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Eric Roberts makes an impressive screen debut as Dave, grandson of the aging King Zharko, who is chosen by him to lead the gypsy clan at his death. Dave's only inclination is to join the American mainstream, but he knows that the mantle of gypsy power cannot be taken lightly or denied. Written by
You will get a wide and varying reaction as to the veracity of what Peter Maas wrote about the Romany culture in his non-fiction book, King Of The Gypsies. The information from that source yielded a screenplay with both Hamlet and Oedipal like qualities in it about the succession in leadership to a gypsy clan.
The title role in King Of The Gypsies is played by Sterling Hayden and he and his Queen Shelley Winters have as much responsibility to their clan as the Corleones do. But they've got a son in Judd Hirsch who has the worst qualities of Fredo and Sonny Corleone in one package. This is not a guy you want running the clan.
Hayden pins his hopes on his grandson Eric Roberts. But Roberts has walked away from gypsy life and now is even courting a nice all American girl in Annette O'Toole. He's a singing waiter at Mama Leone's which is no more.
Hirsch of course has no desire to be John of Gaunt in his family, son of one king and father of another. This sets up the conflict within the clan that goes active when Hayden dies.
Eric Roberts made his screen debut here and does fine, but the guy to really watch in this film is Judd Hirsch. You can hardly believe that the amiable Alex Reiger from Taxi is played by the same actor. Hirsch's part of Grozzo should be his career role. Had it been played by someone like Al Pacino and would have had King Of The Gypsies come to the screen some 15 to 20 years later it might have gotten an Oscar nomination. At this point Pacino would have been cast in the Roberts part. How Hirsch was overlooked is a mystery that only the gypsies know.
For an insight into a part of human society overlooked, King Of The Gypsies is highly recommended.
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