'Mafioso': The Godfather of All Mafia Movies

Ever wonder where those familiar mafia tropes came from? Look no further than 1962's
Ever wonder where those familiar mafia tropes came from? Look no further than 1962's "Mafioso," with Norma Bengell, left, and Alberto Sordi, center. (Rialto Pictures)

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Are "One" and "Two" first and second in your personal Top 10 (I speak, of course, of "The Godfather")? Are you obsessed still with all things "Sopranos"? Can you quote "Goodfellas" woid for effin' woid? ("One dog goes one way, the other dog goes the other way, and this guy's sayin', 'Whadda ya want from me?' ")

Then you'll want to see "Mafioso," the little-known 1962 movie that -- presciently, hilariously, shockingly -- started it all. The story of Nino Badalamenti (Alberto Sordi), a manager at a Milan Fiat factory who becomes embroiled in a Mafia plot when he visits his family in Sicily, this black-and-white gem takes viewers from Milan to Sicily to New York in a journey that's breathtaking not just geographically but cinematically, taking both a humorous and tough look at the hitherto secret world of organized crime.

Combining the neorealism of his native Italy with acute social commentary and lethal sophistication, director Alberto Lattuada managed to make a movie that defies easy classification. Rialto Pictures has heroically given it the restoration and rerelease it richly deserves. "Mafioso" may have been made in another era, but it stands as a classy, even radical rebuke to the film school posers who keep recycling the same tired gangster tropes.

-- Ann Hornaday

Mafioso Unrated, 99 minutes Contains adult themes and brief violence. In Italian with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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