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BROTHERS RICO, THE (director: Phil Karlson; screenwriters: based on the short story Les Freres Rico by Georges Simenon/Lewis Meltzer/Ben Perry; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Charles Nelson; music: George Duning; cast: Richard Conte (Eddie Rico), Dianne Foster (Alice Rico), Kathryn Grant (Norah Malaks Rico), Larry Gates (Sid Kubik), Paul Picerni (Gino Rico), James Darren (Johnny Rico), Argentina Brunetti (Mrs. Rico), Lamont Johnson (Peter Malaks), Harry Bellaver (Mike Lamotta), Paul Dubov (Phil), Richard Bakalyan (Vic Tucci); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William Goetz/Lewis J. Rachmil; Columbia; 1957)
“Conte’s strong physical presence being challenged by outside dark forces gives the film its noir look.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Phil Karlson (“Kansas City Confidential”/”The Phenix City Story”/”99 River Street”) directs this well-acted but too talky, reactionary and downbeat fatalistic film noir based on the novelette Les Freres Rico by French mystery author Georges Simenon and written by Lewis Meltzer and Ben Perry. The action part kicks in during the last twenty minutes and the crime drama comes to life after the long setup. It was remade for TV as The Family Rico.

The oldest Rico brother Eddie (Richard Conte) left the mob a long time ago, after being their head accountant, to open his own successful legit laundry business in Florida and marry nice girl Alice (Dianne Foster). They are now in the process of adopting a child. Eddie’s middle brother Gino (Paul Picerni) and youngest brother Johnny didn’t see the light and worked inside the mob office until recently graduating to become contract killers, with Gino as the contract killer and Johnny as the driver. After the hit, the national mob gets nervous that Johnny will squeal when he disappears and secretly gets married to a respectable Long Island girl named Norah (Kathryn Grant), whose brother Peter Malaks (Lamont Johnson) has contact with the District Attorney.

The local New York crime ring, headed by genial Rico family friend Sid Kubik (Larry Gates), contacts Eddie to locate his brother Johnny and tell him it’s for the kid’s benefit to get him to Cuba and out of harm’s way. What Eddie doesn’t know is that they have already picked up Gino and eliminated him. Eddie trusts Sid and gets duped into flying to New York and worming it out of his befuddled mother (Argentina Brunetti) that Johnny is hiding out with his pregnant wife in a secluded farmhouse in El Camino, California. Though Mrs. Rico once saved Sid’s life, the crime kingpin betrays the family by having the unsuspecting Eddie followed and Johnny gunned down. The remorseful Eddie decides to get revenge against the syndicate and turn over damaging evidence to the Feds by becoming an informer.

It suffers from a dull visual style (a flat TV-like look), an unquestioning Eisenhower-era belief in the law as above suspicion, and that the violence is so crude. Conte’s strong physical presence being challenged by outside dark forces gives the film its noir look, as he’s confused and impotent to save his brothers from the ruthless gangsters he no longer understands. It’s a moderate thriller lacking noir ambiance but strong on reflecting the ever changing passive mood of the 1950s that brings to the surface an underlying anger that has been hidden for a long time by those good citizens refusing to see or care about those evil big boys in power.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”