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World History of Organized Crime

A&E Video // Unrated // January 29, 2002
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Earl Cressey | posted March 1, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Review:
The World History of Organized Crime

Movie:
The World History of Organized Crime is a five part mini-series that originated on The History Channel. The series serves to expose the viewer to the most dangerous and active criminal syndicates still in operation around the globe in five different regions: Sicily, Russia, China, India, and Colombia. Each part of the series runs fifty minutes in length, is narrated by Miguel Ferrer, and features interviews with a host of authors, government officials, historians, sociologists, and a few criminals.

Sicily:
With its long history of foreign occupations, the people of Sicily have created a culture of self-reliance, honor, and distrust for authority. With this in place, La Cosa Nostra emerged in the late 1800s and was able to put a stranglehold on their country that went virtually unthreatened until the late 1980s. It was then that Judge Giovanni Falcone began to prosecute and convict them with the aid of Tommaso Buscetta's testimony.

Russia:
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia switched to a free market economy, opening the doors for the Red Mafia to take control of an estimated 40% of the nation's economy. As one of the most fearsome, violent, creative, and well-educated criminal organizations in the world, the Red Mafia has been difficult to locate and shut down.

China:
This program examines the secretive history of the Triads, their traditions, their influence in America, and their main export - human cargo.

India:
Located in Bombay, "Bollywood" is one of the most prolific and profitable film industries in the world. Unfortunately, it is also the target of the underground mob, which aided the industry previously when the government refused to help them with financing. The program also explores the roots of this mob and traces them back to the "Thugs" of the 19th century.

Colombia:
Focused on the Cartels and, in particular, Pablo Escobar, this program explains how Colombia's most lucrative export – cocaine – shaped it into a country of violence and corruption. Using narco-terrorism and bribes, the Cartels quickly came to control Colombia, but even their dissolution didn't end the seemingly unstoppable flow of drugs.

I honestly thought this collection would include something about the Italian Mafia in America, but besides a passing mention or two in Sicily, there wasn't much about it. Looking on the History Channel's website, I discovered that material was already covered in Mafia - The History of the Mob in America. Despite this, I really enjoyed this collection and learned quite a bit. Two of the programs provided some more background on films I've seen in the past year: Sicily had a lot of information that helped illuminate the HBO film Excellent Cadavers and the Columbia program pertained to both Proof of Life and Blow.

Picture:
Each episode is presented in 1.33:1 full frame as they were originally presented on TV. As each episode incorporates a fair amount of older footage, print defects are relatively common. Even in the newer footage, grain and edge enhancement do appear, though are infrequent. Colors throughout are accurate, flesh tones are natural, and blacks are decent.

Sound:
Each episode is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo, which is fine considering the series consists almost entirely of dialogue and music. Dialogue throughout is easy to understand, and the score, while understated, is decent throughout. There are no optional subtitles.

Extras:
Each episode includes a timeline of critical events that happened in that particular country.

Summary:
Anyone interested in organized crime should definitely give this set a look, as it provides a fascinating and informative look at five of the most dangerous and notorious criminal organizations throughout the world. Recommended.

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