Capone (film)

Capone is a 1975 Canadian-American biographical crime film directed by Steve Carver, written by Howard Browne, and starring Ben Gazzara, Harry Guardino, Susan Blakely, John Cassavetes, and Sylvester Stallone in an early film appearance. The film is a biography of the infamous Al Capone.

Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteve Carver
Produced byRoger Corman
Written byHoward Browne
Music byDavid Grisman
CinematographyVilis Lapenieks
Edited byRichard C. Meyer
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • April 6, 1975 (1975-04-06) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
  • United States
  • Canada
  • English
Box office$2 million (US/Canada)[3]


The story is of the rise and fall of the Chicago gangster Al Capone and the control he exhibited over the city during the prohibition years.

On the evening of May 6, 1918, in Brooklyn, two police officers intercept a fur heist in an alleyway. Capone (Gazzara) had tipped off the heist so that he could ambush the cops on arrival. As the officers arrest the men, Capone violently attacks them, and this results in a fight which ends when they throw Capone through a window, resulting in Capone having several scars on the left side of his face. The cops arrest Capone, but before they can interrogate him any further, the Police Lieutenant stops them and lets him loose. As he walks out of the station, Capone is picked up by Solly, an enforcer for racketeers Johnny Torrio (Guardino) and Frankie Yale (Cassavetes). It is revealed that the two men in the fur heist were working for Johnny and Yale, and they decide to put Capone on Johnny's payroll.

A year later, on September 23, 1919, Johnny talks with his boss Big Jim Colosimo (Campanella) about Prohibition - a new law enforcing the eviction of alcohol. Johnny wants Big Jim to invest millions in bootlegging, but Colosimo declines. Johnny calls up Frankie and tells him to send Capone to Chicago. Johnny introduces Capone to co-workers, including Iris Crawford (Blakely). Johnny, despite his affection for his boss, is infuriated that he won't listen to his ideas, and so appoints Capone to murder Colosimo. The next morning, as Colosimo enters his restaurant and tries to call someone, Capone sneaks in and unloads a gun into the back of Colosimo's neck before watching him die.

On June 7, 1920, in Joliet, Illinois, during a deal of out-of-town beer for Edward "Spike" O'Donnell, mobsters led by brothers Frank Gusenberg and Peter Gusenberg - a high-ranking enforcer under command from mobster Dion O'Banion - intercept the deal and murder the dealers, causing suspicion when the 600 barrels of beer Spike O' Donnell ordered do not show up. Capone correctly suspects that Weiss hijacked the deal, and Johnny creates territories all over Chicago: O'Banion Territory, led by O'Banion, will deal in the North Side; Spike O'Donnell will have his own territory in the South Side; The Genna Brothers will deal in Little Italy; and Johnny will occupy the Loop, and rest of the South Side.

On September 5, 1923, as Capone and Johnny are ready to relocate to Cicero, Spike O'Donnell is gunned down by O'Banion's men, eliminating his territory in the South Side. At O'Donnell's funeral, O'Banion threatens to murder the Genna brothers - for whom he has a massive loathing - for encroaching on their territory. That night, O'Banion has Pete and Frank personally execute the family of the Genna Brothers. Outraged, Antonio and Angelo Genna retaliate by placing a hit on O'Banion. Deputy Sheriff Joe Pryor crashes a party of Capone's because Capone refused to pay him $5,000. After he and Iris escape, Capone pays him the money. While Capone goes golfing with Iris, he has O'Banion murdered by his men. Capone and Johnny later show up at his funeral, sparking the ire of mobster Hymie Weiss (John Davis Chandler).

On the night of January 15, 1925, Johnny tells Capone that, because of all the senseless killings Capone has masterminded, he plans to negotiate with Weiss and give him the Loop and North Cicero; Capone is furious at the idea. That night, as Johnny arrives at the designated area where they are supposed to meet, Weiss and three other men ambush Johnny and ruthlessly open fire upon him. In the hospital, Johnny plans to leave Chicago, and appoints Capone as the new leader.

On the night of April 27, 1926, Capone places a hit on Weiss for shooting Johnny, and he and his men ambush four of Weiss's men, plus a State's Attorney, at a Cicero inn in the hopes of killing Weiss along with them. Two of the men and the State's Attorney are shot dead. On listening to the news, however, it is revealed that Capone and his men did not kill Weiss, much to Capone's chagrin. Capone is brought before lawyer Robert E. Crowe, who decides to have Capone face a grand jury for organized murder, but Capone reveals that he paid the State's Attorney, and if he was taken to grand jury, the evidence would be presented, and the Chicago Police Department would look stupid for arresting Capone. The next morning, Capone and Iris go on a picnic, and after they lose Capone's bodyguards, they begin a romantic relationship.

