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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
The Valachi Papers (1972)

Ryan: We had a tap on your line all the time. Wasn't too difficult to find that the meeting was at the docks.
Joe Valachi: Sonofabitch. You guys are twice as crooked as we are.

- Gerald O'Loughlin, Charles Bronson

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: January 25, 2006

Stars: Charles Bronson
Other Stars: Jill Ireland, Walter Chiari, Joseph Wiseman, Gerald O'Loughlin, Amedeo Nazzari, Fausto Tozzi, Pupella Maggio, Angelo Infanti, Guido Leontini, Maria Basa, Maria Pilar
Director: Terence Young

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: PG for (gangland violence, nudity/sexuality, some language)
Run Time: 02h:05m:02s
Release Date: January 10, 2006
UPC: 043396115224
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-C-C D-

DVD Review

The Valachi Papers is not a good movie. The performances are shallow and cartoonish, the writing is poor, and the direction is lacking finesse. Then again, who cares? This ain't no classic, just a Charles Bronson genre vehicle from way back when people considered his work first-class popcorn fare. I know this isn't exactly saying much, but it actually is one of his better movies.

The story is told in flashbacks, with Joe Valachi (Bronson) narrating his life to FBI Agent Ryan (Gerald O'Loughlin) while in the Witness Protection Program. He starts out as a low-level hood in 1930, but quickly rises in the Mob after impressing Don Maranzano (Joseph Wiseman) with his take-no-prisoners style. Soon Valachi finds himself as one of Maranzano's best hit men during a bloody Mob war with Don Vito's (Lino Ventura) family. The script, by Stephen Geller from the nonfiction book by Peter Maas, moves ferociously through Valachi's life, barely pausing when close friends and family members die. Everything builds up to his notorious testimony before the US Senate, but this isn't exactly an intelligent movie about Valachi's life in organized crime.

Rather than delving into the characters, this is really just an action movie. Major events like Valachi's marriage to Maria (Jill Ireland) and venture into the restaurant business are treated with such dispassion that you might not notice them if you blink at the wrong time. Instead, director Terence Young treats us to numerous killings and scenes of exposition about the Mob's structure. Think of this film as The Godfather told by dimwitted school children and you'll have a good idea of what to expect. The power struggle between Vito and Maranzano is not important, nor is the Mob's betrayal of Valachi and his friend Gap (Walter Chiari). This movie exists to allow Bronson play the role of a gun-toting killer. Sure, there are scenes depicting Valachi's softer side, but Young's direction only comes to life when guns are blazing.

The filmmaking is by the numbers. There's nothing exhilarating about the movie's production values, with flat cinematography and more than a few shots that reveal non-period cars in the background. The acting is equally unimpressive. Joseph Wiseman's performance is a terribly offensive depiction of every Italian stereotype in the book. Quite frankly, most of the cast seems to be coasting through their work, coming across as people waiting for paychecks as opposed to artists perfecting their craft. I could go on all day criticizing the film's shortcomings, but I won't. Charles Bronson movies are one of my guilty pleasures; the kind of thing I'd never talk about in polite society, but love to watch when everyone else has gone to bed.

The movie doesn't have the level of violence one might expect from a Bronson film, but his performance is so comically bad that I rather enjoy this movie. Here he has a role that could be a tour de force, but his lack of talent scratches out only a shallow caricature. That it was released in the same year audiences saw Al Pacino create Michael Corleone, one of cinema's greatest icons, only pronounces Bronson's inability. But this is likely part of what makes the movie so enjoyable on an unsophisticated level. Coming to the film with that frame of mind, The Valachi Papers is a rousing success. Take that, Michael Corleone!

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer is rather flat, with lots of print defects and a lot of grain creating an unpleasant image. Blacks are decent, as are colors, but the picture shows its age. Of course, if you go slumming, what's the point of getting all dolled up?

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The mono English track is a fair presentation of the original sound mix, with dialogue always being audible. Music and sound effects come across nicely, though there are couple instances where this hiss is noticeable.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Be Cool, Donnie Brasco, Bugsy
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Apart from the trailers for Be Cool, Donnie Brasco, and Bugsy there are no supplemental materials on this disc. Perhaps I'm asking for too much, but wouldn't it be a hoot if Bronson fans were enlisted to do a commentary on one of these films? Maybe next time...

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Lower your brows for the delight of The Valachi Papers. The DVD is rather lackluster, containing minimal extras and only adequate transfers. Fans of Charles Bronson should enjoy this title.


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