The Brothers Rico (1957): The life-style of the Mob executive

A late noir from Phil Karlson, The Brothers Rico (1957), although saddled with a lumbering script and a leavening of melodrama that not even fluid camera-work from Karlson and his DP Burnett Guffey can redeem, is for anomalous reasons interesting. The flat monochrome visual style that reflected the growing influence of television in the 50s also flattens the drama, but paradoxically gives the portrayal of Mob operations a ‘corporate’ make-over. Richard Conte an ex-Mob accountant running a legit laundry business in Miami is sucked back into the racket after his two younger brothers fall foul of the Mob. He travels across America by plane and hire-car in a desperate bid to save his siblings. The normality of the executive lifestyle is given a disturbing underlay. Martin Scorcese in a video interview sees the ‘flatness’ in this film as reflecting a sense of unease evident in the zeitgeist of the late 50s in America – things are not as they appear. Legit has a rotten underbelly, and hoods look legit.

These brightly lit frames from the movie are evocative of the movie’s flat corporate feel:

2 thoughts on “The Brothers Rico (1957): The life-style of the Mob executive”

  1. Utterly splendid caps to enhance the contentions you made in your terrific capsule assessment. Certainly that trifecta of Karlson-Guffey-Conte would raise anyone’s serious interest, but I see exactly what you are saying here about lumbering script and melodrama. Yet nice to hear that the film is redeemed by it’s successful supplanting of an institution in a new era. I have not sad to say seen this particular film, but I know Karlsen’s and Guffey’s collaboration on SCANDAL SHEET, and the former’s fine direction of KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL and 99 RIVER STREET.

    Economical, acute and altogether excellent presentation here.


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