The Last Don (1997, TV mini-series)

‘Power Isn’t Everything… It’s The Only Thing’

Directed by:
Graeme Clifford

Written by:
Mario Puzo (novel)
Joyce Eliason (Teleplay)

Danny Aiello (Don Domenico Clericuzio), Joe Mantegna (Pippi De Lena), Jason Gedrick (Crucifixio ‘Cross’ De Lena), Daryl Hannah (Athena Aquitane), Penelope Ann Miller (Nalene De Lena), Rory Cochrane (Dante Santadio), Kirstie Alley (Rose Marie Clericuzio), David Marciano (Georgio Clericuzio), Christopher Meloni (Boz Skannet), Seymour Cassel (Alfred Gronevelt)

Don Domenico Clericuzio is a man that demands respect. His daughter Rose Marie has started a love affair with Jimmy Santadio. The Santadios are the sworn enemies of the Clericuzios and both families are against the affair. But the youngest son of the Don, Silvio, sticks his neck out to help the young love couple but gets shot to death by two Santadio brothers.

At Silvio’s funeral, Jimmy Santadio shows up and asks Don Clericuzio for Rose Marie’s hand. The Don agrees but tells them no family will be present at the wedding. Only Pippi De Lena, a loyal family soldier, will be there. But the Don is lying. After the wedding at the Santadio Mansion, the Clericuzio brothers storm in and kill Don Santadio and all of his sons. Pippi strangles Jimmy Santadio to death personally. He does choose to spare the life of Rose Marie.

After this tragic history, Pippi moves to Vegas to take over the Santadios’ business there. He marries the dancer Nalene and they have a son; Crucifixio. Rose Marie was already pregnant by Jimmy Santadio and at about the same time as Nalene, she gives birth to her son Dante. Now, with this new blood in the family, the evil from the past will have to be set straight. And the war between the Clericuzios and the Santadios is not over yet.

This enjoyable Mario Puzo pulp starts as the Sicilian version of Romeo and Juliet. All the typical mob story elements are there; family disputes, assassinations, illegal gambling and some romantic plotlines. It even contains a Hollywood side-plot in which Hollywood is compared to the Mafia. The cast of this Mini Series does fairly well. Danny Aiello, though no Marlon Brando, gives a convincing performance as the powerful Don Clericuzio who is as cunning as he is ruthless.

The other cast members also give solid performances, most notably Joe Mantegna as Pippi De Lena and Rory Cochrane as Dante Santadio. Also interesting is the performance of Kirstie Alley as Don Clericuzio’s daughter Rose Marie who has gone insane after her newlywed husband got murdered by her own family. The budget for this Mini Series must have been quite tight but it still has plenty of production value to offer. Those who like Mario Puzo stories will definitely enjoy this. Followed by The Last Don II.


PIPPI DE LENA: “This will be a confirmation which means the body will be found. A communion is when the body disappears.”

In the book the killing of the Santadio family is told towards the end, while the mini-series is told chronologically and therefore this crucial scene is shown in the beginning.

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