The Valachi Papers (1972) Poster

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9/10
It probably didn't help that this came out the same year as "The Godfather".
MartinHafer19 April 2011
I truly think if this film had come out earlier it would today be thought of as a better film. After all, it's FAR better than its current rating of 6.8. That's because 1972 was the same year that "The Godfather" debuted and the utter greatness of "The Godfather" probably overwhelmed "The Valachi Papers"---as both touch on very similar subject matter. The main difference is that "The Godfather" was based fictionalized characters and had a true elegance about the film. "The Valachi Papers" in contrast was a much more straight forward story based on real mob figures--and it's a dandy film.

The film begins in the early 1960s. Mobster Joseph Valachi is in prison and multiple attempts are made on his life. It seems that someone in the organization has talked--and the mob of bosses, Genovese (Lino Ventura) believes it was Valachi. And, not surprisingly, a contract has been placed on Valachi's head. This has the unintended consequence of forcing Valachi to to authorities. Almost all the rest of the film consists Valachi giving his story to the government agent. What follows is a very long story about Valachi's earliest days in the mob (about 1930) up to the arrest that brought him to prison--and a bit beyond.

The story is helped a lot by the films's length--a little over two hours. You'd need at least this much to tell such a long and complicated story. It also helps that Charles Bronson is given some excellent support. Among the many wonderful actors, one really surprised me--Lino Ventura. I've seen him in many French films (mostly Pierre Melville productions) and have LOVED his acting--he plays a great mobster--cold and tough. I never realized that he spoke English so well--everything I've seen him in up until now has been in French. Here, he very credibly plays an Italian-American! The script also was quite good. While not quite as human and interesting as "The Godfather", it sure was good...very, very good.

There's almost nothing negative I could say about the film other than very minor things. Bronson was too old for this role. When the film began he was supposed to be 27--but looked about twice that. Also, a few times anachronistic elements somehow made their way in--such as cars that were from the wrong time period. But, as I said, this is all very minor.Aside from this, a top quality production that deserves more recognition. Gritty, exciting and fascinating as well.

