Watch Now: THE VALACHI PAPERS
Called by Variety a “hard-hitting, violence-ridden documented melodrama of the underworld”, Terence Young’s The Valachi Papers chronicles the life of Joseph Valachi, a Mafia informant from the early sixties whose story was turned into a non-fiction book by American journalist Peter Maas in 1968. As an aging prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, Valachi was placed in the same prison as the boss of his crime family, Vito Genovese, who believed Valachi had become an informant. Scared for his life, Valachi indeed opened up to federal agents.
With Charles Bronson in the titular role – backed up by his wife Jill Ireland, Joseph Wiseman, Walter Chiari, Lino Ventura and others – The Valachi Papers was supposed to be released in 1973, but its premiere was moved up to ride the wave of success created by Coppola’s The Godfather. Deemed by the critics as inferior to the Marlon Brando classic, Young’s biographical movie is still engaging, historically enlightening and featuring one of Bronson’s most dedicated performances. The fact that it came out around the same time as Coppola’s film only hurt its chances at the box office, as this violent gangster film adapted for the screen by Slaughterhouse-Five’s screenwriter Stephen Geller offers much more than its mediocre IMDb score might suggest.