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Detective De Luca

Release Year:         2008
Studio:         MHz Networks
Format:         Colour; Widescreen; NTSC; Italian with English subtitles
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs/Episodes:         2 / 4
Running Time:         430 minutes
DVD Release Date:         May 21, 2013
Director:         Antonio Frazzi
Actors:         Alessandro Prezioni, Kasi Smutniak, Rafaella Rea
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

MHz Networks Write-up:
Against the backdrop of Italy’s political upheaval, Fascism and chaos spanning the tumultuous ten-year period between 1938 and 1949, Detective De Luca does the one thing he knows best: be a cop. He investigates and solves crimes in the war-torn city of Bologna and along the Adriatic coast with little or no regard for those in power, whoever they happen to be. His solitary and uncompromising character, his magnetic effect on women, and the fact that he’s simply too skilled and honest a policeman to do anything but uncover the truth, all conspire to land him in trouble from time to time with whatever side happens to be in authority at the moment. Based on the bestselling crime novels by Carlo Lucarelli, the creator of Inspector Coliandro, Detective De Luca is a portrait of an iconoclasitc investigator who relentlessly solves his cases, even though the reality he uncovers is often disturbing.

Episode One – An Unauthorized Investigation Riccione, August 1938. A call girl lies dead on the beach in front of the house where Mussolini is vacationing. Panicked that Il Duce’s holiday might be disturbed, authorities order that the case be solved immediately–so the police scramble to find a culprit. De Luca follows his own lead, which reveals links to the highest levels of Mussolini’s Fascist society.

Episode Two – Carte Blanche Bologna, April 1945. Under the watchful eye of the Fascist hierarchy, De Luca leads a delicate investigation into the stabbing death of a wealthy socialite bachelor. Government leaders have guaranteed their full support–as long as he finds the “correct” suspect. Solving the mystery brings De Luca into contact with the victim’s eclectic group off friends, including adoring single women, bored socialite wives, servants and powerful associates of Mussolini.

Episode Three – Cloudy Summer The Modena Apennines, June 1945. With the Allies fast approaching, De Luca and his fellow policemen flee into the countryside. Posing as partisans, they get caught up in a checkpoint skirmish that ends in bloodshed. The policemen scatter and escape, and De Luca stumbles into a small mountain village, posing as a government engineer. A partisan policeman befriends him and enlists his help to solve the murder of a highly respected villager.

Episode Four – Via Delle Oche Bologna, April 1948. Transferred to Bolgna, De Luca finds the city and its people sadly changed by war . He’s assigned the lowly task of policing the notorious red light district. When his first murder case points to local politicians and members of the police heirarchy, he has no intention of looking the other direction. The city’s mood is fraught with tension and uncertainty, as fiercely-contested elections are about to define a new direction for Italy.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
From Italy comes this four feature length episode series about Detective De Luca, an excellent change from English-speaking sleuths. What really sets this series apart is the time and place: Italy between the years 1938 and 1948, a time of chaos and upheaval, a time that encompassed the Second World War (1939-1945).

Beginning in 1938, we find Detective De Luca working within a Facist state, under the firm dictatorship of il Duce: Benito Mussolini. Mussolini was determined to restore Italy to the greatness of the Roman Empire, appealing to national pride much the same way Hitler appealed to a sense of national pride in Germany. Fascist Italy was allied to Hitler’s Germany at this time in history though Italy stayed out of the conflict until the fall of France in 1940. Of Mussolini’s invasion of France when they were most vulnerable, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “On this tenth day of June 1940, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.”

Hence, beginning in 1940, Italy fought against Great Britain and her allies in Greece and both East and North Africa.

This makes for a totally unique background for a detective series. Politics aside, Detective De Luca is a cop who won’t take no for an answer as he strives for the truth no matter how ugly things get, even if it means defying his superiors. This is a classic good guy characteristic, of course, and it works in part because the scripts are intelligent, but primarily because actor Alessandro Prezioni, with his striking good looks (dark hair and piercing blue eyes) has immense appeal. Though handsome, he is also world-weary and barely has a penny to his name. What he does have, however, is a pronounced sense of honour and integrity. Audiences will root for that every time, no matter what language the hero speaks.

By the time of the second episode, set in April 1945, De Luca is something of a celebrity in parts of Italy. Apparently he was in the right place at the right time and saved Mussolini’s life on one occasion. He is welcomed in Bologna as a hero. It should be noted that by 1945, Italy was a country divided by civil war. Mussolini was a charismatic leader but not a good military strategist and even by1943, Italy’s dreams of Roman restoration were completely shattered, with Mussolini arrested by order of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III.

The Germans rescued Mussolini and installed him in northern Italy, as leader of a puppet state, supported by Nazi occupation. Bologna is located is located in the north and was generally still sympathetic to Mussolini at the time of this episode, but fighting was always near at hand, and when the Germans pulled out, things became even more chaotic. It is around this period that episode two is situated. The burning question amid all the crime solving becomes, “is De Luca really a Fascist?”

Episode three is set two months later, around the time of Mussolini’s execution. Arguably the best of the four films, “Cloudy Summer” finds De Luca in the middle of a partisan mystery, where his fame as the man who saved Mussolini on one occasion is a death sentence. Set away from the city, this episode has a pastoral feel, with a goat playing a prominent role in the proceedings.

Finally we are back in Bologna. It is now 1948 and De Luca says it best when he says “I am neither Fascist or partisan: I’m a cop. I’m loyal to whoever allows me to do my job.” Thus, ever the man on the outside, De Luca is inevitably facing pressure from within the ranks as well as the pressure to solve the crime. While his future as a policeman is up in the air it is possible he has finally found lasting love.

DETECTIVE DE LUCA is an excellent police show with the added interest of its politically-charged setting, about which most people in North America will have limited knowledge.