Films about mobsters -- The ever present allure of gangster movies

With crime movies from two eras — 1953’s Pickup on South Street and 1990’s Miller’s Crossing — both released on video this week, it’s clear that cinematic crime has an enduring allure. And no one, it seems, pays closer attention to crime movies than criminals themselves. Real-life gangsters ”are definitely fascinated by the movies and go to them repeatedly,” according to G. Robert Blakey, a Notre Dame Law School professor who specializes in organized crime. ”The Godfather is something you have to see if you’re in the mob.” Ever since George Raft, in fact, gangland films have affected how hoods act. In one recent case, a Queens, N.Y., drug lord named Thomas Mickens decided to go by the nickname ”Tony Montana” (the lead character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 remake of Scarface). Before his 1989 conviction for drug conspiracy, money laundering, and tax evasion, Mickens/Montana had purchased 18 cars valued at $556,000, a total of 16 properties, many carrying the ”Montana” moniker (including Montana Sporting Goods), a VCR — and two copies of Scarface.

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