By the way, although IMDb lists the movie as being rated PG, the version I saw was way too bloody and filled with nudity to have been rated PG. The lesbian scene along would have merited a rating of R. Perhaps this was a director's cut or perhaps it was not rated PG or perhaps there were just multiple versions.
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7/10
Best Polish mafia film I've seen
birck13 October 2007
I give this a 7 stars because it was made the same year as Godfather I, so it didn't benefit from all the film-industry wisdom that followed that production. Rather, this is a character study of one mafioso, which is a separate issue from the operatic, all-systems-GO no-holds-barred approach Coppola was able to employ in The Godfather. it's a smaller film, and should be compared to, say, Mobsters (1991), which deals with the same period and some of the same characters as V.P. Charles Bronson's Valachi is adequate. He's a workaday, uneducated, down- home mob guy, and Bronson plays him as if he were Polish, with a job that he goes to every day, where everyone talks Italian. Because it is through his eyes that we see his world, some of the other characters become more vivid, e.g., Joseph Wiseman as Salvatore Maranzano. When I compare the casting of the incomparable Joseph Wiseman in this role as opposed to, say, Michael Gambon in the same role in Mobsters, or Anthony Quinn as an equally old-school rival in the same film, I wonder: None of these actors are Italian -American or even simply Italian; why do some of them work, and the others don't? Granted that Wiseman, Quinn and Gambon are all consummate professionals and true craftsmen as actors, if anyone mentions Salvatore Maranzano and the Castellammarese gang war of 1929, the face that will come to my mind is that of Joseph Wiseman. He and Charles Bronson make this film worth seeing.
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10/10
One of the best mob movies ever!!!!
MovieMan-1121 January 2000
This totally under-rated mob film is right up there with the best mob movies (Godfathers 1 and 2, Scarface, Once Upon A Time In America, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, Capone, Casino, Untouchables, etc). Charles Bronson, although not italian, plays a very convincing role as mobster turned "rat" Joe Valachi. The scenes are never boring and the acting is excellent. Unfortunately, this film was never released on video in the United States. Sometimes it is shown on tv but there is a lot taken out from the original version (including the more graphic castration scene). Full of action and brutality. If you love mob movies, this is one you gotta see. No arguments here....Forget about it!
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7/10
Read it in the papers.
lost-in-limbo25 April 2010
The following year Charles Bronson would team up with director Michael Winner as a cop on the trail of the mafia, but the year before in "The Valachi Papers" he would find himself smack in the middle of it all as former mobster Joe Valachi serving 15 years in prison with a target on his head of twenty thousand dollars by mafia capo Vito Genovese. When he learns of it with there being no way of getting out of it when receives the kiss of death. Joe decides to spill his guts on the inner workings (extortion, vengeance and murder) of LaCosa Nostra for some sort of protection for him and his family. This would be the third European film of the trot between Charles Bronson and director Terence Young with the gritty crime flick "Cold Sweat (1970)" and buddy western "Red Sun (1971)" being the two before it. Coming out the same year as the similar in vein, but masterful classic "The Godfather". "The Valachi Papers" probably came and went with little notice. While not as stylish, it managed to have scope in its tough, trim and grippingly told narration splitting between past recounting and present situations. The plot was adapted off Peter Maas' novel of the same name that covers this true account of the mafia underworld and organised crime. A steadfast Bronson perfectly nailed down the lead with excellently respectable support by the likes of Lino Ventura, Joseph Wiseman, Walter Chiari, Gerald S. O'Loughlin, Angelo Infanti and Amedeo Nazzari. Director Young does a steadily routine job, but it's well done for such a minimal and straight looking production. For a running time of just over two hours, never does it feel it or seem to drag. The workmanlike execution gives the air a brutal (one raw act of violence would have any male squirming) and hardboiled touch, crafting well etched period (through the 1930s) location details and a having profound power in its escalating dramatics. A violent, tough-talking gangster feature with fine cast associated.
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9/10
" From this day onwards, Joe Valachi, you live by the gun and the knife "
thinker169125 November 2008
America has always been a land of opportunity. For the Italians, none more so than giving rise to an American icon, the Gangster. For many years, the U.S. government denied the existence of Organized crime. Even the top U.S. law enforcement officer and head of the famed Federal Bureau of Investigation, J.Edgar Hoover, denied such an organization existed. His apathy was due in part to his own shadowy complicity with the Giancana crime family. That's pretty much how it stayed until the advent of the McClellen commission. The movie " The Valachi Papers " is the direct result of that investigation and brought to the forefront of public awareness the vast network of the underworld's crime bosses and their families. The wellspring of that knowledge was none other than the most famous gangster since Al Capone, one, Joseph Valachi. His testimony, created a healthy respect and awe for the Mafia or as Valachi termed it, La Cosa Nostra. (Our thing) This movie is a compilation of his criminal life, dastardly deeds and the revelation of some of the nation's most notable names. Men like Vito Genovese, Anastasia, 'Lucky Luciano' Don Masseria and Marazano. The film is honest when it deals with its legendary brutality and bodies are left throughout the story including its most graphic moments. The end result is perhaps the best Mafia movie since the Godfather. ****
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7/10
The Blood, She's A Run Like A Sauce Marinara.
rmax30482325 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This Mafia story has a couple of things going for it. In its overall structure it resembles an "Apologia" in the original sense, not an apology but a defense of what the accused has done and the explanations for it.

Joe Valachi was, as I understand it, one of the first members of the Mafia (which is mentioned by name) to spill the beans about initiation rites and about the workings of the organization itself. I don't know how closely the plot resembles historical accuracy but Peter Maas was a careful and balanced writer and usually reliable. When Valachi, played by Charles Bronson in what may be his best performance, tries to hang himself in his cell, it could easily be because of guilt.

The organization of the Mafia seems to fit into a hierarchy of allegiances. It's a little like belonging to the Marine Corps. First, of course, there is one's family. But then there is the Mafia, a brotherhood sealed in blood and fire. Then there is loyalty to the particular province of the old country -- Sicily versus Naples, let's say. Only then is there any expressed allegiance to the nation of Italy itself. When a young man wants to be married, friends ask, "Is she a nice Italian girl?" (America is described by Maranzano as "a foreign country" and high-echelon members take long sojourns to Italy.) Religion is deeply felt but is irrelevant to the violent goings on. Police, lawyers, and other ethnic groups are viewed as potential enemies.

There aren't any real heroes. Valachi himself is more or less swept up into gangsterism but no excuse is given. (Thank God he wasn't an abused child.) He's participated in a number of murders and shows no remorse. We also see that some hits are made to satisfy the lust of a Capo for someone else's wife. It's not "strictly business." We identify with Valachi because he's the character whose development we follow for thirty or forty years, not because he's an upright citizen. He's happy enough to settle down to a legitimate business, running a restaurant, but he's caught in a web of conflicting allegiances to friends, family, and the organization. Except for his final confession, he's never treacherous or particularly clever.

