Friday, September 30, 2011

Inspector Montalbano Series: Crime, Comedy and Camilleri

This may be a great time to discover the Italian detective series Inspector (Commissario) Montalbano, based on the books and short stories by Italian writer Andrea Camillari.  MHZ Worldview in the US will be having a Mini Montalbano Festival on October 4 and 5 with four new episodes, U.S. premieres, of the series.  (MHZ Worldview is available in the U.S. through Public Television channels, Cable broadcasters, or Direct TV.)

Salvo Montalbano is a Sicilian police inspector in the beautiful fictional town of Vigata.  While doing a bit of research on the character I found that Camillari based his name on Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán who also wrote a series of detective novels. Montalbano is played by Luca Zingaretti. Not a traditionally handsome man, there is something about Zingaretti's screen presence and personality and his sense of humor that makes him very attractive.  Montalbano often uses unconventional means to solve a crime, while dodging his superiors and the influence of organized crime (OK, the Mafia). All while avoiding marriage to his long distance and long time girlfriend, business executive Livia (Katharina Bohm). He's also a lover of good food and great restaurants and we're treated to long lunches and great home cooked meals in every episode. Is there an Inspector Montalbano cookbook? If not, someone should write one. 

Of course, it wouldn't be a detective series without a "Watson" for the brilliant investigator, and this role goes to the only efficient man in the Vigata police station, young detective Fazio (Peppino Mazzotta). Fazio is quiet and dependable, a great contrast to his boss Montalbano's volatile mix of genius and guile.  Add to this mix the resident Don Giovanni of the station, Inspector Mimi Augello (Cesare Bocci).  Mimi never met a woman he doesn't want, and even when he surprisingly gets married and then becomes a father, there is no keeping him from flirting outrageously with every woman in sight, even crime suspects. As far as I can tell, Mimi, or Dr. Augello, hardly does any work and only solves crime because of the help of best friend Montalbano and dependable Fazio.

Catarella, Montalbano, Fazio, Mimi

The series also has an interesting twist on the police techno geek role. Catarella (Angelo Russo) is the only person in the Vigata police station that even has a PC at his desk, and in this world he is the computer guy and the incompetent comic relief.  The best are the scenes between Montalbano and Catarella in the police station. Below is a video clip (in Italian) of a scene between Zingaretti and Russo.  

One of the pleasures of watching this series is the breathtaking views of Sicily. Though I've been lucky to travel to Italy a few times in my life, I've never been to Sicily, but after watching Montalbano I would love to go one day. I understand the series is filmed in the Sicilian city of Ragusa.  In the clip below you can see the opening credits of the series are a beautiful advertising for Sicilian tourism.  

I've watched the Montalbano series, with  English subtitles, for several years now on MHZ Worldwide and missed not seeing any new episodes for a long while. Even if Montalbano, Fazio, Mimi, and Catarella are all older now, I'm very happy that the series is back for four new episodes next week.  If you like great detective fiction and are in the US it is worth checking to see if MHZ Worldwide is in your area. You can also buy the DVD's from MHZ Worldwide. More information on the new Montalbano episodes at the link below:,com_worldviewchannels/Itemid,146/sid,2467/lindex,d/

Check the series Italian website Here.

I understand BBC4 aired an episode of Inspector Montalbano today, October 1. Maybe there will be more for viewers in the UK. 

Update:  Video Interview with Cesare Bocci (Mimi)


  1. Montalbano sono! Meaning Montalbano, I am! I love these series of TV movies based on Camilleri's books. I really can't imagine how they can "sound" once they're dubbed. The dialogues are usually very ... "Sicilian", with many dialectisms and a strong accent. That's where the fun lies! Thanks for this filo-Italian post! ;-)

  2. Hi MG!

    Thank you for your comment on Montalbano!!

    Luckily for me I don't see them dubbed in English, but in the original "Sicilian" with English subtitles. I don't like dubbed movies or TV shows, even if I don't understand the original language. I think you lose something of the original performance, and the actors' personalities even if it is done well.

  3. Love the books and the tv show - it is a joy to watch as it takes you into the laid-back world Montalbano inhabits and allows you to enjoy a taste of Italian humour (and the wonderful seafood vicariously).

    I found it hard to find the episodes online so I did a bit of work to create English subtitled versions so I can watch Montalbano anytime. I want to share this with other fans here is a link to my blog with an episode guide and links.



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