1972.09.01: Movie Review: The Godfather (Red Tide)

[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/]

Red Tide, Vol. II, No. 1 [Issue #5], September 1972
Movie Review: The Godfather
[By Michael Letwin]

By now, a lot of people have seen the GODFATHER. The movie is about the Corleone family of New York, one of the five families in the city. It takes place during the 40’s and 50’s. The movie is very accurate in describing the business ceremonies and motives behind the Mafia. There is the Godfather, played by Marlon Brando, and old gangster from way back, who is head of the Corleones, and his four sons who help him run the business.

At the beginning of the film, the Corleone family is the most powerful family in New York, but as the movie goes on and the Godfather does not want to become involved in narcotics for fear of losing his contacts in legislation, the family goes steadily down hill. As narcotics is making a fortune, several members of the family get killed (they buy off a police captain who is also killed), are finally driven out of business in New York, and have to flee to Las Vegas, to take up the gambling business.

There are all kinds of gory scenes in the film to tantalize our imaginations. One guy gets stabbed in the hand so he is pinned to the table, while being strangled from behind. Another gets shot in the eye, etc. All through it we are made to feel sorry when a gangster is killed, as if they deserve our sorrow.

In some ways the Mafia is portrayed as bad, in some ways not so bad, so let’s look at what in reality the Mafia is.

The Mafia, in essence, after all the glamor and horror is pushed aside for a minute, is a business operation, not really different from other business operations. In order to grow and profit, it buys off public officials, police officers, politicians, legislators, tax agents, etc., so economics is the basis of its power, not the occasional rub-out or “contract” that is put out on an enemy, and glamorizes it in the mind of the public.

The Mafia deals in a different kind of goods and services than legal businesses: heroin instead of bombs, gambling instead of high rents, rub-outs instead of political assassinations carried out or backed by the U.S. government (Che Guevara, George Jackson, Vietnamese, Native Americans, etc.).

The motive for legal business is profit; the motive for illegal business is profit. When someone gets in the way of the Mafia, they get killed; when legal business can make a profit, they build what they know to be unsafe cars, cigarettes that give people cancer, and unhealthy food.

In Guatemala (South America) in 1954, there was an election and a popular president was elected. Once in power, the government began to nationalize American companies in their country, and distribute the wealth among its people. So John Foster Dulles, the head of the State Dept., sponsored guerrillas with government funds, training and equipment to retake the country militarily and put in an open fascist government that still exists today.

So the apparent different is business procedures, right? But as we have seen above, in many cases the tactics are no different, except that legal business enjoys the sanction of the law.

So what conclusion should we draw from this? What is the difference between legal and illegal capitalists?

Many legal capitalists had once been involved in illegal enterprises, and after making their fortune, went legal. An example of this is Joseph Kennedy (John, Teddy and Bobby’s father), who made his fortune during Prohibition selling illegal liquor, and later invested the money in other things.

Many legal capitalists are still involved in illegal enterprises, and even if they’re not, many manufacturers disobey the law in the practice of their business (e.g., oil spills, Standard Oil, Weyerhaeuser, Mobil Oil, etc.).

The basis for their activities is the same — profit. Neither are concerned with the people’s needs, both are run for a few, and exploit the masses of people.

To show how the Corleones feel about their business, we look at this quote from the movie: “My father is no different from any powerful man,” says one of the Godfather’s sons to his girlfriend. She says, “You’re being naive. Senators and congressmen don’t have people killed.” He replies, “Who’s being naive now?”

What indeed is the difference?

Sources:
1. Seeing the movie.
2. Time Magazine, April 3, 1972.

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