Review: Gian Maria Volontè as Lucky Luciano Makes this Blu-ray Edition a Must

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 28, 2021

The monster success of Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" in 1972 brought a slew of mob films to the local cinemas, mostly of lesser quality ("The Godfather Part II" being the notable exception). One year later, Francesco Rosi's docu-bio-crime-drama, "Lucky Luciano" (most likely planned before "The Godfather" hit) was released, and proved to be less a glorification of the mafia than an indictment of both the American and Italian governments. It's also quite an enjoyable film, in large part thanks to Gian Maria Volontè's charismatic, understated performance as Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Rosi's deft direction.

Lucky Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania) was one of the most powerful crime bosses of the 20th century and Rosi's film illuminates some of the reasons why.

The film opens as Lucky is being released from U.S. prison in 1946 after serving time for murder. He's pardoned by N.Y. Governor Dewey, the same politico who condemned him, and sent back to Sicily. Through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards his story unfolds, and we are privy to how he arranged the "Night of Sicilian Vespers," where 40 crime bosses across the U.S. were assassinated, making him capo. He then went on to create the largest international criminal organization (with the trafficking of heroin being the main source of income), and eluded capture throughout. An ambitious agent from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Charles Siragusa (oddly portrayed by Siragusa himself) pursues him, to no avail.

The film's screenplay (by Rosi, Lino Iannuzzi, Tonino Guerra, and Jerome Chodorov) too often glosses over areas it should spend more time on (like Lucky's time in the U.S.) and vice versa (the too-many Siragusa scenes). Barry Levinson's Director's Cut of "Bugsy" is the high standard of bio-gangster movies of the period. And this would make a perfect companion piece to that film.

What the movie excels at is pointing the finger at both countries and their complicity in creating and sustaining Mafia rule. The U.S., for instance, appointed known mobsters as town mayors during WWII. Institutionalized corruption in both countries kept certain kingpins, like Meyer Lansky and Luciano, walking around because it suited their needs.

Once again, Rosi works with the top-notch team of cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis and composter Piero Piccioni to create the perfect look and sound for the film, and the Kino Lorber 4K transfer and restoration looks period perfect. The audio is also good, with little dubbing issues.

The extra is an audio commentary with film critic Simon Abrams, who speaks very speedily and tosses a lot of info at us, including some interesting political tidbits.

The film is in English and Italian with English subtitles.

DVD Extras Include:

  • 4K Restoration from the Original Camera Negative
  • New Audio Commentary by film critic and Author Simon Abrams
  • Trailers

    "Lucky Luciano" is available on Blu-ray on September 28.

    Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.