Lino Ventura and Charles Bronson

Revisiting The Valachi Papers (1972)

Charles Bronson stars in this gangster flick where he plays Joseph Valachi; a mobster who gives the government a history of the Mafia from 1929 to 1961 based on the book of the same name.

The synopsis for the book is essentially the same as the movie: In the 1960s a disgruntled soldier in New York’s Genovese Crime Family decided to spill his guts. His name was Joseph Valachi. Daring to break the Mob’s code of silence for the first time, Valachi detailed the organization of organized crime from the capos, or bosses, of every Family, to the hit men who “clipped” rivals and turncoats. With a phenomenal memory for names, dates, addresses, phone numbers—and where the bodies were buried—Joe Valachi provided the chilling facts that led to the arrest and conviction of America’s major crime figures. Never again would the Mob be protected by secrecy. For the Mafia, Valachi’s name would become synonymous with betrayal. But his stunning exposé. broke the back of America’s Cosa Nostra and stands today as the classic about America’s Mob, a fascinating tale of power and terror, big money, crime … and murder.

The DVD I have is rated PG and if you watch the film you’ll soon realize this movie is certainly not a PG film. There’s nudity and lots of violence with one moment standing out where someone is involuntarily castrated… so yeah, bring the kids!

The movie came out the same year as The Godfather so it’s not as widely known but The Valachi Papers is still an interesting and entertaining look inside the world of the mob. Bronson isn’t his usual invincible self and at one point even tries to commit suicide so this was certainly a side we rarely got to see of him. He’s a believable character who is straightforward and the gangster life is one he tends to enjoy for the most part.

A lot happens in the film’s 2 hour runtime and it benefits from several watches so you can pick up some the supporting characters like Lucky Luciano and many more. It’s not exactly packed with action but like I said there is at least nudity and violence which keeps things entertaining. It’s also based on true events which makes it far more interesting and engaging.

The Valachi Papers has one of Charles Bronson’s’ better performances but there are so may other better gangster movies out there that it’s really only for completists like myself.