3 February 2002 | JohnnyCNote
Brutal, Violent, Great Fun
Unlike the DePalma picture of the late 80's, this original pilot film for the Untouchables TV show features great performances and really conveys the look and feel of Prohibition era Chicago. Well, it makes you feel as if you were there, whether or not it's all that accurate. Robert Stack once said he didn't so much act as react to the colorful gangsters of the show.
My favorite is Neville Brand, who plays Scarface Al Capone. He's a riot to watch, particularly in the scene where he's berating his lieutenants one moment, then laughing lasciviously the next. Bruce Gordon is Frank Nitti, "The Enforcer". He's crude and brutal, all in all the perfect villain. Watch for the scene where he's working over one of his boys because he can't get Ness and his crew to play ball. Each blow is accented by a musical flourish, while the unlucky victim of his rage sobs and cries out "mama mia! mama mia!".
The TV show dispensed with the Hollywood Italian accents. I can't say whether they'd be offensive to the average Italian-American viewer or not. I do know that the Chicago Outfit, or mob, didn't like it. They went to far as to put a contract on Desi Arnaz, whose studio, Desilu, produced the series. Needless to say, it was never filled.
This will always be one of my favorite gangster films. It's not on the same level as The Godfather, Casino or Goodfellas, Key Largo or Scarface, but it's just as entertaining. It gets a solid Three Stars in my book...