Salvatore Giuliano (1962)



Director:     Francesco Rosi.

Starring:     Salvo Randone (President of Viterbo Assize Court), Frank Wolff (Gaspare Pisciotta), Pietro Cammarata (Salvatore Giuliano).

young Mafia leader recruited by Sicilian separatist politicians is gunned down close to declaration of Sicily's self-rule


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"In Motelepre where Salvatore Giuliano was born; in the houses, roads and mountains where he reigned for seven years; in the house in Castelvetrano where the outlaw spend his last months; and in the courtyard where his lifeless body was found one morning."

On July 5, 1950 in Castelvetrano the authorities conduct an investigation into the death of Salvatore Giuliano.  In front of them is a male corpse about 30 years old lying in the courtyard.  Others come to look at the body.  People watch from the roof tops and windows of the surrounding buildings. 

Flashback.  Palermo 1945.  The passion for separatism raged on in Sicily.  MIS was the separatist party committed to uniting the region and EVIS (the Sicilian Voluntary Army for Independence) was its military arm.  The supporters of the movement were the Americans, English, landowners and the Mafia.  There were many deaths in skirmishes between separatists and officers of the law. 

September 30, 1945.  The first CLN government ordered the arrest of the leaders of the independence movement: Finocchiaro Aprile and Varvaro.  There are 37 bands of outlaws in Sicily at the time.  Outlaw Gaspare Picciotti says the great Italian independence fighter Garibaldi used escapees and bandits to rid Sicily of the Bourbons. 

October 1945, Case Vecchie di Sagana, a few miles from Montelepre.  Representatives of EVIS seek out the outlaw Giuliano to offer him the rank of colonel and the battle flag of EVIS.  In addition, once independence is attained, his name will be cleared.  Giuliano was an outlaw at age 21 and at present is 23 years sold.  He killed a carabiniere (military policeman) and went into the mountains. 

Don Pietro di Borgetto tells the EVIS representatives that Turiddu (Giuliano) is expecting them.  They hire Giuliano to fight for the independence of Sicily.  Don Pietro goes to talk to the outlaws.  In town the police come out of a building and are shot down.  Giuliano's men surround an isolated post and open fire on it.  The men inside come out with their hands raised.  Four policemen drive along the road and are fired upon.  The jeep crashes.  The survivors shoot back at their attackers. 

Back to the present.  A police spokesperson tells the media representatives that Giuliano was shot in the heart by policemen waiting for him.  He says that an informant told them ten days ago that Giuliano was in the area.  Some of the nearby townspeople are asked if they saw or heard anything.  Eyewitnesses say there were three revolver shots and a half hour later there was the sound of a machine gun.  Another man says that Giuliano stole from the rich to give to the poor.  A newspaperman files his story saying that the eyewitnesses contradict the official version of the death of Salvatore Giuliano.  

Flashback.  Giuliano and his men were protected by their positions in the mountains.  The mountains gave them views of the town and the roads leading from the town to the mountains.  On the other side of Sicily, the eastern side, the separatists were easily defeated in 1946.  Giuliano's men see the arrival of man military policemen in the town.  The townspeople go inside their homes and close their shutters.  The carabiniere major  goes to see the town's mayor.  His first concern is the housing of his 300 men. The police marshal comes to tell the major that he wouldn't suggest putting up the soldiers with the civilians.  Frankly, the area is too hostile.  The major rejects the suggestion.  After the marshal leaves, the major laughs with his staff saying no wonder the town never gets anything done. 

Two policemen begin patrolling the streets when they are shot down by automatic weapons fire.  One of the policemen is taken inside a nearby house, but he soon dies of his wounds.  A curfew is declared.  The next morning the military police start marching up into the mountains.  Giuliano's men open fire on them.  The military guys soon retreat.  They fire some artillery shells at the outlaws, but they just move around the mountain to get away from the fire. 

The town crier announces that the people have one hour to get their water and shop for food.  Mostly women come out, but some older men too.  Soon they are fired upon and they have to scatter. 

In May 1946, Sicily was granted its independence.  In June King Umberto II left the government.  The Italian Republic granted amnesty for all political crimes.  Even those who had fought for EVIS were free to return to their homes, as long as they only committed political violence.  A group of them speak to a lawyer.  The lawyer says that Giuliano is still staying in the mountains.  He says the separatists were never going to keep their promises to Giuliano.  The lawyer says Giuliano was an idiot to believe them in the first place.  Giuliano will be an outlaw in the streets until the police catch him.  A Mafia fellow says that no one can catch Turiddu (aka Salvatore Giuliano).  One of the men in the lawyer's office says:  "First you use the lemon and then you throw it out."

