Sentenced to 15 years in prison, former mob "button man" Joe Valachi turns informant when he learns top Mafia capo Vito Genovese has put a $100,000 contract out on his life.
When you think of mafia movies, you usually circle around three films in particular. There is Goodfellas, Casino, and of course The Godfather. There is not a year that goes by that I don't watch these three particular films. The storytelling, characters, and filmmaking are all top notch and have all become iconic symbols in cinema to this day. The Godfather came out in 1972, which changed the landscape of moviemaking and set the bar very high for gangster movies. Little do most people know that in the same year of 1972, a very similar film came out called The Valachi Papers, that featured the lives of an Italian mafia that was made by Terence Young (Dr. No).
A ton of the stories and even scenes have big similarities with The Godfather with similar killings in restaurants, references to dead fish, and more. However, The Godfather was told on a grander scale with better dialogue and actors. That doesn't mean that The Valachi Papers is bad. On the contrary, it has a lot going for it in the extreme violence area, and a good performance from Charles Bronson as Joe Valachi. The film starts off in prison where Joe Valachi and his crime boss are in prison for their crimes as Valachi's story is told via flashbacks.
We see Valachi grow up as a rebellious kid who then turns to a life of crime with the bad Italian mafia family as he works his way up the ladder. Through murders, thievery, betrayals, and a marriage, Valachi tries to evade the police from becoming an informant on his colleagues. It's a fun story for sure, however the focus is on the violence and the mafia family. There are mentions of Valachi's wife and family, however it's placed on the back-burner for the duration of the film.
Bronson plays a stone cold killer very well. His facial expressions are cold and brutal, which fit his character for sure, but it doesn't go any further than that. The Valachi Papers is a gangster film that stands on its own from The Godfather, but may lack the storytelling and brilliant characters from the latter.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
The Valachi Papers comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc that is Region A Locked from Twilight Time and is limited to 3,000 copies. There is an insert of a booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo on the film. The disc is housed in a clear, hard plastic case.
The Valachi Papers comes with a good 1080p HD transfer and is presented 1.78:1 aspect ratio. For being a film that came out in 1972, this new digital transfer looks mighty good. The fancy mafia suits look incredible here with individual stitching and nice textures showing up nicely. Other vivid details show beads of sweat on the actor's faces in the hot prison, the grime and dirt on the metal bars, and individual hairs in Bronson's gray hair.
Colors are well balanced, but have a darker look. The blue prison uniforms are rich and deep where the musty look of the old restaurant are steeped in nice yellows and browns. There are a lot of earthy colors here, which fit the film. Black levels are deep and inky and skin tones are always natural. There were no major issues with banding or aliasing here, leaving this video presentation with good marks.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 1.0 mono mix that engulfs the ferocity of this audio track. Gun shots are loud and pack a punch and never have that tin can sound. There is actually some heft to it. Dialogue is always clear and mostly easy to follow, but it's best to keep the English subtitles on with this one.
The score by the amazing Riz Ortolani always adds to the suspense in each scene without drowning out any other audio aspect. In fact, you can choose a score only track option in the main menu. Lastly, there were no pops, cracks, or hiss here.
Partial Isolated Music Track - You can listen to the score only track here in 2.0.
Twilight Time Booklet - Here we have an essay on the film by Julie Kirgo.
The Valachi Papers is solid Italian gangster film that has rough violence and a good story that was based on the true story of Joe Valachi. You'll immediately think of better films like Goodfellas or The Godfather, the latter coming out the same year as The Valachi Papers, but there's enough here to have a good time with these criminals for a short while. Charles Bronson turns in a good performance, however, there are a ton of other characters who only receive a few seconds of screen time. It's more about the violence and betrayals here than it is about character development. The video and audio presentations are both great here, but there are no extras, which is unfortunate. If you're a fan of the mafia genre, this one is Worth A Look.