The Valachi Papers (1972) Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review
Released the same year as The Godfather, and based on a bestselling book, The Valachi Papers is very episodic and covers a lot of ground in 125 minutes, but without a real moral center or a protagonist you really care about, the film sort of flounders in its own spaghetti.
A driver and hitman for the mob turns informant for the FBI.
Joe Valachi (Charles Bronson) never really aspired to much, but he’s handpicked by the New York mob to become a driver when he proves himself to be a solid criminal with honor. The Cosa Nostra promotes Valachi to head driver of the capo (played by Joseph Wiseman with a noticeably heavy accent), which turns out to be a huge boon for him, but after awhile when things are peaceful between mob families, the capo is assassinated and Valachi must pledge his allegiance to another boss. After decades of being a part of the crime family, Valachi goes to prison for 15 years and he finds that the family has turned his back on him and even puts a mark of death on him by the latest capo Vito Genovese (Lino Ventura). With inmates out to kill him and with a rich bounty on his head, Valachi has no choice but to turn informant for his own safety, and he spills everything he knows and has seen over the years.
Released the same year as The Godfather, and based on a bestselling book, The Valachi Papers is very episodic and covers a lot of ground in 125 minutes, but without a real moral center or a protagonist you really care about, the film sort of flounders in its own spaghetti. There’s some good stuff here, but the movie really focuses on the nonstop killings, shootouts, and bloody ends of lots of side characters, which is fine for this sort of film, but Valachi himself is never really given much time to become a full fledged character, despite being in virtually every scene. Bronson is fun to watch, but he plays a rather wooden character written on autopilot. There are a few great moments where he shines (a scene where he gets himself out of being shanked in the shower, for example), but the movie could’ve used more polishing in the script before being made. From director Terence Young.
Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray of The Valachi Papers upgrades the previous Blu-ray from Twilight Time by adding a new audio commentary and TV spots, trailers, and a radio spot. The transfer is solid, but Twilight Time’s isolated score track is not included.