On September 20, 1926, Weiss and his men enact a drive-by shootout at a restaurant where Capone is. Capone is saved by his ambitious bodyguard Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti (Stallone). Identifying one of the men as Weiss, Capone retaliates by ordering a hit on Weiss and his men that night; two men from a rooftop unload upon Weiss and three of his accomplices, killing them all in the rapid fire. Giuseppe Aiello, a rival of Capone's, talks with Bugs Moran, another rival of Capone's, and the two conspire to have him killed. At a restaurant the same night, a waiter serves Capone poisoned tea, but has a change of heart and confesses that Aiello wants him dead because he murdered his brother. As Aiello gets into his car the next morning, it explodes from a bomb placed by Nitti, killing Aiello.

On February 7, 1929, Capone organizes a mass murder on Moran's men. That night, as he and Iris go to a French restaurant, Moran's men arrive in a drive-by shootout with the intent to kill Capone, but Iris gets shot instead and dies. Capone is deeply heartbroken by Iris's death, and he and Nitti swear revenge. A week later, the soon-to-be mayor of the town, along with the political council, all decide that the killings should stop, in the hopes that Capone and Moran can come to an understanding and compromise, which would result in Moran taking at least half of Capone's land and money. Capone refuses this, and after they threaten him that his career would be ruined without their help, Capone threatens all of them that he has enough leverage on them to put them all in prison.

The next morning, on February 14, 1929, Capone's men, disguised as police officers, invade a warehouse owned by Moran, and seven men, including the Gusenberg brothers, are lined up against the wall before being killed, police-execution-style, by submachine-gunfire. After this, Nitti conspires with the council to place Capone in prison; Capone is arrested.

On June 16, 1931, Capone's trial takes place, and Capone is found guilty, though not of murder: of multiple counts of federal tax evasion. The judge sentences Capone to 11 years at Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco, California.

On February 2, 1938, a doctor visits Capone, whose health has started to deteriorate, and concludes that Capone has contracted syphilis, and his mind will be the first to go. As he tells them this, Capone starts a prison riot and is forcefully taken back to his cell.

At Capone's estate in Palm Island, Florida on April 5, 1946, Nitti visits Capone and his caretakers only to find that Capone has gone completely insane to the point where he doesn't even recognize Nitti, instead thinking that he is an FBI agent. Nitti's bodyguard tells Nitti that people said that Capone used to be a smart man, but Nitti – who had shown his ambition and loyalty throughout the movie – finally disregards this and expresses his true feelings about Capone, saying that Capone was stupid and forgetful, and only cared about killing people. As the two of them leave, Capone continues to lose his mind until he dies a year later.



Development and writing

Screenwriter Howard Browne had written about Al Capone a number of times previously, including "Seven Against the Wall" for Playhouse 90 in 1958, and the film, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967). The latter was directed by Roger Corman for 20th Century Fox. In the mid 70s Corman announced he would made a film about Capone for his company, New World Pictures.[4] However he ended up making the movie for Fox, who he had a deal with to produce films.[5]

Steve Carver says the film was shot so Corman could use footage from other films he had made. He said Howard Browne was a very factual writer but "not so good with dialogue" so other writers were brought in to work on the script. Carver says Gazzara was hard to work with on set.[6]

Sylvester Stallone later said "I particularly enjoyed working on Capone, because it was like the cheesy, mentally challenged inbred cousin of The Godfather".[7]

Home media

The film was released on DVD in the United States for the first time on March 29, 2011 through Shout! Factory[8] and has been available in Europe for some time.[9]


  1. "Capone (X)". British Board of Film Classification. April 16, 1975. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  2. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p258
  3. Solomon p233. Please note figures are rentals not total gross.
  4. "CORMAN BRINGS IN 'MAMA' FOR $750,000". Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1974. p. e12.
  5. Rastar, Columbia Get Rights to Colette Bio Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 Sep 1974: e11.
  6. Taylor, Tadhg (October 14, 2015). Masters of the Shoot-'Em-Up: Conversations with Directors, Actors and Writers of Vintage Action Movies and Television Shows. McFarland. p. 67.
  7. Ain't It Cool News
  8. "Capone: Ben Gazzara, Sylvester Stallone, John Cassavetes, Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, Steve Carver: Movies & TV". Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  9. "Capone: Ben Gazzara, Sylvester Stallone, John Cassavetes, Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, Steve Carver: Movies & TV".
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