In these -- and in other ways -- "The Valachi Papers" differ from the first two Godfather movies. In Coppola's films, which really DO resemble "apologies", we grow to love the fictional Don Vito Corleone. He's an avuncular figure who is little more than a community organizer. He helps the poor and battles the corrupt and kills only to save the neighborhood from abject subservience. The word "Mafia" is never used. The Corleone family kills only those who deserve to die. There is power and money, yes, but the power is used benevolently and the money is incidental, hardly more than a means of providing well for one's wife and children and the elderly parents, when it's not given away to the poor. When you're done watching the Godfather movies, you almost wish there were more people like that. Like Dirty Harry, they may stretch the law but they keep the streets safe and their neighbors prosperous. They only sell drugs to African-American children.

"The Valachi Papers" is a brutal movie though. There's not much emphasis on family life. No happy al fresco dinners with a dozen people sitting around a long table, drinking wine, eating veal scallopini, and singing songs. Instead there's a scene in which some guy gets his testicles removed for boffing his Capo's girl friend, while he screams and begs Valachi to shoot him.

Bronson's performance really does stand out. He's not the stern, competent character of a "Charles Bronson Movie." He's tentative, sometimes embarrassed and sometimes afraid. For the only time in human memory, he shows what appears to be genuine anguish as he's compelled by compassion to shoot his emasculated friend. Nice job.
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8/10
Bronson and the Mafia
kirbylee70-599-52617928 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When I heard that Twilight Time was going to release THE VALACHI PAPERS I was ecstatic. As a fan of Charles Bronson it was one of the few films of his I hadn't seen in some time. Not only that if you wanted to see it you had to pay an arm and a leg for a copy of the film since it was out of print. Before this release I'd seen copies going for around $50 online! To start with the odds are pretty good that a number of viewers aren't even aware of who Joseph Valachi was. In the sixties Attorney General Robert Kennedy was aiming at taking on organized crime. The problem was most members of the organization kept quiet. Until Joe Valachi, after an attempt was made on his life in prison, came forward willing to tell all. It changed history as it presented the structure used by the organization and helped create a data base for law enforcement. His story was then told in book for by author Peter Maas who also wrote Frank Serpico's autobiography.

With this in mind the story was ripe to make into a film. The movie opens with an older Valachi in prison where he is given the "kiss of death" by mob boss Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura). When he fears he is being attacked, Valachi defends himself only to discover the man he killed was not part of the mob. Sentenced to life with no hope of parole and fearing another attempt on his life, Valachi agrees to inform on the mob and contacts federal agent Ryan (Gerald O'Loughlin) to tell his tale.

The movie progresses in flashbacks to the early days of Valachi as a young man on the streets committing crimes like burglary. When it becomes apparent he's willing to do what it takes to make his bosses happy, he is recruited to become a member of the mafia. But it is also around this time that things are changing and a mob war is going on with two different factions wanting to take control. He survives this battle but comes out of it in the bad side of his boss, Tony Bender.

The film shows various crimes Valachi was involved in, his romance and marriage to the daughter of his boss (played by Bronson's real life wife Jill Ireland) and how things in the mob itself changed over time. It's never a deep rooted film based so much in facts and figures as it is the story of one man and the things seen through his eyes. Low budgeted and filled with a number of Italian actors since this was a film made in Italy, the movie is more of a glossed over slice of history rather than a dead on depiction.

That doesn't mean it isn't an entertaining film with plenty of story to tell. Bronson shines here, allowed to not only play the aging gangster but to play him in all parts of his life. This was something he rarely had the opportunity to do and one of the main reasons he agreed to play the part. There is enough action and bloodshed to keep people happy but Bronson has a chance to act rather than just be the tough guy here. The movie is interesting and moves at a steady pace that holds your interest from start to finish.

Twilight Time has done a solid job, as always, of offering a well-made presentation of this movie. The picture quality is fine and presents the movie in the best possible quality. The extras are limited to a single item, a partial isolated score track. The odds are that nothing was made to help promote the film when it was originally released making anything else non-existent. As with all Twilight Time releases this one is limited to only 3,000 so if you want this one at an affordable price then by all means pick one up immediately before they're all gone. If you're goal is to collect all movies starring Charles Bronson act fast.
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7/10
"You just made up my mind, Don Vito Genovese".
classicsoncall10 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It's been the better part of three decades or so since I've read the Peter Maas book upon which this was based, maybe even a tad longer. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the screenwriter, most of what you get is probably accurate historically, although I don't know about that nasty castration scene. Pretty gruesome.

