Like a Sicilian Morse, Montalbano is a grumpy detective, even more passionate about justice than he is about pasta. Easy to watch and quite addictive.
Label: Acorn Media
Time: 224 Minutes on 2 Discs + text bonus
Rated: 15 (Brief strong violence, moderate sex)
Format: PAL; Aspect ratio 16:9; Region 2.
With feature-length murder mysteries based in an historic location and starring a maverick and slightly grumpy detective, who takes little at face value, Montalbano is a bit like Inspector Morse – only with more sun, sea, sex and saluting.
This collection is based on the series of detective novels written by Andrea Camilleri and set in Sicily. So far 22 episodes have aired in its native Italy, but this is the first four to reach UK DVD.
Luca Zingaretti plays the Chief Detective Salvo Montalbano and Katharina Böhm plays his long-suffering girlfriend Livia (strangely, with her voice dubbed). Montalbano lives in a stylish sea-front house, where he enjoys pasta and goes for long-distance swims.
In a bonus feature, the text of a tribute to Camilleri as he was being presented with his doctorate in Dublin, Dr. Eric Haywood described the detective as caring, “more about seeing justice done than bringing culprits to justice and he can be as indignant at the malice and duplicity of the authorities as he is at the evil and scheming of the criminals.” Despite his occasional impatience and reluctance to commit to his girlfriend, the detective is also self-deprecating, loyal and bright.
In these four episodes, Montalbano investigates a murdered Tunisian terrorist; a woman killed in the hotel she was renovating; a politician found dead near on open air brothel (a particularly well-constructed plot) and a Mafia arms shipment (a story that morphs into a second mystery from the 1940s).
I found each of these four stories, written by Camilleri himself, very easy to watch and quite addictive. They have enough potential criminals to keep you wondering, without those deflating last minute revelations that mean the plot is unguessable.
So far, the other policemen have yet to develop their individual characters, except for Catarella, the clumsy and hapless front desk officer, who tends to fall through doors, rather than open them. He is a little over the top in his portrayal, but does add entertainment value.
Sitting near the screen as the titles ran up I found the sequence somewhat grainy (as is the photo gallery), but the stories’ appeal very soon distracts from any small technical quibbles.
Sicily is an ideal setting for a detective series: the Mediterranean backdrop, summer lighting and ancient stone buildings making it a visual treat, while the quietly lurking threat of Mafia involvement adds a frisson of tension to some of the plots.