The outlaws kidnap a man.  In fact, after the independence struggle the outlaws went back to kidnapping, robbery, extortion and blackmail.  After the dissolution of EVIS some of the money would go to Giuliano, but quite a bit of the money went to the Mafia for "protection".  

The police continue with their random searches of people.   They stop townspeople from taking water and food stuffs up to the mountains to the outlaws by confiscating the goods.  The whistling signaling is heard in the morning.  A mother awakens her son Salvatore.  He gets up quickly and goes outside.  A little later soldiers go into the house.  They also start rounding up a lot of the men in the town.  Many of the women cry to see their men taken away. 

The police gather the men in the square.  They call out the names of quite a few of the townsmen.  These people are going to Palermo.  One of the men asks:  "Marshal, how long will we have to pay for the sin of being born in Montelepre?" The other townsmen shout their approval of this observation. 

A woman runs down the streets of the town shouting "murderers!'"  She shouts that the police are taking the men to Palermo.  The police are informed that the women are coming and they take two squadrons to block of the main street going into the town square. 

Back to the present.   The mother of Salvatore Giuliano moans over the loss of her son.  The photographers take photos of her.  The mother is allowed to see the body of her son.  She cries over the body. 

Flashback.  1947.  In the first election for an autonomous Sicilian government, the People's party is victorious.  An agrarian party arises espousing agrarian reform and the occupation of feudal land. 

A shepherd with his goats is told that Giuliano wants to see him.  He gets someone to watch his goats and then goes to wait with many other men gathered in the same place.  A man comes out and gives him a rifle.  He also gives him one minute of education on how to use the rifle.  And, finally, he sends the shepherd out to fight alongside the others.  The men learn that on May the first, May Day, tomorrow, they are going to Portella della Ginestra to shoot communists. 

The communists are having a big march and a speech.  A speaker shouts out over a loud speaker what they need and what they want.  All of a sudden gun fire breaks out coming from the mountains.  The people start running for their lives. 

The shepherd is at police headquarters telling the police he did not shoot at anybody and he certainly did not kill anybody.  The police keep trying to force him to say something incriminating.  He cries as he is put back into his cell. 

Back to the present.  In July of 1950, Salvator Giuliano was just a name on a tombstone. 

Flashback.  Giuliano and his outlaws continued to blackmail, kidnap and kill.  In fact, 100 carabiniere and policemen were killed.  The man appeared to be unstoppable. 

August 19, 1949 at Bellolampo at the gate of Palermo.  In an ambush the outlaws kill six and wound eleven carabiniere.  To fight back the authorities set up the Repression Corps, headed by Colonel Luca.  After eleven months, a large number of outlaws were either captured or killed and Giuliano met his end.  Only one of the top men was left and that was Giuliano's right-hand man, Gaspare Pisciotta.  The police talk to his mother and check her house but don't find anyone.  They tell the mother that they are not leaving.  They'll be there when he comes out.  The police hear some noise upstairs and go to check it out.  The mother asks her son to give up and Gaspare does so.

Back to the present.  There is a trial held for those accused of killing communists at Portella della Ginestra.  A large number of accused  outlaws appear in court behind bars.  One of the first witnesses is the shepherd.  But now the man says he doesn't know anything and he doesn't know anybody in the town.  The judge has to dismiss him.  The next witness says that the police beat the confession out of him. 

The judge says it all started going bad on June 13, 1950 with the arrival of Giuliano's memoir in court in which he claimed that all the picciotti (il.., a young mafiosa) were innocent and their statements made under duress.

With other outlaw witnesses, the judge asks them directly who fired the shots at Porto della Ginestra.  One of the men says that when the time is right, he will talk.  Later in the court case, this same man stands up and says he can name some names.  In front of the judge he says he knows the names of three men.  He heard the names from Terranova, who heard it from Giuliano.  Terranova is called to the stand.  When the cooperating witness gets back to the docket with the other defendants, they suddenly attack him.  Meanwhile, Terranova throws himself on the floor and acts like he has gone absolutely bonkers.   After considerable struggling, the court is finally brought back to order.  

