DVD Review: The Octopus – Series One

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Forerunner to Gomorrah demonstrates that Italian Noir is harder edged and more pessimistic than its Scandinavian counterpart.

Italian TV’s first home-grown blockbuster, The Octopus premièred in 1984 and ran for ten seasons produced over seventeen years. Seen in over 100 countries, including the UK where Channel Four screened the first three series. Phenomenally successful in Soviet-era Russia where lead actor Michele Placido became a sex symbol.

Michele Placido is today best known to English-speaking audiences for directing the feature film Romanzo Criminale. As a young man he moved to Rome to study acting and enrol in a police academy. Making his performance début in a stage production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he trod the boards for two years before embarking on a successful screen career. By the time he signed on to play Commissario Corrado Cattani he was a well-regarded actor in his home country. Playing the lead in The Octopus raised his profile on the international arena. After a particularly tense episode, concerned viewers wrote to Pravda suggesting his character should be offered asylum.

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A watershed moment in Italian TV history. Breaking down barriers between cinema and television industries, The Octopus was the start of a movement which saw key figures from the film industry actively seeking out opportunities to work in television.

Acknowledged for making the public more conscious of the extent organised crime had infiltrated and tainted every aspect of society. Its title refers to the Mafia’s tentacles stretching out and holding public bodies, private sector industries, and media in a tight grip.

When a senior police officer is murdered in an apparent drive-by shooting Commissario Corrado Cattani is reassigned to a small Sicilian town. Tasked with bringing the local mafia boss to justice he soon learns that the entire community is tainted by corruption.

Brutally violent The Octopus is groundbreaking television. Stretching the boundaries of what could be shown on Italian TV, it’s left a lasting legacy. Without this series, Gomorrah and Romanzo Criminale would never have been produced.

The Octopus – Series One is available to order from Amazon.

For more information about Italian Noir check out Barry Forshaw’s Euro Noir

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