"Et Tu Antonio Mancuso?"
Robert I. Hedges | 11/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Crime Boss", a low budget Italian crime family picture made at the same time as "The Godfather", has none of the budget or giant stars of the Hollywood epic, but it does have a gritty charm all its own. Originally " I Familiari Delle Vittime Non Saranno Avvertiti", it is the story of an aging crime boss, Don Vincenzo (Telly Savalas) who mentors a young thug, Antonio Mancuso (Antonio Sabato). Mancuso is a quick learner and comes to revere Don Vincenzo like a father. The story is a Godfatheresque series of crimes, doublecrossings, and betrayals, and eventually calls for Mancuso to choose allegiances in a dramatic way. While somewhat formulaic, the film is interesting and very watchable.
The film is not without its flaws. First and foremost, we don't even see Savalas, the big star of the show, until almost halfway through the movie. Much of the rising action is mere padding, and could easily have been edited. Even after Savalas appears onscreen, there are still long, lingering shots that pad the running time immensely without furthering the plot or feel of the picture. Likewise there are some subplots that never went anywhere that could have been dispensed with entirely (e.g. Savalas' heart problems, the nuns and orphans adoration of Savalas, etc.) The movie has plentiful background music in the soundtrack, some of which furthers the mood of the shot, other of which consists of a wheezy organ and a spring, which is never a good choice. The acting varies from very good to wooden. I thought Savalas turned in an excellent performance as Don Vincenzo, and also thought Antonio Sabato did well with the role of Antonio Mancuso. Some of the rival gangsters were more stereotypes than anything, though.
The transfer is not especially good with several occasions of marauding red spots coursing across the screen, and some sound dropouts as well. These flaws and artifacts are sometimes very distracting. As for the DVD packaging, it is somewhat deceptive, as the cover art shows Savalas as a much older man than in the film. (In 1972 Savalas was in good shape; recall that this is pre-Kojak.) The "extras" on the DVD actually made me laugh. The "Interactive Menu" talks to you, while the "Movie Review" gives an uncredited glowing review of the movie which is hilariously self-promotional.
"Crime Boss" is a good example of 1970's Italian cinema, and is much better than you might expect given the packaging. It would have received a four star rating from me if it wasn't for all the of the artifacts present in the print.