I saw a film!
With the Amazing John Philip Law, and the incomparable Marisa Mell (why not her for Barbarella, huh?)
Diabolik is the ultimate heist/caper/anarchist with hot lady in an arresting Mario Bava dreamworld we’ve ever seen. Forget Batman, and absolutely just dump the yawn-worthy Marvel universe down the commode, this is my heart right here.
Notorious Diabolik, another modern “Robin Hood” style fantasy, though this time with a bit more of a terrorist edge thrilled Italian comic book fans for decades.
Mario Bava brings the thing to startling life with his lo-fi techniques (it was said he had collections of magazine photos of various things that he could tape to glass and literally force the perspective with. Kidstuff really, but the results are gold when actors sell it! And basically this is the job of an actor, to make crap seem real enough.
The version of this film I watched actually included commentary from JPL which was extremely sweet and entertaining. Discussing, for example how he used to be able to drive a car and kiss Marisa Mell simultaneously. Ah the world of the late sixties, the things we missed (though 1968 is famously one of the roughest years the world had known to date, rivaling our current combined predicaments as I write). Italian anarchists and bombers were active and it’s rather a surprise that a fictional hero like Diabolik could possibly command the pop culture. It’d be a bit like having an obscenely wealthy, self-indulgent and bigoted playboy as a superhero in a movie today.
Is Danger: Diabolik farcical? Of course it is. Does it measure up to a recent Mission Impossible film in terms of crisp-pacing and violent intervals with outrageous stunts and eye-popping, seat-shaking car chases and explosions? No. It’s not like that at all. Danger: Diabolik is style. Diabolik isn’t interested in your fast pacing or your eye-popping. He could not give a shit about your desire for a helicopter shot outside a Dubai sky-scraper. That is not Diabolik’s chill. What he does have is Marisa, of course, and a brilliant subterranean hideout, along with a wicked sense of outsmarting authorities and criminals alike.
This film was panned by critics at the time, and while it grossed respectably, it languished for years as kitsch (and I read that with a capital K along with it’s De Laurentis partner Barbarella). Too bad, because both these films deserved better praise for not taking themselves too seriously and being just goddamned fun. I mean, if you can sit through a James Bond film like Thunderball and maintain a kind of serious perspective on the film genre you’re not going to love these things. To me there’s not much more comedy that can be added to a typical Bond film. Even if you throw Flint into the mix.
In the end, Danger: Diabolik holds up better than most of the stiff old spy/heist films, I mean, the Italian Job, despite its long reigning position as a classic was really not a better movie. If you keep in mind, especially, that a film’s job is to entertain an audience.
As you can no doubt tell, I adore this film, and I urge you to pop some corn, crack some favorite beverages and settle in for a sweet ride in a 1968 time capsule of cool.
It’ll cost you 3 bucks on Prime!