify. He does so, and gives up his former associates along with all other major Cosa Nostra figures he knows of.
He becomes the first mob informer who makes sure that the existence of ‘La Cosa Nostra’ is no longer a secret for the public. Based on the novel by Peter Maas, The Valachi Papers was produced by Dino De Laurentiis in Italy with many scenes dubbed in English. It was directed by Terence Young, most well-known for directing the first official Bond movies. It came out in the same year as The Godfather, and helped to popularize the Mafia as a source of entertainment.
The Valachi Papers sticks to the steady pattern of the mob film; tough guys, half Italian dialogue, shoot-outs and violence (especially a castration scene is very brutal). Also the ‘rise and fall’ type of build-up has been done countless times. This is not the head of its class though. The beginning promises a rapid-pace movie, but after about 40 minutes, all the suspense has been drained from the script. Since the characters are not that fascinating to begin with, this becomes quite a doll viewing in the second half.
JOE VALACHI: “Senator, I am not talking about Italians. I am talking about the Mafia.”
In the final credits, it is stated that Joe Valachi outlived Vito Genovese by six months. It was actually two years.