Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968)

While not being up on the fumetti, nor overly schooled in what to expect, I have always considered Danger: Diabolik a film I needed to watch.

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.


dfordoom said...

Wonderful movie. Stunning visuals on a limited budget.

Aaron said...

such a wonderful film. The Italian film guys in that era did so much with so little!!! A friend told me how they would actually Matte paint pieces of the set onto a piece of glass & lay it over the camera's lens to add depth to sets..amazing. such a good flick.

Kal said...

I only saw this movie for the first time this year. John Phillip Law is one of my favorite pretty boy actors and as Sinbad he was my childhood hero. I liked how in this movie I never really saw him as a bad guy. He didn't kill or hurt others. He just liked the challenge of stealing money in the most elaborate ways possible. He was ultra cool in the way that James Bond wishes he could be. I need to watch this one again right now.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@DfD - It does run circles around Barbarella.

@Aaron - The matte painting is a lost art. They pulled off some awfully good stuff.

@Kal - I think the exploding buildings got me a bit. You can't blow up a building by surprise without killing somebody. I guess he's a bit like The Punisher, if I may be so crass ;-)

Lazarus Lupin said...

Hey!! You will be announced today of winning the Versatile Blogger Award. Enjoy!!

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

Darius Whiteplume said...

@LL - Thanks! I will check it out.

Vulnavia Morbius said...

Credit where credit is due, that's not Alan Moore in the DVD extras. It's Moore's Swamp Thing collaborator, Steve Bissette. Bissette is also a frequent contributor to Tim Lucas's DVD Watchdog (Lucas did the commentary track for Paramount's DVD). He's also an excellent writer unto himself.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I was sure they credited him as Alan Moore in the featurette, but not being a comic book guy I don't know Alan Moore from Alan Alda. I bow to your superior Kung-Fu ;-)

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