The Octopus (La Piovra) is a groundbreaking Italian television series that ran for 10 seasons from 1984 to 2001. It explored the tenacious grip of the Mafia in Sicily (hence the title) and told the story of one police captain's struggle to destroy it.
Michele Placido played the lead role of Commissario Corrado Cattani, supported by an excellent international cast that included Patricia Millardet as Judge Silvia Conti and Remo Girone as the arch villain Tano Carridi. Series 1 through 7 follows the epic battle to subdue the Mafia in Sicily, while Series 8, 9 and 10 are prequels which document the history of Mafia in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Octopus DVDs
When you watch the first two or three episodes of The Octopus, don't be put off by the poor visual quality. Technically speaking, the early episodes don't appear to have worn well, at least in the version that we watched, and the storytelling was initially less than compelling. The European custom of freezing the frame at the end of an episode can also be distracting, but by Episode 3 you'll most likely be so engrossed in both the storyline and the characters that you'll hardly notice these minor flaws.
The writers pull no punches, so if you like your drama gritty and realistic, this series will fit the bill. The story is riveting, the casting is impeccable, and the series was a major ratings success throughout Europe and internationally when it first aired. We didn't find the prequels as engaging as the first seven series, possibly because we missed the actors that we'd grown so attached to in the earlier episodes.
The Octopus Cast
All of the leading actors are excellent, but the most outstanding performance is Remo Girone's chilling portrayal of criminal Tano Carridi. That we can actually feel sympathy for this cold-blooded killer is a testament to his acting skills. French actress Patrica Millardet is also wonderful in the leading female role of Judge Silvia Conti.
This video features the wedding of Tano Carridi and Esther Rasi:
There are also a number of very attractive actors among the international cast, in particular Kommissar Rex star Gedeon Burkhard as pirate radio operator Daniele Rannisi, Simona Cavallari as Tano's wife Esther Rasi, Massimo Bonetti as Vice-Commissario Leo De Maria, Stefano Dionizi as Davide Licata's son Stefano, and Raoul Bova as Vice-Commissario Gianni Breda. Inspector Montalbano star Luca Zingaretti plays the lead role of Mafia boss Pietro Favignana in Series 8.
This video from Series 7 features Raoul Bova and Patricia Millardet:
Ennio Morricone's Musical Score
Legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone created the score for The Octopus, including the series' theme. There are some hauntingly beautiful pieces woven throughout the episodes, as well as the usual dramatic segments. Here is one of our favorites:
Australian television network SBS added English subtitles to the series prior to airing it. The subtitled DVDs are available online through our affiliate partners at The Octopus DVDs.
To purchase the The Octopus DVDs in Australia, visit any ABC Shop.
If you live in the USA or Canada, please note that The Octopus DVDs are in the PAL format and require a multi-region DVD player for playback. If you don't currently have one, Amazon offers a low cost model for around $60:
You'll notice on the Amazon site that the Philips model (above) has more positive reviews than the cheapest DVD player (retailing for around $35.00). You can also buy a multi-region DVD player in stores.
What you purchase is up to you, but we recommend you take some time to read the online customer reviews of each product before you make up your mind. You can get free shipping with most Amazon purchases over $50, and there is a return policy. If you're interested in watching top rated Italian language programs like Don Mateo, La Piovra, Il Commissario Montalbano and Rex in Rome, none of which are shown on North American television, a multi-region DVD player is a worthwhile investment.