Stories about the Mafia have always fascinated me, and since La Cosa Nostra had such a rigid discipline, it's not surprising that a lot of stories (and lives) ended badly. I hearken back to the Fifties and Sixties when the front page of the New York Daily News would feature a large photo of the latest mob hit in the style of those on display in the movie. One downside to this film, as other reviewers have mentioned, are the anachronistic elements along with some faulty chronology. For example, Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) becomes a Mafia made man on November 5th, 1930, and a subsequent scene when his sponsor Gaetano Reina (Amadeo Nazzari) is whacked is dated February 26th of the same year.

I also thought the picture could have done a better job of putting the Apalachin Meeting of the Mafia hierarchy in context. Come to think of it, that meeting would be a good topic for a modern day movie treatment if done right.

Made and released the same year as "The Godfather", I don't think there's anyone who would disagree that the Corleone saga is much more compelling and interesting as a viewing experience. As a second tier entry however, this picture has it's moments and offers some insight into the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra. Another era flick you might try came out a couple of years later with Peter Boyle in the lead role as "Crazy Joe", based on the life of murdered gangster Crazy Joe Gallo.
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6/10
Biographic movie about a notorious informer who broke the sacred code of silence , Omertá .
ma-cortes21 November 2012
This picture is plenty of mayhem , strong stuff , drama and amount of gangland violence . A biography heavily influenced by Valachi memoirs and by interviews was written by journalist Peter Maas and published in 1968 as The Valachi Papers, forming the basis for this film . The flick deals with tough Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) , he has a price put on his head by Don Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura) who is in prison and from there, he still runs his criminal empire . An unsuccessful attempt to slit his throat puts him over the edge to die . Valachi must take desperate steps to protect himself while in prison. Because of the bounty on his head from his own, a federal agent named Ryan (Gerald O'Loughlin) convinces Valachi really to be a mob informant in return for safety inside . Valachi tells a story that starts in 1929, when he was first imprisoned in Sing Sing . Valachi's criminal career began with a small gang known as "The Minutemen," so-called for carrying out smash and grab burglaries and escaping within a minute and subsequently as a chauffeur.I n the early 1930s, through mob contact Dominick "The Gap" Petrilli (Walter Chiari) , Valachi was introduced to the Cosa Nostra or Mafia, and soon became a soldier in the Reina Family (now known as the Lucchese Family) during the height of the Castellammarese War. Valachi fought on the side of Salvatore Maranzano, who eventually defeated the faction headed by rival Joseph Masseria (Sperli) . After Masseria's murder, Valachi became a bodyguard for Maranzano. However, this position was short-lived, as Maranzano (Joseph Wiseman) himself was murdered in 1931. Valachi then became a soldier in the family headed by Charles "Lucky" Luciano (eventually known as the Genovese Family), in the crew headed by Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo (Leontini) .

This landmark gangster movie is strong stuff , being dominated by the tenacious acting of Charles Bronson as the gangster of the title who follows his way venomously since a simple gangster , chauffeur until his prison as he breaks the sacred code of silence , the Omertá . Bronson captures the special excitement or mood of paranoia on Valachi role . Director Yerence Young's body-strewn look at the feud between Maranzano , Genovese , Masseria , Gaetano Reina , Lucky Luciano and other famous mobsters , but especially concerns about the informer Joe Valachi . This is a violence-ridden story full of action, drama, thriller , drama but being overlong . The notorious gangster Vito Genovese being splendidly played by Lino Ventura who makes a good character study of one of the most colorful mobsters of the history .In the film appears famous gangsters such as Salvatore Maranzano played by Joseph Wiseman , Gaetano Reina acted by Amedeo Nazzari , Albert Anastasia by Fausto Tozzi , Letizia Reina played by Pupella Maggio and Lucky Luciano performed by Angelo Infanti . Jill Ireland , Bronson's real wife , makes an appealing heroine , providing an elegant touch amid the 'macho'machine gun mayhem of the rest of the film .

