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  Don is Dead, The The Mobfather
Year: 1973
Director: Richard Fleischer
Stars: Anthony Quinn, Frederic Forrest, Robert Forster, Al Lettieri, Angel Tompkins, Charles Cioffi, Jo Anne Meredith, Barry Russo, Louis Zorich, Anthony Charnota, Ina Balin, Joe Santos, Frank DeKova, Abe Vigoda, Victor Argo, Val Bisoglio, Sid Haig, Vic Tayback
Genre: Drama, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mafia men Tony Fargo (Frederic Forrest) and Frank Regalbuto (Robert Forster) have a job to do tonight - sell a stash of heroin to one of their contacts, and to do so have arranged to meet him in a barn out of town. However, as the deal is going down the scene is interrupted by a small gang of armed, masked men who demand them to stop in their tracks and drop their weapons, which doesn't go too well for the gang when Tony's brother Vince (Al Lettieri) opens fire on them from his place of concealment. So it is in the world of the mobster, where violence can erupt at any moment, but Frank's father, the Don, oversees all...

Or he used to at any rate, but before we've even been introduced to him it is announced that he has passed on, of natural causes as far as we can discern. A meeting is held where it is proposed Frank take on the mantle of Don, but there are grumblings that he is too young and inexperienced to really grasp the responsibilities, and the second most powerful man in the organisation, Don Angelo DiMorra (Anthony Quinn, returning to Hollywood after a near-ten-year sabbatical), proposes that he take on the role until Frank has a few more years under his belt. Why, it's just like a business meeting of a multinational corporation, isn't it?

Not unlike a certain other movie that had been out the previous year, one which was a hell of a lot more successful than this one, and you can guess what that was. Was Quinn jealously eyeing Marlon Brando's Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather and hoping this part would catapult himself back into the forefront of the A-list? If he was, he did not choose the right film to opt for, as everyone back in 1973 were wont to point out that The Don is Dead was a self-conscious rip-off of the Francis Ford Coppola blockbuster in a way that Italy had already been capitalising on with cheerful verve and on a fraction of its budget. It had to be said, this effort was a lot more ponderous.

In fact, it was taking itself very seriously for a release that was essentially what could be termed Mobsploitation, despite containing scene upon scene that would have happily adorned a low rent gangster movie of the decade, though it was reluctant to show anything too sexual, in a strangely coy example of what might have been a shot at respectability. No such luck, as the dalliance that kicks off the internal gang war where Don Angelo is persuaded by Frank's aspiring singer girlfriend Ruby Dunne (Angel Tompkins) to have sex as a reward for getting her attention from a record company executive, was presented so very gingerly that you wanted director Richard Fleischer to stop beating about the bush and go full on sleaze with his material, since it deserved that sort of treatment - this was the man who would give us Mandingo two years later, after all.

What he did not stint on was the violence. Ruby is one of only two female characters introduced in the first twenty minutes, and they are both beaten up, Ruby by Frank because someone has gossiped that she paired off with Don Angelo, which leads him to want revenge on this upstart, thereby commencing said gang war. But strings are being pulled by Luigi Orlando (Charles Cioffi), who sees this eruption of murder as extremely useful to his ambitions, basically as it will leave him as the last man standing. And here we had the real reason so many of these actors had signed up for The Don is Dead: remember James Caan's big death scene in The Godfather where he is riddled with bullets? It certainly impressed a lot of performers who wished they could get such an iconic exit, and so it was that here, and not just here by any means, many a macho thespian had themselves set up with blood squibs to do precisely the same thing. Yet just as there would really be only one movie which started a trend, this film was always going to be a follower, not a leader, resembling a miniseries with added red stuff. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.

[Eureka's Blu-ray has the following features:

1080p presentation on Blu-ray | Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation) | Optional English SDH subtitles | Brand new feature length audio commentary by author Scott Harrison | Theatrical trailer | PLUS: A collector's booklet featuring an extensive essay on the crime films of director Richard Fleischer by film writer and journalist Barry Forshaw.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Richard Fleischer  (1916 - 2006)

American director whose Hollywood career spanned five decades. The son of famed animator Max Fleischer, he started directing in the forties, and went on to deliver some stylish B-movies such as Armored Car Robbery and Narrow Margin. His big break arrived with Disney's hit live action epic, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, and which he followed up with such films as The Vikings, Compulsion, Fantastic Voyage, The Boston Strangler, true crime story 10 Rillington Place, See No Evil, cult favourite Soylent Green, Mister Majestyk, Amityville 3-D and sequel Conan the Destroyer. He became unfairly well known for his critical flops, too, thanks to Doctor Dolittle, Che!, Mandingo, The Jazz Singer remake, Red Sonja and Million Dollar Mystery, some of which gained campy cult followings, but nevertheless left a solid filmography to be proud of.

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