"He's been having you tailed, blueprinting every move you've
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 01/15/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"From Sony's Gangsters Guns & Floozies Crime Collection come comes an interesting, albeit overly moralistic, look at the life and times of `the world's most notorious crime boss' in the film I, Mobster (1958), based on a novel by Joseph Hilton Smyth, adapted for the screen by Steve Fisher ("Peter Gunn", "Cannon", "Barnaby Jones"), and co-producer and directed by Roger Corman (It Conquered the World, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Machine-Gun Kelly). The film stars Steve Cochran (The Damned Don't Cry, The Big Operator), along with Lita Milan (The Violent Men), and Robert Strauss, probably best known (to me, at least) for his memorable role in the film Stalag 17 (1953), as the character Stanislas 'Animal' Kasava. Also appearing is Celia Lovsky (Man of a Thousand Faces), Corman regular John Brinkley (Teenage Doll, War of the Satellites), and veteran actor of over 200 films Grant Withers (The Fighting Kentuckian, Hoodlum Empire), in his last feature.
The movie opens as we see a character named Joe Sante (Cochran) being grilled by some senate committee members about racketeering, which then transitions into a flashback where we see Joe's humble goomba beginnings in organized crime, as a young lad running bookie collections. Little Joey's got quite the attitude, and vows to his mother, played by Lovsky, someday he'll be a big shot. Eventually Joe lands a job delivering drugs, working under a local boss named Frankie (Strauss), and develops a fixation on a girl from the neighborhood named Teresa (Milan), but things go sour as Joe gets pinched and sent to the can for a year. Upon his release, he makes another vow to his mother how he'll never go to jail again. The syndicate, impressed with Joe's ability to keep his mouth shut and serve his time, rather than turn a dime for a lesser sentence, gives him a contract assignment to rub a mug out, along with a bit more responsibility. Joe's ambition drives him forward, as he develops his own crew (Frankie has now become Joe's right hand man), along with muscling in on lucrative union operations as a freelance labor relations expert, despite protests from his family and friends, particularly his mother and Teresa, to get out of the life, and go straight. Not only do their pleas fall upon deaf ears, but Joe actually brings on Teresa's younger brother Ernie (Brinkley) into the fold (along with goodie goodie Teresa herself), as he needed work due to the fact that he and Teresa's mother has since taken ill. Ernie, lacking a certain amount of self disciple, soon develops some bad habits (including a smack monkey), and Joe learns he's shirking his responsibilities towards his family and cuts him off, but Ernie, knowing what he knows, first tries blackmail, and then finally force...as you might expect, things do not end well for young Ernest. Anyway, as Joe's powerbase grows, his former boss (Withers), now partner, thinks he's getting too big for his britches, and puts a contract out, of which Joe learns about before its carried out, and reacts accordingly, eventually becoming the number one man...getting to the top is one thing, but staying there is something different, and in the end, the realization begins to set in that all that he's gained doesn't quite make up for all he's given up...
This is a pretty decent mob movie, overall. I really liked Steve Cochran in the lead role, as he was generally calm, cool, and collected, never going overboard, as his character seemed to understand the necessity of having a strong presence, but also keeping a modest profile as to fly under the authoritarian radar. As far as the rest of the performers, I thought they all did well enough given the material, which decent, although a bit preachy at times. This aspect is pushed continually throughout the film, and then laid on very thick near the end as Joe's sweet, kindly mother, who at first seemed to turn a blind eye towards her son's criminal proclivities, finally comes to terms with what he is, and what he's become...her various moralistic monologues were increasingly difficult to take as the story worn on, and quite frankly, I often found myself wishing someone would have bumped the old bag off, perhaps catching a little collateral damage in the form of a stray bullet...I thought Lita Milan, playing the female lead, did very well, helped a bit by the fact she was very easy on the old peepers...an interesting fact about her...soon after this film, she gave up her acting career and married the son of a Dominican Republic dictator, but I digress...besides the sappy moral overtones inherent within the story, the other aspect I found difficult to accept was Teresa's change of heart towards Joe shortly after Joe iced her younger brother Ernie, right in front of her. I suppose her transformation from goodie two shoes to crime boss moll possible, but it just seemed unlikely given her closeness to her brother...and the fact Joe was the one who plugged him. The story moves along at a good clip, in a straightforward and efficient manner, wasting little of its hour and twenty minute running time, often glossing over Joe's actual activities, focusing rather on his relationships within his family and within his business acquaintances. It wasn't as gritty as I had hoped, but overall, it entertained, and worthy viewing for someone interested in the genre.
Sony provides a decent, fullscreen (1.33:1) picture here, but during the opening we see the film was originally presented in CinemaScope, and this is made entirely obvious early on as a number of the opening credits are cut off. Subsequently, the pan and scan effort given to the rest of the film is painfully apparent as this release features some really awkward, stilted panning throughout. Not only that, but who ever wrote the synopsis blurb on the back of the DVD case really screwed up, as mentioned by another reviewer. The main character is listed as Steve Fisher, who wasn't a character but the writer who adapted the original story for the screen. Apparently attention to detail or quality was not a big concern for Sony here, nor was presenting this film as it was originally meant to be seen. If Sony can't be bothered to provide a decent release, why should I be bothered to purchase said release? Sure the price is nice, but I would have been willing to shell out a bit more for a more aesthetically pleasing product true to its original format. The audio, presented in Dolby Digital mono, comes across cleanly. As far as extras, there are none, which didn't surprise me, given the lack of overall effort in the actual release.
