THE MARK OF CAIN
Airdates: November 17th, 1960
Written by David Z. Goodman
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Will Kaluva, Conrad Janis, Eduardo Cianelli. Special Guest Star Henry Silva. Featuring Joyce Taylor, Vic Perrin, and Paula Raymond.
“In the late Spring of 1932, it became evident through the protest of irate citizens whose families had become victimized that drug addiction in Chicago was reaching alarming proportions. Prior to the Spring of 1932, the distribution of narcotics had been a haphazard affair, a small-time business, in the hands of unorganized, small-time thugs. But under the cunning leadership of Little Charlie Sabastino, the narcotics racket had been amalgamated into one organized empire, with Little Charlie as its emperor.”
Little Charlie Sabastino (Henry Silva) is heading up the narcotics racket, but when a young girl dies of an overdose, the resulting publicity forces syndicate leaders Joe (Eduardo Ciannelli) and Frank Genna (Will Kuluva) to close Little Charlie down and guide him back into a less deadly business – bootlegging.
Furious at his demotion and now under federal surveillance, Charlie attempts to lure Eliot Ness into smashing his brewery, but Ness smells a scheme. Charlie takes it upon himself to wreck the new brewery and kills his uncle to paint himself as a victim. Dissatisfied with Joe Genna’s response, he targets him for assassination.
Charlie bribes Sticks (Conrad Janis) with a supply of narcotics and the hit on Joe goes off as planned, but when Ness moves to apprehend Sticks, he makes a run for it and falls to his death. Knowing Sticks was the connection they needed to pin the murder on Charlie, Ness tells the newspapers Sticks had overdosed, which outrages the Syndicate. In a fury, Charlie accuses the once sympathetic Frank of murdering his own brother, but the Syndicate is unconvinced. Not long thereafter, the Untouchables receives word that Charlie’s body has been found. Like the monster he’d replaced in The Noise of Death, Charlie’s reign had been ended for him.
This is a soft sequel to Ben Maddow’s The Noise of Death in the First Season, with Henry Silva returning to the role of Little Charlie Sabastino, carrying on in pursuit of his narcotics trade. The big difference here, of course, is that all references to the Mafia have been dropped and this episode lacks the pathos of Maddow’s script.
The Mark of Cain is a decent episode despite its ending which features several not-very-threatening-Mafiso-types breaking pencils in their hand and flinching in the process. In addition to using a secondary antagonist from another season, what makes this episode narratively different from others is that Little Charlie is a lot like the villain of many Hays Code Hollywood gangster films, where Charlie’s evil machinations wind up being his own undoing.
Charlie is last seen wordlessly walking toward the camera like the undead – or soon-to-be dead, anyway. Ness has one scene with Charlie in the entire hour and almost expresses a moment of pause when he learns his fate. Almost.
Like many episodes of the First Season, elements of this episode feel borrowed from other pre-existing stories. The “Mark of Cain” isn’t actually referenced until the very end of the episode and both it and Charlie’s attempt to pit the Gennas against each other seem half baked. It’s a credit to the production team that this episode comes off as well as it does.
Silva has an icy, repellent screen presence that plays well to the series’ strengths – and he’ll return once more to the series in the Third Season for The Whitey Steele Story. Keen-eyed viewers will also note that Silva (and other Untouchables alum) appear as bit characters in 1990’s feature film Dick Tracy, a comic-book character inspired by the real-life Eliot Ness.
CHARLIE: Now what would a rag picker be doing here?
NESS: I see a lot of dirt in this room.
CHARLIE: You got a warrant to search or a warrant to insult?
NESS: I’ve got a lot more than a warrant, Charlie. I’ve got a picture in my head. A picture of a young girl, 19, maybe 20. Lying in the county hospital, dead.
• The hour episode marks the first appearance of actor Will Kaluva, who will play a central role as immigrant Renzo Raineri in Augie ‘The Banker’ Ciamino later in the Second Season. It’s also the first time we see actor Jason Wingreen, who later appears as Capt. Dorset, one of two recurring police captains that Ness regularly interacts with. Wingreen is perhaps best known as the original voice of Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett.
• Little Charlie is seen leaving a screening 1932 film Rain, with Joan Crawford. Craword will later star in 1963’s The Caretakers, with Robert Stack.
• Like One-Armed Bandits in the First Season, this is one of three episodes to end without a Winchell narration.