An Offer You Can’t Refuse #17: Murder, Inc. (dir by Stuart Rosenberg and Burt Balaban)


We all know the famous line from The Godfather.  “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”  Of course, everyone also knows that “It’s not personal.  It’s strictly business.”  There’s another line that’s almost as famous: “One lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns.”  That line comes from Mario Puzo’s novel.  It’s never actually used in the film though it’s certainly present as a theme.

The idea of organized crime essentially being a huge corporation is hardly a new one.  In fact, it’s become a bit of a cliche.  Nearly every gangster film ever made has featured at least one scene where someone specifically compares their illegal activities to the day-to-day business of politicians and CEOs.  However, just because it’s a familiar analogy, that doesn’t make it any less important.  It’s hard not to think of organized crime as being big business when you consider that, in the 30s and the 40s, the mafia’s assassination squad was actually known as Murder, Inc.

Murder, Inc. was formed in Brooklyn, in the 30s.  It was founded and initially led by a man named Lepke Buchalter.  Lepke was a gangster but, because he was Jewish, he couldn’t actually become a made man.  However, he used that to his advantage when he created Murder, Inc.  The organization was largely made up of non-Italians who couldn’t actually become official members of the Mob.  The major mafia families would hire Murder, Inc. to carry out hits because they knew that, since none of the members were made men, they wouldn’t be able to implicate any of the families if they were caught by the police.

It was a good idea and Lepke and his band of killers made a lot of money.  Of course, eventually, the police did catch on.  A member of the organization by the name Abe Reles was eventually arrested and agreed to be a rat.  Lepke went to the electric chair.  Reles ended up falling out of a window.  Did he jump or was he thrown?  It depends on who you ask.

19 years after Reles plunged from that window and 16 years after Lepke was executed, their story was told in the 1960 film, Murder, Inc.  Lepke was played by David J. Stewart while Reles was played by Peter Falk.  The film is told in a documentary style, complete with a narrator who delivers his lines in a rat-a-tat-tat style.  We follow Reles as he goes to work with Lepke and as he harasses a singer (Stuart Whitman) and his wife (May Britt), forcing them help him carry out a murder and then allowing them to live in a luxury apartment on the condition that they also let Lepke hide out there.  (It’s probably not a surprise that a professional killer wouldn’t turn out to be the best houseguest.)  Eventually, a crusading DA (Henry Morgan) and an honest cop (Simon Oakland) take it upon themselves to take down Murder, Inc.

To be honest, there’s not a whole lot that’s surprising about this film but it’s still an entertaining B-movie.  The black-and-white cinematography and the on-location filming give the film an authentically gritty feel.  The action moves quickly and there’s enough tough talk and violent deaths to keep most gangster aficionados happy.  The best thing about the film is, without a doubt, Peter Falk’s portrayal of Abe Reles.  Falk is magnetically evil in the role, playing Reles as a man without a soul.  Even when Reles finally cooperates with the police, the film leaves no doubt that he’s only doing it to try to save himself.  Falk plays Reles like a tough guy who secretly knows that his days are numbered but who has convinced himself that, as long as he keeps sneering and threatening people, the rest of the world will never figure out that he’s been doomed all the time.  The more people he kills, the higher Reles moves up in the corporation and the more he tries to take on the look of a respectable member of society.  But, no mater how hard he tries, Reles always remains just another violent thug.  Falk was deservedly Oscar-nominated for his performance in this film, though he ultimately lost the award to Spartacus‘s Peter Ustinov.

Murder, Inc. may be a low-budget, B-movie but it’s also a classic of gangster cinema.  It’s an offer you can’t refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone
  16. Love Me or Leave Me

 

Horror On TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.20 “The Sentry” (dir by Seymour Robbie)


Tonight on Kolchak….

There’s something on the loose underneath Chicago!  Could it be a …. killer lizard!?  Kolchak’s on the story!

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and this was the final episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  Darren McGavin, of course, would later go on to epitomize the ideal middle American father when he played The Old Man in A Christmas Story.

This finale originally aired on March 28th, 1975.

