Adapted from the 1969 book of the same name by Peter Maas, it tells the real life story of Joseph "Joe" Valachi, a Mafia informant in the early 1960s.
This film features examples of:
- Artistic License History: The scenes of Bender castrating a mobster and Maranzano comment of "I cannot bring back the dead. I can only kill the living." were invented for the film and are absent in the non-fiction book it was based.
- Based on a True Story: Based on a book collecting the story of Joe Valachi, a real life Mafia informant.
- Bungled Suicide: Joe becomes upset with having to testify and attempts suicide, but survives.
- How We Got Here: After Joe accepts to become a informant, the movie shows his life story in flashbacks.
- The Mafia: Well, duh. Yes, the film features the Italian-American mafia.
- Murder by Mistake: In prison, Joe mistakenly kills a fellow prisoner whom he wrongly thinks is a mob assassin.
- Groin Attack: Joe's capo Tony Bender castrates a mobster for having relations with another mobster's wife.
- Mercy Kill: Joe shoots the mobster Bender castrated to put him out of his misery.
- Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Joe is shown testifying before a Senate committee.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The film ends with information superimposed on the screen stating that Joe went on to outlive Genovese, who died in prison.