If The Valachi Papers had been released before 1972, I am convinced it would have been a huge success at the box office, and today would have been thought of in much higher regard than it is. Sadly, for this Charles Bronson movie The Godfather hit the cinemas in the same year, and because there are a few similarities between the two stories ie mafia, etc, The Valachi Papers floundered slightly because many saw it as an attempt by the filmmakers to cash on the success of The Godfather.

The significant difference between the two movies was that The Godfather was based upon fictionalized characters created by Mario Puzo and possessed true elegance. The Valachi Papers was in contrast a more straight to the point and matter of fact affair, which took its storyline from factual material about real life mobsters.   This is highlighted on the posters for the movie, which state Fact not Fiction. The film opens in the early part of the 1960’s with one of the mob Joseph Valachi  (Charles Bronson) behind bars in state prison where many attempts on his life have been made. It transpires that someone in the organization has talked, and the bosses of the organisation want revenge.

One of the top brass of the mob Genovese (Lino Ventura) seems to think that it is  Valachi. And, as in the time tradition of the mafia a contract has been placed on Valachi’s head. This has the consequence of forcing Valachi to go to the authorities. After this opening the remainder of the movie spends a lot of its time showing Valachi spilling the beans on almost everything and giving his story to the government agents. What follows is a long story about Valachi’s earliest days in the mob (shades of The Godfather ll) which was in the 1930’s, right up to the point where he is arrested and eventually taken to prison.

The movies storyline is given even greater weight and is allowed to unfold because the film is quite long in duration, so the story is explained fully as it were, the movie runs for just over two hours, but its not a film that drags or ever becomes uninteresting it also helps that Charles Bronson is given some excellent support within the movie.  Lino Ventura, for example as the mafia boss, normally the actor being associated with French cinema.


There was nothing that I would call negative about the film other than a few very minor things. Bronson for example was I think to old looking for the movie as the character was supposedly just under thirty years of age. Bronson looks a lot older. Also, a few things on the sets were out of place such as cars that were not from the period in which the movie was set, and the biggest mistake was in a scene where the two towers can clearly be seen under construction., maybe this is all very minor and certainly did not spoil the entertainment value of the picture, but could have been handled a little better.  The movie was to the surprise of many given a PG rating in the States on its release, I say surprising because there is a fair amount of bloody violence in the movie and nudity that includes a lesbian scene.

The rating was changed later to an R.  But the film struggled to receive an ‘X’ certificate in the UK , with the censors imposing heavy cuts on the movie before allowing it to be shown in cinema’s. These included the castration scene, bloody shootings, and the meat hook killing. With the later video and DVD releases restoring the cuts. This would be the third European film that was a collaboration between actor Charles Bronson and director Terence Young the others being Cold Sweat (1970) and the Samurai/Western movie Red Sun (1971). The plot was adapted from the Peter Maas’ novel of the same name that covers the true account of the mafia underworld and organised crime, and included a good solid cast Joseph Wiseman, Walter Chiari, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Angelo Infanti and Amedeo Nazzari, with Jill Ireland playing Valachi’s wife.

 Music was by seasoned Italian Maestro Riz Ortolani, who penned a lyrical sounding theme for the movie and provided it with traditional sounding Sicilian pieces and highly dramatic and driving compositions to underline and enhance the action of screen. Ortolani was like his fellow Italian composers Mario Nascimbene, and Nino Rota popular in both Italy and the USA. Ortolani providing music for films such as Seventh Dawn, The Glory Guys, and The Yellow Rolls Royce. The soundtrack for The Valachi Papers was originally released on the Phillips record label in 1972 but has sadly never seen a compact disc or digital release. It is probably one of Ortolani’s best scores from the 1970’s. And when you consider that the composer was already a popular figure and the movie starred Bronson it is again something of a surprise that the score has never been re-issued.

A Generous Girl

The score is a varied one with the composer writing jazz orientated themes such as A Generous Girl alongside more romantic pieces, such as the movies lush sounding Valachi theme and the music for The Engagement of Joe and Maria, which utilised elements of the Valachi.


The score also including dark and apprehensive cues as in Murder in the Streets and Awaiting, that perfectly underlined the tension of the storyline.


Plus there is the Sicilian flourishes and influences that are present in The Tarantella Party, and the strident and slightly martial sounding Power and Violence which is very much in the style of Morricone. Then we have the haunting and addictive sounding I Te Vurria Vasa performed on solo trumpet in the style of Michele Lacerenza and Nini Rosso. This is a superb score and one that deserves to see the light of day on CD or digital platforms for younger collectors of film music to savour, maybe someday soon it will happen, and we also might see the soundtracks for The Hunting Party and Ciakmull also by Ortolani released?

I Te Vurria Vasa