I hope you have enjoyed this October’s trip down Kolchak Lane!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.19 “The Youth Killer” (dir by Don McDougall)


Tonight on Kolchak….

There’s a new dating service in Chicago!  It’s only for the hot, single, and young!  So, why are some of the members turning up dead and suddenly old?  Could it be that the owner of the dating service has a less-than-ethical way of remaining young!?

Carl Kolchak is going to find out!

This episode aired on March 14th, 1975.  It’s not one of the better episodes but, as always, Darren McGavin is a lot of fun in the role of Kolchak.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.18 “The Knightly Murders” (dir by Vincent McEveety)


Tonight on Kolchak….

The armor of a 12-century knight is possessed and determined to keep anyone from harming the museum in which it is currently housed.  This includes anyone who might want to build a nightclub nearby.  With the armor trying to prevent Chicago from enjoying disco, it’s up to Carl Kolchak to report the story and solve the case!

I like this episode because it features a holy ax.

This episode originally aired on March 7th, 1975.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.17 “Legacy of Terror” (dir by Don McDougall)


Tonight, on Kolchak….

All across Chicago, people are losing their hearts …. literally!  A string of murders are all connected by the fact that the heart has been cut out of the body.  Could it be the work of an Aztec death cult that’s being led by a centuries-old mummy!?

Carl Kolchak is going to find out!

The episode originally aired on February 14th, 1975.  Wow!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Kolchak 1.16 “Demon In Lace” (dir by Don Weis)


Tonight, on Kolchak….

Young college students are dying of heart attacks and Carl Kolchak is on the case!  Could it be just a coincidence?  Could it be drugs?  Could it be anything other than a Sumerian demon?  Well, if you know Kolchak, you already know the answer to that question!

This episode originally aired on February 7th, 1975.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.15 “Chopper” (dir by Bruce Kessler)


Tonight on Kolchak….

There’s a headless man riding a motorcycle, using a sword to behead members of a rival motorcycle gang!  And …. well, really what else do you need to know?  When a headless cyclists start killing people, you don’t worry about why.  There is a reason however and everyone’s favorite nervous journalist is going to find out what it is!

This episode originally aired on January 31st, 1975!

Enjoy!

Horror On TV: Kolchak The Night Stalker 1.14 “The Trevi Collection” (dir by Don Weis)


Tonight on Kolchak….

After witnessing the murder of an informant, Kolchak finds himself being targeted by the mob!

Of course, after some of what Kolchak has been through, a simple Earth-bound threat like the Mafia would be a nice change of pace.  However, Kolchak soon discovers that he’s also got a witch after him!  With the help of a model (Lara Parker), Kolchak sets out uncover the witch at the heat of Chicago’s fashion industry!

This episode originally aired on January 24th, 1975.

Enjoy!

Horror On TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.13 “Primal Scream” (dir by Robert Scheerer)


Tonight on Kolchak….

What happens when an oil company discovers new, undefined organic matter in the arctic circle?

Well, first off, they mishandle it and it ends up turning into a prehistoric, killer ape-man.

Secondly, it’s time for a corporate cover-up!

Fortunately, the world’s greatest (if unluckiest) journalist, Carl Kolchak, is on the case!

Anyway, this is an okay episode of Kolchak.  If I don’t seem as enthused about it as I’ve been about some of the previous episodes, it’s because a killer, prehistoric ape-man just isn’t as much fun as a Cajun demon or a killer robot.  Still, this episode has a nicely done, underground tunnel-set climax.  Seriously, you can’t go wrong with an underground tunnel.

This episode originally aired on January 17th, 1975.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1.12 “Mr. R.I.N.G.” (dir by Gene Levitt)


Tonight on Kolchak….

After annoying his editor one too many times, Carl Kolchak has been assigned to write obituaries.  However, you can’t keep a good reporter down and, when Kolchak comes across the mysterious death of a scientist, Kolchak decides to investigate on his own.  Kolchak’s defeated vampires, werewolves, Cajun demons, and serial killers.  How will he do against something made by the government?

This episode originally aired on January 10th, 1975.

Enjoy!