With the help of the Malanese family (otherwise known as The Sicilian Clan), a convicted crook and
murderer, Roger Sartet, escapes from a police van which is transporting him to prison.
When he meets the head of the family, the aging gangster, Vittorio Manalese, Sartet suggests
that they join forces in an incredible robbery. The plan is to steal a collection
of jewels which is being transported by aeroplane from Paris to New York.
Inspector Le Goff, who has sworn to bring Sartet to justice, learns of the planned robbery
and attempts to prevent it. Meanwhile, the seeds of mistrust begin to appear between
Startet and Vittorio…
One of the most popular and slickest French crime thrillers of the
1960s, Le Clan des Siciliens
owes its enduring popularity to the fact that it brings together three
giants of French cinema: Jean Gabin, Alain Delon and Lino
Ventura. Director Henri Verneuil had previously pulled off the
casting coup of uniting Gabin and Delon in Mélodie en sous-sol
(1963), but here he had an even greater challenge, juggling not two but
three acting heavyweights. The film works because each of the
three leads is cast according to type. Gabin is ensconced in his
habitual gangster-patriarch role, a precursor to Marlon Brando's Don
Corleone in The Godfather
Delon is once again the cold-blooded, trenchcoat wearing hoodlum, a
virtual reprise of his portrayal in Le Samouraï
And Ventura is the no-nonsense, hard-as-nails law enforcer who looks as
if he may have gradated from the Harry Callahan school of charm and
diplomacy. It's an unbeatable cast line-up and the performances
are faultless - no wonder the film is a classic of French cinema.
Henri Verneuil directed many superb thrillers in the 1960s and 1970s,
following the example of his American counterparts by including more
graphic physical violence and more ambitious action sequences, breaking
with the sedate character-centric thrillers of the past. Le Clan des Siciliens
Verneuil's best thriller, combining the nail-biting suspense of
Hitchcock's films with the directorial panache of Jean-Pierre Melville
(widely acknowledged as the master of the French gangster film).
The meticulously plotted escape sequence at the start of the film and
the jewel robbery in the latter part of the film have a distinctly
Melville-esque aura about them, but they can also be seen as a tribute
to that other great heist movie, Du rififi chez les hommes
(1955). For this film, composer Ennio Morricone created one of
his most memorable and unsettling film scores, a discordant spaghetti
western theme that reminds us that gangster films are really no more
than westerns without horses. Henri Decae's lush cinematography
and some skilful editing make this Verneuil's most visually striking
and suspenseful film. With its stunning production values and
knock-out performances from the three hard men of French cinema, it is
no wonder that Le Clan des Siciliens
was a box office smash, attracting an audience of almost 5 million.
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