this day, there is a reservoir of good will for Mussolini’s Fascist Party in
Sicily, thanks in large measure to the “Iron Prefect.” Although he had a
checkered personal history with the Fascists, he pursued the Mafia like an
Italian Elliott Ness, getting better results for his efforts. After all, they
do not give you a nickname like the Iron Prefect for nothing. Gangs will be busted
but not permanently eradicated in the historical crime mini-series Cesare Mori (trailer here), which is now
available on DVD from MHz Networks.
was a hard cop to kill. During his first posting in Sicily, he stepped on all
the wrong toes pursuing the Carlino Gang and the murder of Count Chiaramonte.
Mori succeeds in routing the Carlinos, perhaps too well, leaving a vacuum open for
the Mafia factions responsible for the Chiaramonte homicide. Making a deal with
the devil, the widow Elena Chiaramonte forges an alliance with the Mafia’s
facilitators. She will regret this, but not before she supplies a bogus alibi
to her husband’s murderer.
his prosecution scuttled, Mori is promoted up and out of Dodge. In Bologna, he became
the only Prefect to stand up to Black Shirt thuggery. Yet, Mussolini was still
willing to return him to Sicily with greater authority when the Mafia’s power
started to eclipse that of the state.
question, the most intriguing aspect of Cesare
Mori the mini-series is Mori’s ambiguous relationship with Il Duce. Conveniently,
the real life Mori died before the onset of WWII, so he cannot be implicated in
any Fascist war crimes. Still, he was a Party member, who somehow made his
peace with Mussolini. Clearly, Pietro Calderoni and his battery of co-screen-writers
portray Mori’s fascism much like a reluctant Democrat assistant district
attorney in Manhattan. He is keenly aware of the party’s corruption and
incompetence, but it is the only game in town if he wants to pursue a career in
the other hand, the clunkiest storyline in Mori
involves Saro, an orphaned mobster’s son temporarily adopted by the Moris
until the ambitious future Don Tano Cuccia re-establishes the Mafia’s custody.
Watching his high-strung wife pine for the ingrate Saro gets old fast. The
production is also rarely helped by Pino Donaggio’s overwrought music, which
makes several perfectly respectable dramatic scenes sound and feel
Vincent Pérez (probably best known for the “red cloak” scene in Queen Margot and succeeding Brandon Lee
in The Crow: City of Angels) is
suitably commanding as Mori. He can also ride a horse, which is important.
Evidently, Mori preferred to make his entrances on horseback rather than
clambering out of an auto, to cut a more imposing figure with the criminal
element. When he swaggers and seethes, Mori
works quite well.
actor Adolfo Margiotta is also surprisingly effective as his deputy, Francesco
Spanò, who turns out to be more serious and competent than his hound dog looks
suggest. As the Countess, Gabriella Pession generates some flirtatious heat
with Pérez, but she is saddled with a problematic character that spends most of
the decades-spanning production kidding herself about the state of her affairs.
Mori is a fascinating historical and television figure,
whereas Saro is just rather sorry. In fact, it is hard to watch Cesare Mori without analyzing what its
respective depictions of Mori, Mussolini, and the Mafia say about current
Italian attitudes. In fact, it might be controversial with some audiences
because dead-ringer Maurizio Donadoni’s portrayal of Il Duce is unflattering on
balance, but not so very different from your average politician on the make. Despite
its flaws, director Gianni Lepre keeps the 200 minute mini moving along
briskly, while Pérez’s performance provides a steely anchor of conviction.
Recommended for fans of gangster dramas with minor aesthetic reservations, Cesare Mori is now available on DVD from
Labels: Cesare Mori, DVD, Italian Television