(1968)2.5Brian J. DillardAlthough its reputation can't help but pale in comparison to the cultural juggernaut that is The Godfather, this earlier mafia film infuses a simpler tale with similar moral complexity. Kirk Douglas and Alex Cord turn in fine performances as Frank and Vince, a pair of orphaned Mafia princes who find themselves on opposite sides of an internecine struggle with modernization. Like many gangster movies, The Brotherhood serves as an extended metaphor of the immigrant experience. Frank, with his long-suffering Italian wife (an impressive Irene Papas), represents the first generation while Vince, with his deliberately bland American bride (Susan Strasberg), embodies the second. Vince may immerse himself in an increasingly scientific approach to white-collar crime while Frank retreats to his Sicilian homeland, but their conflict inevitably gets settled the old-fashioned way. With its flashback structure, Lewis John Carlino's script extracts an air of escalating tension even from the film's opening scenes. The violence, when it occurs, is unsettling precisely because of its scarcity and intensity. The cinematography, by Amerigo Gengarelli and Boris Kaufman, may seem downright cheerful by today's post-Coppola, post-Sopranos standards. But by thrusting his film's abrupt denouement into the sun-kissed merriment of a family celebration, director Martin Ritt underscores the simultaneous pull and powerlessness of tradition.