“Nothing hurts me, Max; that’s one of my complications.”
The favored son (Richard Conte) of a crooked Italian-American banker (Edward G. Robinson) emerges from jail determined to seek revenge on his resentful brothers (Luther Adler, Paul Valentine, and Efrem Zimablist Jr.) — but as he reflects back on his romance with a beautiful socialist (Susan Hayward) and his engagement to a loyal Italian girl (Debra Paget), he considers the various trade-offs he’s made in his life, and choices become more complex.
Screenwriter Philip Yordan scripted numerous noteworthy outings — including Dillinger (1945), Detective Story (1951), Johnny Guitar (1954), The Big Combo (1955), The Man From Laramie (1955), The Harder They Fall (1956), King of Kings (1961), El Cid (1961), 55 Days at Peking (1963), and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), among many others — in addition to being the “front name” for numerous blacklisted writers. He also penned this intriguing tale, directed (and substantially rewritten) by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, of first generation familial loyalty tested in the face of both broader ethics and romantic interests, a la The Godfather (1972). As with Donald Crisp in Anthony Mann’s The Man From Laramie (1955), the patriarch here (Robinson) is presented as both complicated and somewhat sympathetic, and Robinson’s performance is as nuanced and passionate as one might expect. Unfortunately, the uninteresting romance between Conte and Hayward ends up taking center stage, when what we really want is to see more of his brothers. Luther Adler (acting coach Stella Adler’s real-life brother) is particularly good in the challenging role of a man seeking “justifiable” revenge after being belittled for years; it would be fascinating to hear this entire story from his perspective.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Edward G. Robinson as Papa Monetti
- Luther Adler as Joe Monetti
- Atmospheric cinematography and direction
No, though it’s certainly worth a one-time look.