ⓘ The Sicilian Clan


ⓘ The Sicilian Clan

The Sicilian Clan is a 1969 French gangster film based on the novel by Auguste Le Breton. The film was directed by Henri Verneuil and stars Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura and Alain Delon, whose casting led to the films box-office success in France. Ennio Morricone completed the score for the picture.


1. Plot

In Paris, jewel thief Roger Sartet escapes from custody with the help of the Manalese, a small-time but well-organised Sicilian Mafia clan led by patriarch Vittorio and which includes his sons Aldo and Sergio and son-in-law Luigi. In prison, Sartet got to know an electrician involved in setting up an extensive security system at a diamond exhibition in Rome - the electrician returned home early, unannounced, caught his wife in bed with a lover and shot them. Unaccustomed to prison life, he made friends with Sartet and bit-by-bit supplied him with details of the exhibition and its security system.

Vittorio and a fellow Mafiose, Tony Nicosia of New York City, go to the exhibition, only to find that changes make a simple robbery difficult. Furthermore, the exhibition hall is near a police station. Nicosia instead comes up with a plan to steal the diamonds while they are en route to another exhibition in New York and sends over Jack, an alcoholic, in order to pass on the details.

Meanwhile, Commissaire Le Goff pursues Sartet with unbridled determination - the gangster having killed two of his men in cold blood during an earlier arrest. Guessing that Sartet needs false papers in order to leave the country, Le Goffs enquiries lead him to the Manalese and their arcade game business which serves as a cover for their illegal activities. While he questions Vittorio, Sartet slips out of the building, under Le Goffs nose.

Jeanne, the wife of Vittorios son Aldo and an able crook, becomes fascinated by Sartet. She has always felt out of place as the only French person in the Sicilian clan. While hiding out, she attracts Sartets attention by sunbathing nude but as they kiss they are seen by Luigis six-year-old son Roberto. Jeanne gets the boy to promise not to mention it to anyone.

In Rome, the gang discreetly kidnap Edward Evans, the insurance man sent to oversee the transfer of the diamonds to New York. Sartet takes his place and joins the other officials accompanying the diamonds on a regular scheduled flight. Among the passengers joining the plane are Jack, Jeanne, Vittorio and his sons. Things almost go wrong when Evans wife turns up, but Vittorio leads her to believe that her husbands same numbered flight is on the following day.

Having failed to contact, Mrs Evans goes to the police. At police HQ, she identifies Sartet as one of the men she saw on the plane. Meanwhile, the plane is making its descent towards New York when the gang hijacks the aircraft.

Warned of Sartets imminent arrival in the United States, the local police race to the airport while the plane lands on a highway which has been closed off by gangs local members. Other Mafia men waiting in cars unload the diamonds from the plane and split up, Jack for Canada and the Manalese for Paris. Intending to move to Veracruz, Sartet hides out in New York while awaiting his share of the proceeds.

Back home, late one evening, the Manalese are watching a film which includes a scene of a couple making out. Roberto exclaims that it looks just what Sartet has done with Jeanne. Jeanne denies the affair but the others tend to believe it. They lure Sartet back to Paris with the promise to give him his share. Jeanne calls Sartets sister Monique to warn him of the trap. Monique await him at the airport but learns that he boarded an earlier flight.

Sartet contacts Vittorio for his share in the jewelry loot meets him, accompanied by Jeanne, on a quiet road outside town. Vittorio shoots both him and Jeanne dead. Leaving both bodies, along with Sartets money for the police to take care of, Vittorio returns home but is arrested there by Le Goff.


2. Cast

  • Andre Pousse as Malik
  • Sydney Chaplin as Jack
  • Christian de Tilliere as Jean-Marie Ballard, the electrician
  • Bernard Musson as the gendarme during Sartets transfer
  • Danielle Volle as Monique Sartet
  • Irina Demick as Jeanne Manalese
  • Philippe Baronnet as Luigi
  • Amedeo Nazzari as Tony Nicosia
  • Jean Gabin as Vittorio Manalese
  • Alain Delon as Roger Sartet
  • Cesar Chauveau as Roberto
  • Marc Porel as Sergio Manalese
  • Edward Meeks as the airline captain
  • Yves Brainville as the examining magistrate
  • Lino Ventura as Commissaire Le Goff
  • Elisa Cegani as Maria Manalese
  • Karen Blanguernon as Theresa
  • Yves Lefebvre as Aldo Manalese
  • Sally Nesbitt as Mrs. Evans

3.1. Production Development

The film was based on a novel, the second in a series of books by Auguste Le Breton who had written Rififi. The first had been filmed by Bernard Borderie as Brigade antigangs 1966. Film rights to The Sicilian Clan were bought by Henri Verneuil, who teamed with Jacques-Eric Strauss and signed a deal with 20th Century Fox.

Verneuil wrote a screenplay with Pierre Pelegri and then Jose Giovanni. Verneuil wrote the two lead roles with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon in mind - he had worked with both men before. As they wrote he decided that the part of the police officer was another strong role and decided to cast Lino Ventura, who had made his film debut in Touchez pas au grisbi 1954 starring Gabin.

Irina Demick was unhappy with the role of her character in the film compared to the novel where she was a lot more active, taking part in the hijacking scene. Verneuil felt the actor would not be believable doing this, but she had considerable influence as she was the then-mistress of the head of Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck. So Verneuil rewrote the scene so that Demicks characcter takes part in the hijacking as a stewardess.


3.2. Production Shooting

Second unit filming started in New York in March 1969. Dialogue scenes started in March 24 at the "Franstudio" in Saint-Maurice. The film was shot in two versions - French and English.

At the time, Delon was involved in a real-life scandal, the Markovic affair, in which his former bodyguard Stevan Markovic had been found murdered.


4. Reception

In the book French Cinema: From Its Beginnings to the Present, author Remi Fournier Lanzoni wrote, "This gangster film reinvented the classic gangster genre, elevating it to a higher level with its hard-boiled acting, deep character studies, and attractive photography."


Accoding to the New York Times the film "has its occasional momemnts. but mostly its a tired example of a tired genre." The Los Angeles Times said it "winds up seeming more corny and contrived than witty and ironic."

Box office

The film was the third most popular movie of the year in France in 1969 after Once Upon a Time in the West and The Brain.

According to Fox records, the film required $7.925.000 in rentals to break even and by 11 December 1970 it had earned rentals of $9.250.000. By September 1970 it had made Fox a profit of $533.000.