The motion picture is based on the book ¨Joe Valachi papers¨ and on real events , these are the following : ¨In October 1963, Valachi had testified before Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate Committee on Government Operations that the Mafia did exist.Although Valachi's disclosures never led directly to the prosecution of many Mafia leaders, he was able to provide many details of its history, operations and rituals, aiding in the solution of several uncleared murders, as well as naming many members and the major crime families. His testimony, which was broadcast on radio and television and published in newspapers, was devastating for the mob, still reeling from the November 14, 1957 Apalachin Meeting, where state police had accidentally discovered several Mafia bosses from all over the United States meeting at the Apalachin home of mobster Joseph Barbara. Following Valachi's testimony, the mob was no longer invisible to the public. He was the son-in-law of Gaetano Reina, having married Reina's oldest daughter Mildred over the objections of her mother, brother, and uncles. Valachi's motivations for becoming an informer have been the subject of some debate. Valachi claimed to be testifying as a public service and to expose a powerful criminal organization that he blamed for ruining his life, but it is also possible he was hoping for government protection as part of a plea bargain in which he was sentenced to life imprisonment, avoiding the death penalty for a murder he committed in prison on June 22, 1962. While in prison, Valachi feared that mob boss Vito Genovese had ordered his death as a traitor. Using a pipe left near some construction work, he bludgeoned to death an inmate whom he mistook for Joseph DiPalermo, a Mafia member he believed was commissioned to kill him. (Valachi and Genovese were both serving sentences for heroin trafficking. After time with FBI handlers, Valachi came forward with a story of Genovese giving him a kiss on the cheek, which he took as a "kiss of death". In 1966, Valachi attempted to hang himself in his prison cell, using an electrical extension cord. On April 3, 1971, Valachi died of a heart attack at Federal Correctional Institution, La Tuna in Texas, having outlived Vito Genovese by two years. The $100,000 bounty, placed on Valachi by Genovese, went uncollected.¨
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6/10
The Rise and Fall of a Gangster
claudio_carvalho21 December 2014
The gangster Joseph "Joe" Valachi (Charles Bronson) has worked for the Mafia for more than thirty years in New York. When he has been imprisoned for fifteen years, he learns that the mobster Don Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura) is offering a reward for his life. Without any alternative other than stay in the solitaire, he accepts the DA offer of protection. In return, he has to disclose the secrets of the Cosa Nostra.

"The Valachi Papers" is based on a true story and tells the rise and fall of a gangster from the Mafia. The role of Joseph Valachi is tailored for Charles Bronson and fans of gangster movie will certainly enjoy this film. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): "O Segredo da Cosanostra" ("The Secret of the Cosanostra")
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9/10
A GOOD GANGSTER MOVIE
James Cagney29 August 1999
I thought this was one of the better gangster pictures I have seen. There were many events in the picture that were based on fact. I also found it interesting that most of the actors actually resembled the characters they were portraying. Great work by the make up crew. This was an entertaining film, and a must see for Charles Bronson fans.
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9/10
No frills mafioso saga
mdewey29 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"No fancy Hollywood hot-shots need apply for screen tests here", or so my audition sign would read back in the day when this was being filmed. A totally stark, un-gussied, realistic look into the sequences of events surrounding a mobster's life, with all the subtlety of a 3- day old, 30-lb. catfish on a fine linen tablecloth. The actors hired for this gig were probably hit men, dope dealers, pimps, etc. themselves. If not, they looked as close as you can get to the real thing. Dino D. and Terence Young got the local European flavor to carry this tour-de-force to its maximum impact, with terse, punctuated dialog. We've seen the Bronson duo (Bronson & Jill Ireland) and Gerald O'Loughlin before, but that's about it for familiar faces. The good part is that everyone blends in.

But it's the finely tuned narrative and banter between O' Lough. and Chas. B. that really sets this movie up: Their initial combative interplay, the psychological arm-wrestling regarding the spilling of the goods and the eventual delineation of years of mob activities keeps the metaphorical ball rolling. The eventual bond that develops between the snitch and the cop is neither rushed nor over emotionalized, as it too follows the same slowly brewed pace as the story line itself. You really feel the developed bonding of those two principals as the movie draws to its conclusion, punctuated by Riz Ortolani's lush score in 3/4 time and accentuated by the fact that both had been had!
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6/10
The Singing Gangster
bkoganbing14 December 2006
Charles Bronson starts to break out of spaghetti westerns and good character roles and becomes a leading man around the time The Valachi Papers came out. It was a big milestone in his career, playing the most famous gangster stoolie of all.

