Known as “the Honored Society,” at its place of origin in Palermo and western Sicily, the Mafia was a massive criminal brotherhood that took control of all local governments and businesses in the western part of Sicily. The migration of Sicilians to the United States brought with it many members of “the Family.”
They began to take control of New York’s five boroughs. Mafia organizations then spread to Chicago, New Orleans, Havana, Nevada, Mexico, and other places in the western hemisphere. This episode uses police surveillance films, home movies, and eyewitness accounts to look at the men who control “the Family.”
The first person you see and hear is Jimmy ‘the weasel’ Fratianno, a former Los Angeles boss, who describes his murder of Frank Borgia. He does this in a very matter of fact manner and this sets the tone for the whole series. There are no frills here, which makes it all the more compelling and disturbing.This first episode fittingly introduces the extent of the ‘cosa nostra’ in America.
When law enforcement agencies raided an Appalachian house on November 14, 1957, they found eigthy of the USA’s major crime figures gathered for a conference. As Edgar Croswell states on film, this is when the authorities first appreciated the size of organized crime in America.The documentary then explains how more was learned about the crime network through various figures turning states evidence.
Joseph Valachi was the first ever to do this in 1963, and he was the man who publicly used the name ‘cosa nostra’ (shown through archive footage). The viewer is then introduced to three mafiosi who play the most prominent part in the series, in terms of interview time : Jimmy ‘the weasel’ Fratianno, Gerry Denono and Joey Cantalupe – all mafia figures who have turned informant. Bill Roemer, a former FBI agent, tells a gruesome account of how the mafia dealt with one suspected informer, Jackson.
The programme goes on to give details about ‘the gentle don’, Angelo Bruno. This is an extensive part of this episode and includes archive news and family footage of his murder scene (unpleasant), interviews with law enforcement personnel and one of Bruno’s daughters. No one knows exactly why he was killed but it is believed that it was because of his reluctance to get involved with drugs, and he is the epitomy of the old fashioned organised crime figure – with all its idealised notions that he was somehow ‘honourable’.
His way of running business had passed and his death was the start of a Philadelphia gang war – and interviews and footage reveal that violence is an increasing factor in the way the organisation is run.