From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Northern Italian police officer Captain Bellodi (Franco Nero) has been stationed in Sicily. His faith in judicial power is proven to be quixotic by the locals, when he is trying to solve a homicide case and is confronted with an undermined system. The ascendancy of Don Mariano Arena (Lee J. Cobb) seems to cloak everything in silence. It seems Bellodi is the only one it cuts no ice with. Nobody wants to be involved, except key figure Rosa Nicolosi (Claudia Cardinale) who is looking for her husband, lost since the act. Being close in, Bellodi has to realize how hopeless his lonesome operation turns out to be.
As an adaption of Leonardo Sciascia's novel, Il Giorno Della Civetta aka Day of The Owl aka Mafia is the first of a series of depressive political thrillers by Damiano Damiani and also his first film with Nero who without doubt was one of the most famous actors from Italy in the sixties and seventies. With Claudia Cardinale, another star of international attention since her participation in Circus World, it's no wonder her part got modified to a longer apperance compared to the original story. The music by Giovanni Fusco, that was by the way conducted by Bruno Nicolai, is leverating the atmosphere to elevation, though the movie presents the world to be relentless and immutable.
In American International Pictures' catalogue, Il Giorno Della Civetta (released as Mafia) is among the least exploitational films. It is cinema at an artistically high level building up the tension from subtle dialogues in a rather calm narrative structure (I had no source to find out how exactly the english dub could capture this). This way the movie overpowers with cruel darkness at its peaks and is at no point delivering a problem solution. Contrary to other works at the time when Italian crime films where only exposing Mafia structures, Damiano, who was politically involved since his years of study in Milan, targeted on moral courage, an initiation to plots popular in the early seventies.
Reviewed by AWSOM50