Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Sicilian Clan

One more movie that what's left of the Fox Movie Channel is airing in the middle of the night is The Sicilian Clan, tomorrow morning (or overnight tonight depending on your perspective and which time zone you're in) at 4:00 AM.

Alain Delon plays Roger Sartet, a career criminal in Paris whom we see at the start of the movie about to be transferred from a hearing to prison for having killed a policeman in his last crime. Or at least, that's the plan; we can tell from the way the opening is shot that somebody is trying to get Sartet out of jail, and that the escape is going to be made during the transfer. That escape plan involves Sartet drilling through the floor of the van transferring him, and then getting into the plotters' van, which has stopped the police van with the aid of a putatively stalled convertible. Sure, it's unrealistic, but it's also9 entertainingly well-done.

The people plotting to get Sartet out take him to a shop producing primitive electronic games and pinball machines owned by Vittorio Manalese (Jean Gabin). He wants Sartet out because Sartet is useful in what Manalese hopes is going to be the last heist he has to pull off before he can finally buy up all the land he wants to retire to Sicily. That plan involves a whole bunch of jewels that are going on exhibit in Rome. To that end, Vittorio has gotten in touch with his American friend Tony Nicosia (Amedeo Nazzari), who's an expert in security systems. He and Vittorio go to Rome to case the joint where the jewels will be on exhibit, and Tony discovers taht the job is going to be a no-go: there's one new security feature that he hasn't figured out a way to defeat yet.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. The Manalese children are hanging out in the south of France, along with Sartet, waiting for Vittorio to give all of them the go-ahead to do the job. While they're waiting, Sartet falls for Jeanne (Irina Demick), who is Vittorio's daughter-in-law. You just know that relationship is going to cause problems at some point down the road. Also, the police have been working quite diligently on trying to find how Sartet escaped, which includes putting the screws on Sartet's sister. The procedural part of The Sicilian Clan is just as good as the parts where Vittorio and company are planning the heist. There's even a running joke of Commissioner Le Goff (Lino Ventura) trying to give up smoking while investigating this stressful case.

At any rate, with the Rome job off, Vittorio has to come up with a new idea, which turns out to be even more ridiculously unrealistic. The exhibition is going to be going to New York after Rome, so the Manalese family, with Sartet in tow, plan to hijack the plane and escape with the jewels when it lands in New York! As I said, it's unrealistic beyond belief, but this being a movie, they pull it off. Or at least, it looks successful at first; as with any good heist movie, you know that things are eventually going to go wrong.

There's so much about The Sicilian Clan that strains credulity, but damn if it isn't incredibly entertaining. Delon and Gabin are both excellent, with everybody else more than suitable in support of the two leads. The women are all nice enough to look at, but really not much more than eye candy. The only real problem I had with the film was the ending, which didn't quite work for me. But it's not the sort of ending that undoes everything the movie has done in the first hour and a half; instead, it's more like an attempt to tie up loose ends that doesn't ring quite true. Overall, The Sicilian Clan is more than successfully entertaining, if nothing ground-breaking. And there's nothing whatsoever wrong with simply being entertaining.

Amazon suggests that The Sicilian Clan did get released to DVD at some point, and they're even offering it on "Instant video", but the DVD seems to be out of print.

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