Review

  • I first saw "The Sicilian Clan" at the Mayfair theater in Fresh Meadows, in 1970. A Woody Allen movie was the main feature then, but I went to see "The Sicilian Clan," a great crime movie then and now. The Mayfair, then operated by the Weinstein brothers of Miramax fame, changed in 1974 from showing foreign and off-beat movies to X-rated movies, movies hard-core enough to get the new theater operator sent once to Rikers Island by the Queens DA. The Queens DA at the time, John Santucci, never bothered the wise guys portrayed in "Goodfellas," but then, Santucci never went to jail like his predecessor, former DA Thomas Mackell. In the glossy world of "The Sicilian Clan," the criminals are professionals who make money the old-fashioned way - they plan robberies. The picture starts with members of the Manalese family, arranging for the escape from custody of career criminal Roger Sartet (Alain Delon). Sartet is in big trouble, having killed two policeman during his capture, according to a comment later made by Lino Ventura's character, a tough cop. The escape from the police van is suspenseful, as is most of this movie. "The Sicilian Clan's" plot has the thieves take a hijacked jet to New York. Instead of landing at an airport in Queens, though, the jet lands on an unfinished highway. To show the attention to detail director Henri Verneuil took, as the jet rolls over a bridge, you briefly see dirt from the bridge supports fall down, from the weight of the landing jet. About eight years after I saw this movie, Queens mobsters using inside information robbed the high security vault of Lufthansa airlines at JFK Airport. That robbery and its aftermath are part of the plot of "Goodfellas." In "The Sicilian Clan" Sartet's character has inside information on the burglar alarm installation at the Villa Borghese, where a big jewelry exhibit is taking place. He uses this information to get Jean Gabin's character, the head of the family, involved in the robbery. Thinking it over, Queens in the 1970s was the most appropriate place to see a crime movie like "The Sicilian Clan." A French crime movie that in part imitated what was happening in Queens.