Now, this has everything that should make for an awesome, late Sixties espionage thriller. Hot pants and awesome legs, jet-setting spies, car chases, ridiculous gadgets, and bumbling cops. Plus, the nerd-friendly Dino DeLaurentis produces, and the incomparable Mario Bava directs. The thing you have to get past, or at least I did, is that Diabolik is a bad guy. Not a loose cannon or a Robin Hood. He is evil. Once that stops grating against your brain, it is a really awesome film. In the special features, comicker Alan Moore talks about how it is the greatest comic book adaptation ever filmed; going to far as to show panels from the comic books and the related scenes next to them. He attributes this greatly to Bava, who he says understands comics.
Now, this can be a bit campy like the old Batman television show, but it is not so much cheeky. John Phillip Law looks exactly as a real-life Diabolik would, and having the lovely Marisa Mell draped over the scenery all the time is certainly a bonus. The music is by Ennio Morricone (of Spaghetti Western fame), though it sounds a bit like Jess Franco's favorite duo of Alanso and Schwab. It is still very cool, and the soundtrack alone is a lot of fun.
What I think they really got right, from a comic book perspective, is they did not screw around with the costume or the character. While Law appears unmasked quite a bit, that is kind of a necessity, but they kept the basic costume... well, basic. Also, they did not clean the character up. As I understand things, there was a lot of anti-government sentiment in Italy at the time, and Diabolik is the government's enemy. It feels as though he is not even stealing for money as the film progresses, but rather to embarrass the politicians and police.
Definitely check the film out. It is highly cool, and the comic book fans should love it for no other reason than its conviction to the source material. Marvel and DC could learn a thing or three.
The lovely Marisa Mell as Eva Kant.
Law and Mell in a promo still.
The Beastie Boys made a video for "Body Movin'" with clips from the film.