Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Delon, Gabin et le Clan des Siciliens

We like a good French thriller and Henri Verneuil's THE SICLIAN CLAN is certainly a corker. It re-teams, in 1969, Alain Delon and Jean Gabin with director Verneuil, the trio had also delivered a very satisfying stylish thriller, in lush black and white widescreen, in 1963's MELODIE EN SOUS SOL, That was about robbing a casino in Cannes - this one is only hi-jacking a passenger airline carrying an expensive cargo of jewels. One laughs aloud at the audacity of it, but they carry it off .... and its astoundingly well done. Ennio Morricone's score is a perfect fit too, The film has not dated at all, and still works now with those three icons of the French thriller genre.

Hi-jacking the airplane is perhaps too easy, compared to now, and there is certainly an extra frisson now seeing the plane being diverted over New York city to where they land it on a closed highway when the gang's associates are waiting to get those jewels ...

We start with weary (as usual) Lino Ventura as police inspector Le Goff on the trail of cold-blooded murderer Sartet (Delon) who has shot two policemen. Sartet makes a daring escape from that police van with a miniture drill and is soon hidden away by the Manalese clan, who need him for their latest robbery. Headed by Gabin impassive as ever here, as Vittorio Manalese the mobster who controls his enterprises and his family with an iron hand - family includes two sons and a daughter-in-law, Irina Demick. I like the all red and white 60s apartment where they hide Delon, who feeling frustated after two year's inside, is soon cosy with a local prostitute in a shabby hotel, but of course Le Goff''s team are on his trail and he makes another daring escape.

Gabin teams up with an old associate from New York and they inspect the jewel exhbition they are interested in and its security arrangements. We think this is going to be yet another ordindary hoist - but no, the only way to get the jewels will be to intercept it on the flight to New York. This will be a major enterprise but they have the means and the know-how. Things get complicated though when Delon and Demick are caught in a compromising position by the old man's grandson .... 
After the robbery the gang disperse to various destinations, with Delon staying in New York, but is lured back to Orly airport in Paris, to collect his share of the loot, only it does not work out like that. Le Goff is also waiting, and the final showdown features Delon and Gabin with Demick in between - who, if any will survive. Its a lot more complex than this, with a large cast, and is certainly an enjoyable treat now. What though happened to 'Mr Evans' the Englishman needed on the flight, whom the gang intercept when he arrives and Delon takes his place - will the plane take off before Mrs Evans who has been trying to find him realises something is wrong and is interviewed by Le Goff and she sees that photo of Delon/Sartet on the wall? 
Verneuil is an ace hand at thrillers, with maybe not the depth of those Melville classics like LE SAMOURAI or LE FLIC or LE CERCLE ROUGE (see Thrillers/French labels for reviews). We like this one a lot and it will bear re-viewing as I want to share it with friends.
Next French: maybe Delon and Signoret in THE WIDOW COUDERC, from Simenon, in 1971. 

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