According to the film's publicity at the time of first release, Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter was the only ever American mob boss to be executed by the US Government. See more »
Another example of men's grooming that was much closer to 1975 than to the supposed time frame of the film are the full-brush style mustaches worn by Thomas E. Dewey, as well as by both the Sing Sing executioner and warden. See more »
Papa, I wish I was. I wish I was a whore. Then I could walk out of here with you. But I can't. I just can't leave him Papa. I love him!
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Brutal, straightforward bio-pic of the notorious Jewish gang boss. Writers Wesley Lau and Tamar Hoffs tell their sprawling story with fidelity to the headlines and nary a hint of what made this complicated mobster-cum-family man tick. (Curiously, there's never a mention of Lepke's infamous Murder Inc. operation, opting instead to concentrate on his drug trafficking and extortion enterprises.) Luckily, Tony Curtis' riveting performance fills in what the writers' have neglected, transforming Lepke Buchalter into a disturbingly three-dimensional character. Tossing off Yiddishisms with a sneer, keeping his impish smile to a minimum, he plays Lepke as a stone-faced ruthless street thug with a yen for power and conservative family values. It's as though Sidney Falco from "Sweet Smell of Success" had finally taken over J.J. Hunsecker's column. Whether snarling out death orders or tremulously asking his prospective father in law for permission to marry, Curtis invests the role with a skillful understatement (as well as a Bronx boy's veracity).
In the film's best scene, a queasy mixture of eroticism and complex emotions, Lepke is on the lam and holed up in a trollop's apartment. As the woman brazenly tempts him, Curtis silently and eloquently conveys the anguish of a lonely man struggling to remain faithful to his wife.
The director Menachem Golan is rarely this subtle, striving for ethnic texture and period color and overdoing both. Grubby hook-nosed Jews, swarthy pasta-eating Italians, and outsize Fedoras are shoved in our face. The violence is luridly overblown (a prostitute gets an ice pick thrust in her neck during lovemaking), and sometimes downright preposterous (a plate of spaghetti camouflages an explosive device). But just try to turn away from Curtis. With Anjanette Comer as Lepke's doting wife; Milton Berle, surprisingly restrained as her father; Barry Miller as the young Lepke; Vaughn Meader as an unlikely Walter Winchell.
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