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An Italian Crime Series That Mixes Individual Cases With A More Long Range Mystery
on August 22, 2013
I really enjoy having the opportunity to sample International programs, and the stylish Italian mystery series featuring Inspector Vivaldi deserves to be discovered by a larger worldwide audience. Under the DVD banner of "The Inspector Vivaldi Mysteries," you get eight feature length episodes. What is unusual about this set is that the first two segments (really a two-part TV movie) were produced five years before the remaining six episodes. Spread over 4 discs, these eight parts comprise almost 13 hours worth of viewing content (each episode averaging about 97 minutes). And hopefully I don't have to mention it, but this is in Italian with English subtitles.
In my estimation, this introduction is the set's strongest entry as it expertly introduces the characters, provides a solid mystery, and incorporates fascinating family drama as well. I would gladly give it five stars on its own and it's most of the reason I look at the rest of Vivaldi so favorably. The regular season episodes are more traditional crime procedurals. In each, a principle crime must be solved before the credits roll. And throughout the season, a more intricate story arc is unraveled opening up a cold case and initiated by a series of mysterious equations. Some of this gets a bit far fetched for my taste, but it's all well done and enjoyable. I would rate the six 2009 episodes at 4 stars. Overall, I'd give the set 4 1/2 stars which I'm rounding up on the strength of "My Son."
Key to the success of Inspector Vivaldi is lead actor Lando Buzzanca. Dedicated to the work that has torn his family apart, he grows closer to his son Stefano (a very good Giovanni Scifoni) as they work together on cases. Stefano is pursuing the law while holding down a job with the police. The two characters are a study in contrasts, and that fuels a successful partnership but not one without occasion friction. In many ways, this family dynamic (Vivaldi also hopes to reconcile with his estranged wife) is what distinguishes the tone of "The Inspector Vivaldi Mysteries." Overall, if you enjoy the genre, this is an easy recommendation especially for the father/son partnership.
Here's a taste of what you'll find in the episodes to help you determine if this is a good fit for your viewing interests:
1) My Son: The series kicks off with an excellent two part movie from 2004 that mixes traditional mystery with plenty of family drama. Federico Vivaldi is called to a coastal estate to investigate the death of a young woman during a party. The chief suspect is an Austrian male model. But the details aren't adding up and his son Stefano is harboring a big secret. He was a guest at the party!
2) My Son, Part 2: In continuation, Stefano did not want his attendance at the party revealed due to a personal revelation it would uncover. Let's just say he was dating the prime suspect and his parents aren't aware of his sexuality. While the family comes to grips with this surprise, father and son team up to find the real murderer.
3) The Cold Equations: Picking up in six episodes from 2009, the sudden death of an esteemed professor will kick off an on-going mystery that populates the rest of the season. The strange equations that the professor was working on initiate a renewed interest in a cold case from 15 years prior in which a young girl was abducted. Meanwhile, father and son Vivaldi also investigate the disappearance of a married couple.
4) The Debt: The primary case involves a jewelry heist that leads to a deadly shoot-out. While Vivaldi and his team track down the most likely suspect to this current crime, Eva Ferrer returns to Trieste. She is the sister of the girl who went missing fifteen years prior.
5) Sins of the Father: In the continuing story thread, the professor's equations lead to geographical coordinates that hold a very unpleasant surprise. If that wasn't enough, Vivaldi is tracking the killer of a car salesman who wasn't a very nice or popular fellow.
6) Silent Witness: The brutal murder of a monk has Vivaldi contending with a witness who won't talk. A young Arab boy holds the key to this mystery, but can the Inspector get it out of him?
7) Last Exit: In this episode, an unidentified girl's body is found at a road side rest stop. She was last seen with a young cellist, but does this have something to do with the murder? Was it random or something more involved? In the major story thread, Eva Ferrer disappears. Is history repeating itself or can Vivaldi suss out what's really going on?
8) The Third Equation: After deciphering the Professor's third equation, Vivaldi races against the clock to rescue Eva. The mystery will finally be revealed, but that's all you get from me. KGHarris, 8/13.