Pushing the envelope of "B-ness"
A viewer from Summit, NJ | Summit, NJ USA | 02/18/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Roger Corman pushes the envelope of "B-ness" with this B-movie detailing the rise and fall of a small-time gangster (played by Steve Cochran, contender in the Elvis-lookalike contest and winner of the hair-grease semifinals). The casting is riotous, with his supposedly Italian immigrant parents played by two oldsters who speak with Austrian-German accents, and a girfriend who speaks with an Italian accent and has a WASP name. Robert Strauss, famous Jewish comedian, plays a vicious Italian gangster with about as much credibility as did Eli Wallach in "Godfather 3." Nonetheless, "I, Mobster" is enjoyable in broad, B-ways that only Corman can bring off."
Low-budget gem of a gangster movie
J. Friedman | 03/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Brooding hunk Steve Cochran literally has to fight the women off after his steady climb up the mob corporate ladder. He's all business until his longtime groupie BEGS to be his "moll." They enjoy life for a while until he is rubbed out. A nice clear-headed little film which will really appeal to fans of "The Sopranos" and "Donnie Brasco." Steve Cochran has got it, and Roger Corman knows how to showcase it!"
"Sometimes you have to kill to live."
Dave | Tennessee United States | 01/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Roger Corman's low-budget film noir "I, Mobster" is the fast-paced tale of the rise and fall of gangster Joe Sante (Steve Cochran). Having got his start as a street-wise kid doing errands for local bookies, he quickly works his way up the ladder, selling dope and collecting debts. When Joe gets a welcome-home party after serving his first stretch in prison, he leaves for a few minutes and kills Maurice Cerrago and thus carries out his first contract "hit". The party provides his with the perfect alibi, and now Joe is fast on his way to the top of the organization. His former boss, "Black" Frankie Udino (Robert Strauss), is now working for him, and Joe has more power than ever before. Although Joe could have any girl of his choice, he has always loved just one, Teresa Porter (Lita Milan).
Teresa is an angelic, beautiful young woman, and although she is in love with Joe she tries to avoid him. She is well-aware of Joe's reputation as a ruthless mobster, but she can't deny her feelings for him. Before long, Teresa and her younger brother Ernie are both working for Joe, and they like the big money they're earning. Ernie becomes a drug addict, though, and Joe has to remove him from the organization. Ernie confronts Joe with a gun and tries to blackmail him. Forced to defend himself, Joe shoots and kills Ernie, right after Teresa walked in and tried to stop her brother. Surprisingly, Teresa still feels nothing but love for Joe, and Joe realizes just how much he's corrupted his once angelic girlfriend.
Joe receives a subpoena from a Senate racketeering committee and is facing a long prison sentence. Joe books passage for himself and Teresa on a boat leaving the country. Unfortunately, Joe's former partners-in-crime want to be totally sure that Joe will never talk to the committee, and they make plans to kill him. Joe and Teresa are followed by two hitmen on their way to the pier, and before Joe and Teresa can get to the boat and escape Joe must fight it out with the hoodlums. Joe kills them but is seriously wounded, so he and Teresa go to Frankie Udino for help. It's only then that Joe finally realizes that he has no friends left in a world where trust is nonexistent.
Steve Cochran practically made a career out of playing ruthless gangsters, and this is perhaps his best role. Although made on a small budget, "I, Mobster" is one of the most entertaining noir films of the late 1950's, with lots of great lines ("You wanna become a moll?"), an impressive cast (Lita Milan is a very sexy and quite a talented actress, and Robert Strauss is awesome in the role of "Black" Frankie Udino!), and skillful direction by Roger Corman. There's also a memorable scene where real-life exotic dancer Lili St. Cyr performs on stage and even takes a bubble bath (a pretty racy scene for a 1950's movie)! The whole subplot about Joe Sante's disapproving parents was such a cliché, even by the late 1950's, and those scenes where his parents preach to him are badly dated. Other than that I have no complaints about the movie itself.
The Sony/Classic Media DVD, however, is a big disappointment. "I, Mobster" was filmed in CinemaScope, but the idiots who released this on DVD reformatted it to full screen, thus you miss a significant portion of the original image. As if that wasn't bad enough, on the back of the DVD cover it says Steve Cochran plays "Steve Fisher". Steve Fisher is actually the guy who wrote the screenplay, not a character in the film! Hopefully, this movie will get a proper DVD release I the future. Until then, this version will have to do."
Cheaply made movie, and even cheaper DVD.
J. Friedman | Tustin, California | 06/25/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This film is worth viewing for two reasons - Steve Cochran and Robert Strauss. They are both as good as it gets. But you would have to be as big a fan of Steve Cochran as I to make this product worth even its extremely low price. The film is choppy with lines and distortions in some places. The story doesn't hold together very well, and, as pointed out by another reviewer, the obviously Italian Lita Milan plays a character named "Teresa Porter," and Austrian born and accented Celia Lovsky plays Cochran's long suffering Italian mother. The DVD is so cheap that they couldn't even get the character's name right on the back cover. Cochran plays Joe Sante, but, on the DVD case, his character is referred to as "Steve Fisher," who was actually the writer of the film. And there are no features whatsoever - the only two options are "watch the movie" and "scene selections." The film jumps from a child playing the part of 11-year old Joe to a 40-year old Cochran playing Joe at age 20 and beyond with not so much as an attempt to make him look older as the story progresses. One bonus however, is the appearance of John Dennis (Sgt. Ike Galovitch in "From Here to Eternity") in a minor role as one of Murder Incorporated's thugs. If Steve Cochran is one of your favorite performers, you should purchase this product only because, unfortunately, very little of his work is available on DVD. If you're not, take a pass on this cheapie."