Gaspare Pisciotta now decides to talk.  He says the Giulilano memoir that the judge has is completely false.  Giuliano was forced by the police to write it.  He says in the false version of the memoirs, Giuliano omitted the names of the men behind the massacre at Portella della Ginestra, thereby destroying his comrades' lives.  He says that's why he killed Giuliano.  The real memoir, he claims, has the names of the influential politicians behind the decision to attack the communists. 

Flashback.  Gaspare also says that since 1947 he was a collaborator with the carabiniere.  The police gave him a free pass to come and go as he pleased.  He claims that all the defendants were loyal servants of the separatists and monarchists.  And now the big politicians are all in Rome, while the little guys are all here.  He says an unholy trinity was formed between the outlaws, the police and the Mafia.  To prove it he asks the judge to subpoena Gen. Luca.  On December 23, 1949, General Luca met with Giuliano.  The carabiniere also contacted the Mafia and the two sides made an agreement to cooperate with each other.  And now it's difficult, if not impossible, to determine what the Mafia was responsible for and what the carabiniere were responsible for. 

A Mafia man named Nunzio says he is providing the carabiniere with one of the four men around Giuliano (except for Gaspare).  His name is Franco Mannino.  The four need to be gotten rid of before they can get Giuliano.  Nunzio says that the carabiniere have to catch Giuliano. 

Mannino is grabbed by the outlaws and held.    

Nunzio tells the marshal that now they need the other three and Giuliano.  The marshal says he just may let Mannino go.  Nunzio is shocked and asks the marshal:  "So you want to see me dead?"  Nunzio is definitely under the gun.  The carabiniere want to know where are Manino, Badalamwenti and Madonia and the fourth guy?  Do the outlaws have them? 

Gaspare talks with the military police.  He says they got the five of them and two of them can thank him for still being alive.  He says Giuliano is going to screw them all  --  it's either him or Giuliano.  Gaspare agrees to capture or kill Giuliano.  They trace him to where he lives.  Gaspare tells them that he will go in alone.  Gaspare gets a room from the landlord.  He calls out for Turiddu.  Giuliano says he's not coming and gives Gaspare a note.  The note says that Gaspare has made a deal with the carabiniere.  Gaspare laughs and asks:  "And you believe it?"

Outside the carabiniere hear three shots go off.  Six carabiniere rush over to the building.  Gaspare comes out and says that Giulilano is up there wounded.  The carabiniere go in but find that Giuliano is actually dead.  Now they wonder what are they going to do.  They tell the landlord to get them Giuliano's clothes.  They get the clothes and they dress Juliano in them.  A military policeman drives Gaspare back, but Gaspare takes control and kicks the policeman out the the car.  He proceeds on alone. 

The military police bring the body to the spot where it will eventually be found.  They stage the scene carefully.  Then one of the carabiniere fires off an automatic weapon toward the body. 

Back to the present.  At the court they ask the landlord of Giuliano if he knows where Giuliano's memoirs are to be found?  The landlord says he knows nothing about the whereabouts the memoir.  The judge wonders if Gaspare took the memoir from Giuliano. 

Gaspare speaks up and says that as of July 1950 Giuliano no longer had the memoir.  It had been given to the man they called "the little lawyer".  He also says he introduced the carabiniere to the little lawyer.  The carabiniere have the document now.  Gaspare says he can't give the judge the name of the man. 

The court has reached it's decision A number of the defendants such as Gaspare, Terranova, Mannino, Francesco Pisciotta, Cucinella and several more have been found guilty of the May 1, 19147 massacre and are sentenced to life in prison.  Most of the defendants,however, have their cases acquitted.  The judge says the others acted only under duress. 

Gaspare is shocked at his sentence.  He thought for sure he would be acquitted.  He says he is no outlaw and he saved the life of the colonel of the carabiniere.  In prison Gaspare is poisoned to death, probably for collaborating with the police.  One of the outlaws shouts out the news for everyone to hear that Gaspare is dead and the inmates make a lot of banging sounds to announce their approval. 

In 1960 Nunzio is murdered at a horse market. 


Good movie.  Salvatore Giuliano and his thugs were hired to kill for Sicilian independence from the rest of Italy.  He and his crew killed a lot of regular police and military police because he saw them as no more than an occupying army in Sicily.  He also, however, went after communists, unionists and other leftists.  In a way the film is a bit of a thriller, because one doesn't know who killed Salvatore Giuliano.  The murder case is complicated by an apparent cover-up, but by who and why?   In the commentary to the movie by film critic Peter Cowie, he says that many have speculated that Giuliano was spared because he knew too much.  Some senior police officers actually hampered the fight against Giuliano. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 



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