It's not quite true that all Valachi's testimony managed to do was get a lot of high television ratings for some re-election hungry Senators. Not that they didn't get it and didn't appreciate the side benefits of those famous televised hearings, but eventually what came out of the Valachi hearings was the RICO law which has in fact put quite a dent into organized crime.

The Valachi Papers has Charles Bronson telling FBI man Gerald S. O'Loughlin about his life and times in organized crime with La Cosa Nostra from the days of the Marranzano-Masseria wars until the present which would have been 1962. He doesn't really tell anything new to them, basically he confirms what had been gangster legend about the circumstances of many a demise. But with some hard documentation now, new laws are created to meet the problem.

Bronson does his best with Valachi, but the story has him pretty one dimensional. It's far from The Godfather where you really get inside the characters of the fictional Corleone family. Bronson sure has no conscience about what he did and I'm sure the real Valachi didn't either. In fact the only reason he turns informer is that Vito Genovese already mistakenly has him down as one.

Fans of the gangster genre and Charles Bronson should give this one a look. Others should see The Godfather all three parts.
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6/10
I cannot bring back the dead but I can kill the living!
sol-kay15 October 2006
(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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2/10
Careless film making
JasparLamarCrabb8 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Charles Bronson had plenty of presence on the screen and was very effective in the likes of THE DIRTY DOZEN, DEATH WISH and a few others, but whenever he actually TRIED to act, his efforts were laughable. He simply could not act. THE VALACHI PAPERS may be his worst film. The director, Terence Young, shows absolutely no style or even a remote trace of caring (a large part of the film takes place in the 1930s but anachronisms abound --- there's a clear shot of the new in 1972 World Trade Towers, a 1970s era car speeds by the 1930s autos). Were the proper permits not secured to film this movie in NYC? Bronson gets little help in the film from the other performers. Walter Chiari is terrific, but he's certainly the exception. The supporting cast is populated with fine actors like Joseph Wiseman, Gerald S. O'Laughlin, Jill Ireland and Lino Ventura, but the dialog is so inane, they look foolish (Wiseman is particularly dreadful as Salvatore Maranzano, a crime lord who could not have been this dull). Aldo Tonti's cinematography is muddy and, as with most of director Young's work, the editing appears to have been done with a rusty razor blade.
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Badfellas
Bolesroor26 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"The Valachi Papers" tells, through flashback, the true-life story of mafia driver Joseph Valachi, who became a government informant and was the first to reveal the secrets of the cosa nostra and crime syndicate to the outside world. It is a great premise for a film, rich with possibilities of "Godfather"-like drama and excitement, but is directed so poorly and lifelessly that it fails on almost every level.

Charles Bronson is Joe Valachi, and he is farthest here from his tough-guy persona than in any other of his movies. It's clear that he's actually playing a Character here, an actual person, but we never quite learn what makes Joe special or different from the high-powered crime bosses above him or the everyday joe like you and me. He spends most of the movie in old-age make-up, grumbling to his Federal contact who's trying to pump him for as much information as possible, and he comes off like a dull old man sending back his soup at a diner. The flashbacks are the heart of the film, but they reduce even the most outrageous and violent episodes- like an adulterous mafioso who gets castrated for sleeping with a boss' wife- into pre-digested afterthoughts without highs, lows or impact. The real-life assassination of a mafia don at an Italian restaurant- which is brilliantly featured in "The Godfather"- is told here with all the dramatics of an afternoon stroll: the don's dinner companions excuse themselves to the bathroom and he is showered in bullets by a pair of hit-men. Yawn.

This was an Italian-made film, and seems to have been made with a homogenized eye for an international release, but that's no excuse for director Terence Young's passionless and flat execution. Even the sequence in which Joe is initiated into the brotherhood of the mafia- a scene that scandalously exposed the mob's most sacred rites- is filmed like a home-video of a Cub Scout earning his Webelos merit badge. Bronson may be stretching the limits of his acting range, but his performance would have been passable if the direction was competent.

"The Valachi Papers" actually beat "The Godfather" to the theaters by a matter of months, but otherwise the two films don't belong in the same sentence. What should have and could have blown the lid off the most powerful crime organization on the planet has about as much impact as two hours of C-SPAN. This is a sloppy, slapdash assemblage of stories without any insight or meaning. Terence Young doesn't know why any of this is important, so why should we care? "The Valachi Papers" is just flushable filler, and not even recommended for Bronson die-hards.

