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Giuliano Gemma takes down brigands and mafia in Sicily
"Il prefetto di ferro" (The Iron Prefect), also released as "I am the law" is a first-class A-type production. It's an exceptionally well-done historical biographical film. There was never an instant when I did not feel that I was immersed in the period depicted (about 1925 to 1929). The location work in Sicily in the old villages and environs is exceptional. For music, they turned to the first team, Ennio Morricone.
This is based on a true story, explained in the wikipedia entry on Caesere Mori, and the movie is accurate in its recreation, of course dramatized. Giuliano Gemma plays the stern and determined policeman (Mori), given strong powers by Il Duce (Mussolini) and assisted by soldiers at his beck and call. But it took great understanding of psychology, clever strategy and personal courage to accomplish his many thousands of arrests as he went about cleaning up Sicily. The movie focuses on a few outstanding episodes in his career as well as depicting his ultimate frustrations as he found the mafia's political connections reaching so high that those above him felt threatened and kicked him upstairs to a senatorial office. The movie makes a point of showing that Mori was no fascist. He had to deal with their pomposity at several turns and did so diplomatically.
Giuliano Gemma is one of the best Italian actors of that time, or any time. He makes this evident here, but also in his spaghetti westerns. The following year, he was to play the opposite role, equally convincingly, as a mafioso in the movie "Corleone".
This is not a thriller or a suspense movie, although it has its share of tension. Each challenge that Gemma meets is interesting in the way he overcomes the difficulties. The movie seems to run somewhat long after awhile. The inherent interest of the subject matter, however, and the meticulous recreation keep it going.
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