Writer-director Franco Castellano, who teamed with Pipolo to become Italy’s most commercially successful filmmaking team of the 1980s, died Dec. 28 in Rome of lung cancer. He was 74.

Starting with their 1963 debut feature, “I Marziani hanno dodici mani,” Castellano worked with fellow helmer-scriptwriter Giuseppe Moccia, known as Pipolo, alternating between film and TV commitments.

They were behind a string of record-breaking hit comedies starring Adriano Celentano. In a recent inflation-adjusted hit list charting the box office performances of Italian productions since 1955, Castellano & Pipolo’s films accounted for five of the top 100 entries, with two features rating in the top 10.

Those blockbusters were 1980′s “Il Bisbetico domato,” a riff on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” and 1981′s “Innamorato pazzo,” a romantic fairytale inspired by “Roman Holiday,” about a vacationing princess who falls for a bus driver. Both pics headlined popular singer-actor Celentano and Ornella Muti.

While the directing duo’s films often were dismissed by critics, they invariably were embraced by the public, becoming theatrical hits that continue to rate well when aired on national television.

Castellano & Pipolo’s other films with Celentano include “Mani di velluto” (1979), “Sabato, Domenica e Venerdi” (1979), “Asso” (1981), “Grand Hotel Excelsior” (1982), “Segni particolari: Bellissimo” (1983) and “Il Burbero” (1986). They also directed Celentano in the top-rated 1987 season of pubcaster RAI’s variety show “Fantastico.”

Among the filmmaking team’s other major commercial hits are “Mia moglie e una strega” (1980), “Il Ragazzo di campagna” (1984), “College” (1984) and “Grandi magazzini” (1986). “College” spawned a TV series scripted and directed in tandem by Castellano and Pipolo’s sons. For television, the veteran duo also made RAI’s successful 1989 series “Il Vigile urbano,” starring Lino Banfi.

Castellano & Pipolo directed the 1982 comedy “Attila, flagello di Dio,” which featured one of the few starring roles of Rita Rusic during her brief career as an actress before going on to become a producer with husband Vittorio Cecchi Gori’s film division.

He is survived by his wife, son, daughter and grandson.

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