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Max Monetti is consumed with vengeance for his brothers after their betrayal of his father Gino. But after remembering his past, especially his relationship with Irene Bennett, Max realizes that his father had caused all the tension within the family and makes peace with his brothers.
In 1939, after serving seven years in prison, attorney Max Monetti returns to his deceased father Gino's trust and loan association in the East Side New York Italian neighborhood in which he grew up. His brothers, Joe, now the president of the bank, and Antonio and Pietro, the vice-presidents, welcome him with champagne, a cigar and a thousand dollars. Max refuses his brothers' offer of friendship and throws the money in the trash. After Max leaves, Tony is about to call a hit man, but Joe says they will keep it in the family. Max goes to the chic apartment of Irene Bennett, who is overjoyed when she comes home to find him in the shower. When she learns that he plans to carry out a vendetta against his brothers, however, Irene implores him to start over with her in San Francisco. The couple quarrel, after which Max returns to the old family house, where he sits beneath a portrait of Gino. As he plays his father's favorite opera record, Max remembers the past: In 1932, Gino acts like a beneficent despot to the neighborhood folk, making snap decisions concerning loans and terms of interest without maintaining sufficient written records. He treats Joe like a servant and insults the weak-willed Tony and Pietro, who works as a guard. During a family dinner, Max receives a call from Irene Bennett, a sultry new client who hired him that afternoon to take care of a matter involving an ex-lover. When she tells him it is an emergency, he goes to her apartment, where she attempts to get him to go to San Francisco with her. Although he is engaged to a beautiful Italian girl, Maria Domenico, Max soon begins an affair with Irene. When Maria's mother complains before the family about Max's affair, Gino counters that what a man does before marriage is nobody else's business. Maria vows never to marry anyone else and agrees to Gino's suggestion of a wedding the week after Easter, then kisses Max passionately. That night, Irene feels Max is preoccupied and tells him it will be their last night together. After not hearing from Irene for a week, Max goes to her apartment, where he meets Danny, to whom she has become engaged. Irene stops Danny and Max from fighting and tells Max that his father has been calling. At the bank, Gino tries to explain to a mob of customers that the state has closed it because he did not require collateral for the loans he has made. Although he promises that they will get their money, he is beaten until Max arrives and hurries him into the building. Max learns that Gino could be indicted on twenty-two counts, each of which carries a one-year sentence, because he has not recorded many of his transactions. Gino vows to sell everything to pay back his customers, but Max says that will not be enough to clear him. Max gets the idea to divide responsibility for the bank between Gino and the other three brothers, so that nothing definite can be pinned on any of them. Joe bitterly complains that Gino has always treated him as a servant and refuses. Pietro, upset that Gino has always called him "dumbhead," and Tony, who does not want to stick his neck out, go along with Joe. Gino berates them and agrees with Max that he has a "house of strangers," not sons. In court, Max represents Gino, who loses his temper when the prosecutor calls him a "lecherous moneylender and a disgrace to decent Italian Americans." Later, Max gives Joe an envelope filled with money to bribe the one seemingly sympathetic juror, but Joe refuses. Afterwards, Irene tells Max that she does not love Danny and used him because she was hurt. Max kisses her and she drives him to the juror's apartment in a run-down part of town. The juror is tempted by the bribe, as she is a widow with children, but she ultimately refuses the envelope. As he walks out the door, Max is placed under arrest by police for attempted bribery. At the bank, Gino learns that his wife, to whom he signed the bank over for protection, has herself signed it over to the three brothers. When Joe laughs at him in derision, Gino tries to choke him, but Pietro pulls him off. Swearing a vendetta, Gino visits Max in prison and tells him that Joe informed the police about the bribe and that Tony now plans to marry Maria. Max then reluctantly agrees to Gino's pleas that he take revenge upon his brothers. When Gino dies in 1934, Max is given a pass to visit the house, where the family surrounds Gino's body as it lies in state. Under Gino's portrait, Max stares intently at Joe, then bites his thumb, the sign of the vendetta. Theresa rebukes him, saying she now has no husband or family, and in Italian orders him to go. His reminiscences ended, Max converses with Gino's portrait and suggests a way to get back at his brothers: he could entice Maria, who has married Tony, to leave him and take their child with her, then create a scandal at the bank so that Joe would be indicted. Joe's wife would then leave him and Pietro would be lost. Max decides, however, that Joe can have the bank, Tony can have Maria, and Pietro, his job, as Max now has Irene. Max calls Irene as she is preparing to go to the airport, and she cries when he asks her to pick him up so they can go together. The brothers then arrive and Joe says he does not want to live with the worry that Max will take revenge on their families or the business. On Joe's orders, Pietro brutally beats Max until Tony says to stop. Joe then has Pietro carry Max upstairs, saying he learned from Gino to finish off the other guy while he is down. When Joe orders him to throw Max off the balcony, however, Pietro hesitates. Joe repeatedly calls Pietro "dumbhead," until Pietro puts Max down and chokes Joe. Max convinces him not to force Joe over the side by saying that he will be doing what Gino wants if he kills Joe. Irene soon arrives, and Max, smiling, gets into her convertible and they drive off.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 30 Jun 1949|
|Release Date:||1949||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
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This is a very solid movie. Not a feel-good movie, more a glimpse into the life of a very dysfunctional family. You can't help rooting for all the...