Tony Curtis is mesmerizing as Louis “Lepke” Buchalter in Menahem Golan’s epic drama about the feared leader of Murder, Incorporated. A Brooklyn Jewish kid with sticky fingers and ambition, young Lepke soon ends up in reform school. He quickly graduates to labor racketeering and murder, offing Little Augie, a major rival. Along the way, he falls in love with nice Jewish girl Bernice (Anjanette Comer), whose parents insist they marry in a shul. When his partners Albert Anastasia and Lucky Luciano show up uninvited to the wedding party, it is clear to everyone that Lepke is not in the pickle business. The film’s cast of characters reads like a who’s who of New York Jewish gangsters: Dutch Schultz, Gurrah Shapiro, Mendy Weiss, Kid “Twist” Reles and their nemesis, Thomas Dewey. Director Golan explores the cross-cultural Italian/Jewish syndicate, replete with dramatic shoot-ups in Italian restaurants and ethnic insults hurled back and forth. In one of the oddest twists in American crime history, journalist and radio personality Walter Winchell tries to broker a deal to bring in Lepke—then on the lam—on behalf of J. Edgar Hoover. Ultimately, Lepke provides a unique window into the Jewish immigrant experience in the trajectory of a man driven to achieve one version of the American dream.
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