Bruno Vailati; Producer Known for Sea Footage

Bruno Vailati, a film producer and writer whose efforts ranged from 13 one-hour undersea documentaries titled “Encyclopedia of the Sea,” to the minimal Italian adventure epic “Hercules Unchained,” died Feb. 26 of cancer at his home outside Rome, his Los Angeles office announced.

He was 70 and in 1951, after graduating from law school at the University of Bologna, mounted his first film expedition. It was to the Red Sea and produced some of the earliest, highest quality underwater film footage ever shot. It became “The Blue Continent.”

Vailati was to become known over the years for his marine footage. His films were made primarily for Italian companies, including his own, and shown throughout the world on public and private TV stations.

In 1954 “The Blue Continent” was one of two Italian entries at the Venice Film Festival; the other was “La Strada.”


Over the years the film maker/oceanographer completed documentaries on all of the world’s seas and oceans. In Italy his films often drew higher ratings than commercially successful TV programming.

He also either wrote or produced several films made for escape: “Hercules Unchained,” “The Giant of Marathon,” “The Golden Arrow,” a 1961 remake of “The Thief of Baghdad” and “Torpedo Bay,” with James Mason and Lilli Palmer.

In 1971 he joined with producer David L. Wolper for a series of six hourlong documentaries that they called “Men of the Sea.” The first of them was “Andrea Doria Minus 40,” a feature on Vailati’s exploration of the wreck of the ill-fated Italian steamship that sank in 1956.

Survivors include a sister and nephews and nieces.