I have a confession to make. I love a good gangster movie. Like, really love. While most girls prefer a romance or comedy or even a romantic comedy–I prefer a crime flick. If the crime is organized, even better. That being said, one day while strolling through Wal-Mart I stumbled across one of the best buys in the $5 DVD bin that I could ever imagine (besides the Cashmere Mafia DVD collection series (which has absolutely nothing to do with the real mafia) that I scored for $1 at Target but we’ll talk about that later).
At the top of the discounted pile of movies and cds was “Hollywood vs The Mob: Fact vs Fiction”. I tend to collect crime movies of any kind, especially if they’re on sale. From “The Godfather” to ‘Goodfellas” to “Shottas”, I own them all. This flick was $5 and I couldn’t resist, for 5 bucks it was worth the gamble to see if I’d like it –couldn’t hurt right? Well, needless to say –I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! This DVD showcases Hollywood’s portrayal of the mob vs the real mob and “separates truth from myth”.
“Hollywood vs The Mob: Fact vs Fiction” is a 3 disc DVD series that features all of the greats in mob history. From Lucky Luciano to Meyer Lansky to Al Capone, this DVD is packed with facts that identify the coalition between Hollywood and the underworld.
I found the series to be very informative and thorough in explaining the transition that gangsters and criminals have taken in the eyes of the general viewing public, thanks to Hollywood. Clearly Hollywood responds to what “we the people” want to see and I found it interesting how in the early to mid 1900’s, gangsters and criminals in movies were, rightfully so, considered the outcast, the villains, or the bad guys. I’m not talking Tony Montana “bad”. I’m talking the unpopular bad.
Back in the 1900’s even by Hollywood standards ‘crime tv’ was considered taboo, it wasn’t until the very late 1900’s, as in the 1980’s when the content of gangster films in Hollywood began to shift. The making of films like “Scarface”, a remake of the 1930’s film of the same name, changed the way Americans perceived crime in movies and seemed to glamorize and glorify the gangster. As a matter of fact, from the 80’s until the current, a lot of Hollywood films & television shows decriminalize the criminal and even go so far as to make him appear the hero or robin hood. Its not a far fetched statement to say that Hollywood has perhaps –helped to create a monster. No pun intended.
“Hollywood vs The Mob: Fact vs Fiction” was released in 2008 by Mill Creek Entertainment. It breaks down the similarities and differences of real life mob stories and the ones portrayed in Hollywood movies. It’s categorized as a “docu-drama series” and focuses on Irish, Italian, black & Jewish organized crime as well as explores the history of the American mob in the 20th century.
Of course I had heard of the Meyer Lansky’s, Bugsy Siegel’s, and Al Capone’s of the mafia world, but it wasn’t until I began to research organized crime that I got familiar with the real men behind their notorious personas. This DVD was the perfect score for that. I learned a lot about these guys and how they moved. Not just the Hollywood version, it gave a more in depth look into their street dealings.
This collection is literally over 10 hrs. long so I won’t bore you with a run down of every single chapter but I will say each chapter is worth the watch.
Disc two features the perils of one of my personal favorite all time gangsters Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano. Known as the underworld’s Boss of all Bosses, ‘Lucky’ Luciano was forward in his thinking and moved through the streets like the true gangster that he was. He modernized the mob & established the five New York crime families as well as the Commission. Born Sicilian, Lucky was known to move about various circles outside of the Italian mafia. One of his most trusted associates was Jewish gangster, Meyer Lansky. In those days, mixing mafia business was not the norm as the Italian mafia dealt only with other Italians. Luciano did things his way & certainly did not discriminate when it came down to business. He used anyone of any ethnicity who could help him get money, power & respect. He owned a number of legit businesses throughout the years and prided himself on being a legit business man. He wanted to be considered an upstanding citizen within his community & was always seen in the company of businessmen, politicians & other high society rollers. Under the business man exterior was a street thug. A ruthless, cold-blooded killer. Hence the orchestration of the Commission, later known as Murder Inc.
[PURCHASE THE BOOK] Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend (Gangland Mysteries) by Christian Cipollini
According to the doc, Lucky was a “man’s man” & a charming gentleman with the ladies which I found very intriguing. It’s no wonder I loved Lucky. You know the saying, “good girls love bad boys” –it’s not ideal but its true.
Apparently I was extremely “lucky” to get a copy of this DVD as availability online is scarce. I don’t know what this DVD did to land itself in the discounted bin but I am glad that it did. This documentary is filled with countless hours of old footage and black and white photos which gives the audience a visual look into how mob based movies and their “images” were created by Hollywood.
Another one of my favorite chapters is on disc three & it covers black gangsters and how they came to power in an era of time when the Italian & Jewish gangsters ran the majority of the major rackets in New York City and other major cities.
This chapter highlights the first black Godfather of the New York Black Mafia, “Bumpy” Johnson and describes his rise to wealth and power by way of the numbers rackets. He ruled Harlem & battled anybody that came near his territory, including the Jewish & Italian mafias.
Bumpy was introduced to the rackets by the first black Godmother, Stephanie St Clair, who was a French immigrant of the Caribbean islands. Initially, Johnson was St Clair’s chief enforcer and St Clair ran the 40 Thieves street gang. St Clair eventually introduced him to the game of numbers and the rest was history.
This part of the series also highlights Frank Lucas, another one of the most publicized black gangsters of New York City –by way of Harlem. Lucas was also the protégé of Bumpy Johnson. Frank Lucas made his name dealing heroin and his life later became the subject of another one of my favorite flicks, Hollywood blockbuster “American Gangster” in which Denzel Washington portrayed Lucas.
The chapter goes on to talk about today’s gangs and “familias” and how modern day gang culture influences television, movies and now music.
All in all this DVD kicks ass! — literally. I recommend it to anyone who loves these kinds of movies. Kudos to Mill Creek Entertainment for putting together this very dope docu-series. I love it because it covers the history of these crime families and ties them all together with how Hollywood depicted them in films. It really dissects the two very different worlds and explains how Hollywood has helped sway viewers’ overall perception of the mob over the years. There is no way I could name all of the characters they touched on throughout this film, I’d be here all day.
Whether you’re a crime writer, a “gangster” historian or just a mob movie junkie, “Hollywood vs The Mob: Fact vs Fiction” is a MUST HAVE! I can truly say that it was the best 5 bucks I have spent in a while. Feeling like I got away with highway robbery!!! -Kidding. But no, really.
You should cop a copy if you can get one. BUY: Amazon. I promise it’s worth every red cent! It’s a perfect addition to your gangster flick collection. That’s a fact!
Check out the official trailer:
1. The Mafia Comes to America – Little Caesar
2. The Irish Gangs – The Public Enemy
3. Al Capone’s Chicago Mob – Scarface
4. The Law Gang: AKA the F.B.I. – G-Men
5. Lucky Luciano’s New York Mafia – Marked Woman
6. The Rackets – Loan Shark
7. The Black Mafia – The Black Godfather
8. The Jewish Mafia – The Purple Gang
9. The Godfathers – Honor Thy Father
Got a crime based book or movie that you would like for me to review? CAVALLI COKE ONLINE