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The Valachi Papers (1972)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  6 January 1972 (France)
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When Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) has a price put on his head by Don Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura), he must take desperate steps to protect himself while in prison. An unsuccessful attempt ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (novel), 2 more credits »
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Title: The Valachi Papers (1972)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lino Ventura ...
Maria Reina Valachi
Walter Chiari ...
Gerald S. O'Loughlin ...
Ryan (as Gerald O'Loughlin)
Amedeo Nazzari ...
Gaetano Reina
Fausto Tozzi ...
Pupella Maggio ...
Letizia Reina
Angelo Infanti ...
Guido Leontini ...
Tony Bender
María Baxa ...
Mario Pilar ...
Franco Borelli ...
Alessandro Sperli ...
Giuseppe 'Joe the Boss' Masseria (as Alessandro Sperlì)


When Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) has a price put on his head by Don Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura), he must take desperate steps to protect himself while in prison. An unsuccessful attempt to slit his throat puts him over the edge to break the sacred code of silence. Written by Richard Jones <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The syndicate. Genovese. Anastasia. Luciano. Masseria. Lucchese. Maranzano. The way they lived - The way they died. See more »


Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »






Release Date:

6 January 1972 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Valachi Papers  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Some one hundred actual convicts worked as extras and background artists in the movie due to a special agreement between the production and the Sing Sing Prison made prior to principal photography. See more »


The closing narration states that Vito Genovese died six months earlier than Joe Valachi. In fact, Genovese predeceased Valachi by more than two years. See more »


Referenced in The Bob Newhart Show: Old Man Rivers (1973) See more »

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User Reviews

I cannot bring back the dead but I can kill the living!
15 October 2006 | by (Brooklyn NY USA) – See all my reviews

(Minor Spoilers) Facing the death penalty for the murder of a fellow inmate Joe Saupp, whom he mistakenly thought was assigned to murder him, Mafia button man or soldier Joe Valachi, Charles Bronson, is now facing death from both the federal government and his boss Mafia Kingpin and fellow convict Vito Genovese, Lino Ventura, who put a $50,000.00, later $100,000.00, contract on his head.

Don Vito the boss of bosses of the five New York Mafia families has been suspicious of his friend and mob associate Joe Valachi for some time of rating him out and setting him up in a government sting on a narcotic rap and has decided to have Valachi who had nothing to do with it hit. The final straw for Joe Valachi was when Don Vito gave him the "kiss of death" after he had a friendly talk with him in his prison cell.

The movie "The Valachi Papers" is no where as good as movies about the Mafia like "The Godfather" or "Goodfellows" but has the distinction of being the very first Hollywood-made movie,as far as I know, to show the inner workings of the Mafia and it's secretive and shadow-like organization La Cosa Nosra; roughly meaning "our thing" in Italian.

In protective custody and being prepped for the upcoming 1963 Sen. McClellan/Kennedy hearings on Organized Crime we and federal agent Ryan, Gerald S.O'Loughlin, get the truth about the Mafia/Cosa Nostra straight from the horses mouth Joe Valachi himself. In a long flashback Valachi takes us through the turbulent 1930's 40's and 50's when the mob went from a group of petty and unimaginative crime bosses to the powerful and well oiled crime machine that it eventually became.

There are those who feel that Joe Valachi's claims of his being somehow involved with almost every major Mafia figurer over those 30 some years is a bit overdone and boastful on his part in order to give himself much more credit then he really deserves. The fact that his expert testimony didn't have a single Mafiso, from solider to mob boss, even indicted tends to confirm that. Still there's no denying that he was in fact the first made Mafia member to talk and expose what ever he knew about the crime syndicate that he was involved with. All that will always have his name, Joe Valachi, as a major force in exposing the Mafia to the unaware public despite his low standing, he never rose above a button man, in that crime organization.

Charles Bronson did a better then average job as the Mafia thug Joe Valachi with him acting more then using his fists and his real-life. Bronson's wife Jill Ireland was more or less window dressing playing Valachi's wife in the movie Maria the daughter of Joe's boss Gaetano Reina, Amedeo Nazzani. The person who really stole the acting honors had to be Joseph Wiseman playing the first Mafia Boss of Bosses hyped-up Sal Maranzno. Wiseman was so tuned, or wired, into his role that he looked and acted like he was doing a stand-up comedy routine aided by downing a bottle of uppers. There was also the rest of the legendary "murderers row" of the mob in the movie that included Albert Anastasia Lucky Luciano & Joe "The Boss" Masseria played by Fausto Tozzi Angelo Infanti and Alessandro Sperll.

Valachi a good soldier almost to the end broke from tradition and the Mafia code of "Morte" or silence. Thats when he saw that after all the hard work he did in dedicating his heart and soul to the Mafia he was given the short end of the stick by boss Vito Genovese for something he didn't do. It's then that Valachi spelled the end of the powerful mob organization that took the likes of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, incidentally a non-Italian, over thirty years to build. If Joe Valachi was only treated with more respect and understanding by the paranoid and homicidal Vito Genovese things may well have been different for all those represented in the movie.

P.S Joe Valachi did in the end get his wish from the Federal Government by outliving his boss and the person who put a price on his head, for $100,000.00, Vito Genovese by almost two years. Joe Valachi died in prison in 1971 at age 67 of natural causes.

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