HBO (Sat., Nov. 25, 8 p.m. ET)


A macabre romance that mixes comedy and thuggery, this fact-based film re-creates the affair between powerful Chicago mafioso Sam Giancana (John Turturro) and Phyllis McGuire (Mary-Louise Parker) of the popular singing sister trio. The unlikely pairing of the mobster and the squeaky-clean star sparked a furor that was eventually ruinous for both of them. From the time he first saw her in 1960 in a Vegas casino and started to woo her with jewelry, cars, mountains of yellow roses and promises of meeting Frank Sinatra, Giancana and McGuire were locked into an increasingly fervent cycle of fighting and making up.

Though the film is smartly acted and has a believable '60s flavor, it sets out its boisterous beauty-and-the-beast fable without much visual or imaginative flair. There are a number of amusingly wry moments in the script however. At one point, for instance, Giancana meets with a pair of CIA operatives who want him to assassinate Fidel Castro. He quickly agrees but with three conditions: The Mob gets back its casinos in Havana; the government butts out of the shrimp business; and, most importantly, CIA spooks must set up a wiretap on Dan Rowan, of the comedy team Rowan and Martin. Giancana was consumed by jealousy after watching Rowan give McGuire a kiss onstage in Vegas. Mr. Sock It to Me was lucky he didn't end up sleeping with the fishes.