In the eighties, the Italian series was a pleasant surprise for Czechoslovak viewers. The series differed in its processing from other (often romantic) stories about the Italian mafia. In Octopus (in the original La Piovra) good did not win over evil.
The creators of the series so aptly depicted the practices of mafia families that they were in real danger from the Italian mafia. Filming even had to be moved from the south of Italy to Switzerland and Germany. Another peculiarity of the crime series was the fact that even after the death of the main character, Commissioner Corrado Cattani, other series were created. However, the first two remained the most attractive to viewers.
The first series presented the rough face of Sicily
Police Commissioner Corrado Cattani (Michele Placido) is assigned to investigate the death of a crime boss in the Sicilian city of Trapani. Cattani doesn’t want to get involved in a complicated case arranged for him by an influential acquaintance, but as he gradually gets to the details of the Sicilian underworld, he is determined to confront the crime there.
A number of interesting characters enter the scene. Among them is, for example, the drug dealer Sante Cirinna, the drug-addicted girl from a better family Titti Pecci Scialoia, the lawyer Terrasini, the banker Ravanusy, the countess Olga Camastrová or the TV reporter Nanni Santamaria.
Cattani begins to unravel the murder of his predecessor. But he intends to do much more, starting with reviews of local banks. This causes quite a stir in the underworld as both the Mafia and the local cream of the crop filter money from their illegal drug and gun deals through the banks.
In the end, the Commissioner fails his job completely, which affects his relationship with his wife Elsa. He has a brief romance with the beautiful but overly complicated Titti and manages to get Cirinna, a small fish in the drug trade, behind bars. The Mafia soon realizes that Cattani is starting to make their well-established business a nuisance and kidnaps his daughter Paola as a warning about who rules the county.
Of course, this scares the brave commissioner a lot, so he suspends all activities related to the investigation of the mafia, and even lets Cirinna out of prison. No one knows what is behind the change in behavior, not even the wife who moved to Switzerland. The daughter eventually returns home alive after meeting all the mafia’s demands, but as Cattani discovers, she has been raped. This is the pivotal moment when he rushes into the streets to bring order to avenge his thirteen-year-old daughter.
He must fight not only enemies, but also those who pretend to be friends. Betrayal and danger lurk at every turn. Cattani survives the assassination and betrayal of Countess Camastra. He also faces a judicial investigation as he is accused of perjury and falsifying documents.
Everything is complemented by quality music by Rize Ortolani, who was replaced by Ennio Morricone from the second series.
An interesting fact is that the foreign production of the series was the first to choose Prague for filming after the revolution.
What did they write about the series in their native Italy?
The Octopus was the first great masterpiece of Italian TV series. Thirty-five years ago, on March 11, 1984, the first episode of the series was broadcast on Rai 1, which changed the image of the mafia in the eyes of the public.
Ten series of the series (filmed between 1984 and 2003) was televised in 160 countries worldwide. Until then, it was one of the few Italian television products sold abroad. Its international name was Octopus. In Germany, where it was very popular, it became Allein gegen die Mafia (Alone against the Mafia). The series was watched by an average of 14 million viewers at home. The Killing of Inspector Cattani, which took place in the fourth series, reached a record viewing figure of 18 million.
Michele Placido was not the first choice for the lead role, quite the opposite. Many wanted Franco Nero to play Corrado Cattani. It was directed by Damiano Damianiwho insisted that the then thirty-eight-year-old Apulian actor Michale Placido be the protagonist.
The name La Piovra, apart from being clearly inspired by the tentacles of Cosa Nostra, also referred to Mussolini’s Ovra (Opera Vigilanza Repressione Antifascismo), the secret service of the political police under the fascist regime, whose symbol was the octopus.
Despite its popularity, the Octopus has attracted quite a bit of controversy. First it was the Christian Democrats and then Silvio Berlusconi who criticized the series for the negative image of Italy that was being created abroad.
The TV series was inspired by real events in Italy
Peppino Impastato, a young man who rebelled against the mafia and was killed at the age of 30 (May 9, 1978), was honored by the series in the seventh series.
The character of Daniel Rannisi (Gedeon Burkhard), an anti-mafia reporter who travels around the city in a van from which he broadcasts his pirate radio station Radio Tam Tam, denouncing the misdeeds of local crime, was apparently inspired by the story of one of the bravest voices in the fight against Cosa Nostra and its Radio Car
The boss Antonio De Pisis (Marcello Tusco), known as “Puparo”, present from the third to the fifth season, is clearly inspired by Totò Riina and Tommaso Buscetta.
In the third episode of the fourth series, the judge Silvia Conti (Patricia Millardet) is punished by rape for her work against the mafia. The scene with the white van into which it was loaded was loosely inspired by the violence suffered by Franca Rame, kidnapped and raped in 1973 by a group of neo-fascists (on the “order” of the Carabinieri, claims Biagio Pitarresi, a leading figure on the Milanese right).
The series launched the careers of a number of young actors. It is probably the most famous in our country Raoul Bova.