GRADE: D
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6/10
not that engaging
SnoopyStyle20 July 2014
It's 1962. Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) is a marked man. Fed agent Ryan tells him that Don Vito Genovese thinks that he and Tony Bender turned states' witness against him. Bender is missing. When Valachi finally gets a meeting with Don Vito, the Don gives Valachi Il bacio della morte (Kiss of Death). Valachi returns to favor. Don Vito puts out a $20k contract on him. He immediately turns to Ryan for protection. In return, he tells his mob life starting with his imprisonment in Ossining Prison in 1929 where he first meets Tony Bender. Tony introduces him to the mob run by boss Salvatore Maranzano. He rises in the family as internal struggle leaves Genovese in charge.

The movie sets up the 1962 story so well that I didn't really care about the history. I want to know how Don Vito is coming after Valachi. I want to know what happens to Valachi's kid. I want to know what happens next and not what happened before. The whole flashback structure is boring and not that engaging. I couldn't wait for the movie to advance in the 1962 story but that part of the story has no meat in it. There are better mob movies to come and 'The Godfather' is just a few months after this. This movie didn't have a chance even with a good performance from Charles Bronson.
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8/10
Maria Baxa Was Hot In This Movie
kikiloveslegwarmers4 February 2006
Just saw this film again on DVD. Really wasn't overly impressed. Of course it's old hat now and really out-dated. It rode in on the coat-tails of the Godfather and though Charles Bronson is good and Lino Ventura isn't too bad either, it's really the same old rehash of a typical mob story. The bright light of the film is sexy redhead Maria Baxa as Donna, Lino Ventura's mistress in the film. She is smoking hot and sexy as the over-sexed moll who beds both a beautiful woman and one of her boy-friend's bodyguards. It's really unbelievable that this beauty never achieved international fame.

So, unless you're really a fan of Charles Bronson, Lino Ventura or the beautiful Maria Baxa, The Valachi Papers is only an above average rehashing of your typical mob movie.
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7/10
"I never killed anybody that didn't deserve it."
Hey_Sweden11 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The almighty Charles Bronson is aces in the title role in this gangster saga that had the misfortune to be released the same year as the much more well known "The Godfather". But that doesn't mean that it isn't worth your time. Joe Valachi joins the Cosa Nostra crime organization as an impressionable young man during the Great Depression, ultimately working his way up the organization. Eventually, he gets righteously busted by the cops, and while he is in prison agrees to turn informant, after realizing that there is a $100,000 contract on his life.

Directed by Terence Young, who'd guided three of the James Bond adventures, this plays out in a pretty matter of fact way, eschewing melodrama (for the most part) and telling a grim and gritty tale. It's scripted by Stephen Geller, based on the true-crime book by Peter Maas (whose writings also served as the basis for the film "Serpico"). It's effectively brutal in terms of the violence, even suggesting a very nasty comeuppance for the character Gap (Walter Chiari). Young and his crew ground the story in a believable manner, using a variety of unfamiliar (at least to North American audiences) character actors. Notable exceptions include Italian icon Lino Ventura as mob boss Vito Genovese, Canadian-born Joseph Wiseman, whom Young had directed in "Dr. No", as the hearty Salvatore Maranzano, and Gerald S. O'Loughlin ("In Cold Blood", 'The Rookies') as the lawman to whom Valachi spills his guts. Unsurprisingly, Bronsons' real-life companion Jill Ireland is on hand to play Valachis' wife, but the script doesn't give her much to do. Most eyes will be on Bronson, in any event, who shines in a real character role, and gets to play him at different ages.

Joe Valachi is portrayed in a humble, eager to please, uneducated but street smart way, and becomes an interesting enough person to follow as we watch his journey move from its fateful beginnings to its bittersweet finish.

Seven out of 10.
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6/10
Bronson's best performance?
PimpinAinttEasy24 November 2017
This must be one of Bronson's best performances. But the film itself is nothing to write home about and does not deserve a review. But I am writing one anyway.

BRONSON plays this small time hood who is being hunted by the mafioso after his former boss (played by LINO VENTURA) puts out a contract on his head, fearing that he might spill the beans about their operations, for a deal with the police. Much of the film is told in flashbacks as Bronson's character narrates the story of his life to a man of the law. The film has a great memorable score by RIZ ORTOLANI. It is used to great effect in the scenes with BRONSON and JILL IRELAND, who plays his wife. It also boasts of a great fight scene in jail where a nude fighting fit Bronson holds his own against assassins in the jail's shower. The film also has a depiction of the Appalachin meeting mentioned in GOODFELLAS.

