If you happen to be a fan of “The Godfather,” “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire” or any other Mafia-related content, Netflix has you covered with a new docu-series dropping Wednesday. The three-part “Fear City: New York City vs. the Mafia” is directed by Sam Hobkinson and follows the FBI’s journey to take down the Mafia Commission in New York City, including the godfathers of the Five Families who ran New York during the majority of the 20th century.
The series features never-befo re-seen surveillance footage and recordings from the FBI investigation, as well as interviews with mobsters, who were on the ground at the time, including Michael Franzese and John Alite. The first episode, “Mob Rule,” paints an incredibly vivid picture of what New York was like at the time, as well as the flashy disco era lifestyle of the gangsters, funded by gas schemes and bloodied by murders in the streets.
The second and third episodes, “The Godfather Tapes,” and “Judgment Day,” dig into the details of how the FBI finally used RICO (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) to take down the organizations for racketeering, through years of careful surveillance, wiretapping and informants. Rudy Giuliani, the attorney for the Southern District of New York and the face of the prosecution during this high-profile case, gives for a long, rollicking interview.
It’s a fascinating series, especially from an investigative angle, and if it puts you in the mood to dig into more Mafia and gangster epics, there’s of course plenty of TV and movies to check out, even beyond the usual suspects.
First: my quarterly reminder to watch David Simon’s under-sung HBO epic, “The Wire,” on HBO, as the wiretapping and surveillance element is incredibly similar, even if it takes place among African American Baltimore drug gangs. If you haven’t seen this incredible American portrait, and even if you have, do yourself the favor.
Watching “Fear City,” there are many familiar names to make connections to characters in other films and TV shows. One of the major characters of the docu-series is “Fat Tony” Salerno, the godfather of the Genovese crime family. He appears briefly in “The Irishman” (on Netflix), played by Domenick Lombardozzi, and he’s also been portrayed by Paul Sorvino in the 2011 film “Kill the Irishman” (on Amazon Prime Video), a film about Danny Greene, a Cleveland longshoreman (Ray Stevenson), who became involved in the criminal underworld and fought the Mafia for control of the Ohio city in the 1970s. Colombo underboss and “Fear City” interviewee Franzese was played by Joseph Bono in “Goodfellas” (on Sling or $3.99 digital rental), and as an author and speaker, he’s been in many documentaries about the mob, including the Nat Geo series “Inside the American Mob,” which is on YouTube for $1.99.