The Italian Almanac

Damiano Damiani

Damiano Damiani

Damiano Damiani, the Italian film director who scored a massive worldwide hit with the Mafia TV series The Octopus, died at his Rome home aged 90.

Friuli-born Damiani first gained acclaim with the Mafia thriller The Day of the Owl (1968), an adaptation of the novel by famed Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia starring Franco Nero and Claudia Cardinale. He went on to direct several films with Mafia themes, including How To Kill A Judge (1975), again with Nero, The Warning (1980), Pizza Connection (1985) and Dark Sun (1990).

Among his other notable works were The Matteotti Murder, an account of the Fascist slaying of Mussolini's main political opponent; The Most Beautiful Wife (1970), Ornella Muti's screen debut; Girolimoni, Monster Of Rome (1972), with Nino Manfredi; and Angel With A Pistol (1992), the story of a cop tangling with the Genoese underworld.

Damiani's legacy is linked to The Octopus, an epic tale of a Mafia-fighting prosecutor in which Michele Placido became a household star. Damiani only directed the first series of the TV drama but left his imprint on the groundbreaking show that went on to become a worldwide smash. The episode where Placido's character was slain gained record viewing figures.

Damiani, born in Pordenone in 1913, began making short documentaries in the late '40s and was writing and assistant-directing features by the mid-'50s. He debuted as a director in 1960 with the prize-winning Il Rossetto (Lipstick), and over the decade made such offbeat films as the Alberto Moravia adaptation La Noia (The Empty Canvas) with Bette Davis (1963); the occult romance La Strega In Amore (The Witch, 1966); and the violent spaghetti western Quien Sabe? (A Bullet for the General, 1968), starring Klaus Kinski.

Among his other films of note are the crime drama Confessione di Un Commissario di Polizia (Confessions Of A Police Captain, 1971)), with Martin Balsam; and the lurid occult melodramas The Devil Is A Woman and Amityville II: The Possession (1982). His last feature film was Assassini dei giorni di festa (Murders on Holidays), in 2002.

A tearful Placido, who has since become an award-winning director in his own right, said at the news of his death: "I owe everything to him".