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Charles Bronson gets mobbed up: The Valachi Papers

Stories of the Mafia were all the rage in the early 1970s, largely the result of the phenomenal success of Mario Puzzo's The Godfather. 

I'm sure there was also a bit of nostalgia at work as a result of the turbulence of the late 1960s.  Civic order broke down remarkably fast, and it's stunning to think how fast New York City went from the setting of Breakfast at Tiffany's to movies like Death Wish.

The Prohibition era was full of violence and drama, but with its repeal, the bootlegging industry was largely out of business.

At that point crime bosses settled into more cooperative arrangements, and it's interesting that the various films talk of "gang wars" but overall violent crime in the US bottomed out after World War II.  Part of what made the decades-long increase in crime so jarring was that it seemingly came from nowhere.

Thus, looking back at the days when even thugs wore hats and ties much have been comforting.

The Valachi Papers purports to be based on the testimony of a mobster-turned-informant, played by Charles Bronson.  Much of the story is told in flashback, and perspective shifts backwards and forwards in time as he tells his tale to the feds.

The fact that so much is in flashback necessarily reduces the tension of the film - obviously whatever scrape Bronson's in during the 40s or 50s will not result in his death.  

Like most of Bronson's work, it's a serviceable, entertaining film, but nothing particularly epic.  It is amusing how many of the same actors work with Bronson in films of this period. 

Very reminiscent of binge-watching Bogart films.


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