Movies From the Black Lagoon: The Boss

Movies From the Black Lagoon
The Boss - 1973, Rated R
By Tom Doty

Palermo mobsters behave like sharks in a feeding frenzy when they begin grappling for power in this intense crime drama from Italian genre King Fernando Di Leo.
Di Leo made three crime classics between 1972 and 1973. These were violent and nihilistic stories that painted the mafia as a horrible way to make a living and rejected the romantic approach of American efforts. These films focused on betrayal and painted mobsters as insecure souls who double-crossed each other with ruthless abandon. It was a stylistic approach that would not be seen on our shores until Martin Scorsese made "Goodfellas" more than a decade later.
The story opens with a whopper of a sequence that sees the heads of Palermo's families wiped out en masse when they attend a private screening of some naughty Swedish Cinema. The men are glued to the screen, literally, after an assassin fires several grenades into the screening room. The killer, Lanzetta, turns out to be the chief henchman for the only family not in attendance, the Corroscos.
The next scene finds all of the surviving goons crying their eyes out at the morgue while they try to figure which body belongs their respective bosses. The goon gets together and decides that Corrosco had to be at the bottom of the attack (giving credence to the theory that the elimination method is the best way to figure out a mystery and it sure helps when all of the other suspects are stains on a screening room wall).
The survivors retaliate by kidnapping Mr. Corrosco's niece, Rina in hopes that her dad, Guiseppe, will pressure Mr. C into trading his life for the woman's. No soap guys. Mr. C turns out to be one of those ruthless fashion plates who's not afraid to dress like Hugh Hefner (in a robe) while rocking a polka dot ascot. The man has no fear. He does, however, have a healthy streak of paranoia and orders Lanzetta to kill Rina's dad if he tries to raise a ransom for her.
Lanzetta does his duty and wipes out Giuseppe after the man raises a half a million Lire for his daughter. He then keeps the dough (he's evil not stupid) and rescues Rina on his own. Soon the rime cartel that runs everything sends a man to mediate this dispute. His efforts only increase the bloodshed and wind up convincing Corresco that the only way out is to kill Lanzetta and blame the whole thing on his corpse. Only problem is Lanzetta's not ready to die though he is hip to how the game works and he's ready to take charge.
This all leads to a triple ending where just about everybody dies and every bridge gets burned. It's well paced fare that benefits from Di Leo's keen sense of pacing as well as his fondness for American actors. Richard Conte (Barsini in "The Godfather") is at his oily best as Corresco. He's slicker than a snot sandwich and just as vile. Henry Silva, however, rules the roost as Corresco's right arm, Lanzetta. He allows the character to be innocent enough at all things love to briefly fall for Rina but he's even better when he's turning on her and splattering everyone he knows with automatic weapons. Silva is the perfect guy to play a sociopath as he always appears to be on the cusp of showing some emotion but manages to resist the urge. Di Leo serves all of this up with a punchy techno score and some of the goriest gun fights this side of a Sam Pekinpah film.
Best Line: " Noting is yours. Not even your daughter. It all belongs to La Famila."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.