Le Clan des Siciliens (1969)
aka: The Sicilian Clan
A film directed by Henri Verneuil

Genre: Crime / Thriller

Review published:


Le Clan des Siciliens photo
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…
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

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 (1971). Delon is once again the cold-blooded, trenchcoat wearing hoodlum, a virtual reprise of his portrayal in Le Samouraï (1967). 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 is arguably 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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If you like Le Clan des Siciliens you may also like: Ten Little Indians (1965), Cry Terror! (1958), Compartiment tueurs (1965) and Police Python 357 (1976).
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