But it is a rather tepid and flat film. No real memorable scenes. Underdeveloped characters. It is a real mess. And even though i liked the way the film looked, some of the sets looked like sets.

(6/10)
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5/10
Ed Wood Meets Francis Ford Coppola
CRCFleetwood1 January 2009
I just viewed the Valachi Papers last night (Netflix rental) and was struck by some of the blatant anachronisms. The big goofs, some of which are mentioned elsewhere on IMDb, include:

* The World Trade Towers looming in the background as a car crashes into the river in 1930;

* A circa 1970 car riding along Bronson's period sedan;

* A contemporary light post in the distance as Bronson carries out a hit for Genovese.

Second, as memorable as Joseph Wiseman was as Dr. No, his performance as Marranzo is astonishingly bad.

Given these points, I nearly turned off Valachi Papers about 20-minutes into the film, fearing I was in for a two-hour Ed Wood version of a mobster movie. Yet, I stayed with it and found myself fairly engaged for the entire thing. As the film progresses in time, the continuity issues disappear, and Charles Bronson's understated performance helps to sustain a modicum of credibility.

One can appreciate how, for a 1972 audience, the film's relative realism breaks some new ground; however, when you consider that The Godfather, one of the best films ever made, was released that year, it's easy to understand why the Valachi Papers has been largely forgotten over the years.
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Wires
pmjarriq7 December 2004
"The Valachi papers" is so badly done, so cheap that not only you can spot modern cars among old ones, but you can see the wires during the shootouts ! It's really too bad, because it was an interesting subject (the first mafioso breaking the omerta) and a Bronson film is always a treat. But Bronson is definitely not Italian and everything is wrong with him in this part : his voice, his mannerisms, his looks. The wigs are terrible too, especially when Valachi is supposed to be in his twenties. Bronson was 52 at the time ! Joseph Wiseman and Lino Ventura are very good as godfathers of the old school, but with different methods. Terence Young as always, can't make a decent film. "The Valachi papers" is available in France, in a good copy, but only in french language, this being a french-Italian co-production.
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7/10
Foreigns producers has disapproval by critical!!
elo-equipamentos5 June 2017
When l'd watched this movie for the first time in 1986, l found it's good, after more twenty years revisiting this picture again in full restoration DVD with original audio (UGH!)...l still find a fine work from Terence Young,but have two things that could explain the movie didn't get a proper respect from the viewer, firstly was released in same time with Godfather, second the producer was Dino de Laurentiis and he is foreign and didn't has a usual critic treatment like the American has....this is absolutely a naked true, foreign producers didn't have any respect from Americans and critical, but the movie is quite good,the casting is fine, Charles Bronson, Lino Ventura,Joseph Wiseman,among others...the movie is based in a true events and has a remarkable job from Charles Bronson as Joseph Valachi who actually died in prison.

Resume:

First Watch: 1986 / How many: 4 / Source: TV-DVD / Rating: 7.5
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7/10
A Possibly Great Movie Ruined
IMDBjncn16 September 2016
One problem is that it's episodic in structure, more like a chronologically depicted documentary than a movie.

It is also ruined (at least, for me) by overdubbed dialogue. It sounds like a movie made in Italy in Italian and English, and then RE-dubbed over the English speakers very own English. Are you following this? The resulting, dry-sounding dialogue leaves you with half of an actor's performance. It can never match the original utterances.

Otherwise, the character actors are wonderful. So many great mugs with evil dispositions. And Bronson is great. Probably his best role. A real shame about the audio. Hard to believe so many films are so badly dubbed.
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Oh, Prunella!
sobronx-430 August 1999
I'm Italian and really dig mobster movies. Having read the book makes me think that this flick was an afterthought. The casting was a mixture of people who looked Italian but didn't sound it.

Trying to speak with an accent of any type isn't easy as it is, but the dialogue here is embarrassing. Charles Bronson looks tough and cool but he's no Joe Valachi. They are completely opposite. The Godfather had class and was well done. Look in the background of The Valachi Papers and see automobiles filmed in th thirties surrounded by cars of the present (when filmed. They should have waited and gotten it right. This could be done today with ease and look good. too bad.
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