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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Danger: Diabolik (1968) - Review

The handsome world renowned thief Diabolik, along with his gorgeous assistant Eva Kant, baffle and confound the authorities in this exciting adventure film by acclaimed director Mario Bava.


The master thief Diabolik is a comic book creation by sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani that started back in 1962 and has been in syndication in one form or another ever since. It has even had an animated series and a video game based on it. But in 1968, producer Dino De Laurentiis hired visionary director Mario Bava to bring Diabolik to life in a big budget feature film. Funnily enough Mario Bava is a notoriously economical filmmaker and makes the lowest budget film look gorgeous, so although Dino De Laurentiis gave Bava a $3 million dollar budget he still only spent $400,000 yet the result were as spectacular as if he had spent the whole $3 million.

Mario Bava is very careful with his money.

The plot of Danger: Diabolik, as much as there is one, deals with the government trying to prevent Diabolik (John Phillip Law) from successfully robbing the country blind and of course them failing miserably to do so again and again. Leading the charge to catch Diabolik is Inspector Ginco (Michel Piccoli) who’s every brilliant plan is foiled by the clever gadget laden supercriminal. The movie opens with Ginco orchestrating the transport of $10 million by using a decoy armored car that will be carrying fake money while the real cash will be in a Rolls Royce loaded with cops dressed up as if for a wedding. Diabolik sees through this clever ruse, smoke screens the car, lifts it into the air via a shipping crane, and then tosses the money down to a waiting speed boat.

title card

Later the authorities try to catch him as he tools down the coast road in his black Jaguar but are fooled when he meets up with his partner and love of his life Eva Kant (Marisa Mell) and switches to her white Jag while in a mountain tunnel. He remotely sends his black Jag out of the tunnel and off a cliff.


Diabolik and Eva retreat to his underground lair and my god it’s a place that would make Batman and most Bond villains jealous.

secret entrance 
It has a cool secret entrance.

Into the lair 
A psychedelic underground tunnel.

The Diabolik Cave 
Leading to the most amazing cavern hideout.

in the money 
Followed by great sex on a rotating bed covered in stolen millions.

Diabolik isn’t just happy stealing millions of government dollars, he and Eva crash a press conference where the Minister of the Interior (Terry-Thomas) announces that due to the increased criminal activity they are re-instating the death penalty and giving greater powers to the police. Diabolik’s response to this is to release laughing gas amongst the attending reporters and officials.

I love to laugh 
Diabolik is more in danger of being sued by the Joker than anything else.

Though Inspector Ginco and all his “Special Powers” can’t seem to stop Diabolik all this cracking down on crime is hurting the business interests of the local crime syndicate run by Valmont (Adolfo Celi). Valmont contacts Ginco to offer him a deal that will get the police off his back and Diabolik dead or in jail. When he reveals this plan to his fellow syndicate members he is forced to kill two dissenters, because for some reason those two idiots thought they were in a benevolent criminal democracy.

Valmont has severe severance packages.

Meanwhile back at Diabolik’s lair, the two catch a news broadcast about the famous Aksand emeralds belonging to Sir Harold and Lady Clark that will be at Saint Just Castle for a short time. It’s an obvious trap but it’s also Eva’s birthday and she would really love to have that emerald necklace. Valmont stations spies outside the castle to hopefully catch a look at either Diabolik or Eva if they show up to case the joint, while inside Ginco has the whole castle wired with video surveillance. The only way into Lord and Lady Clark’s room is through the well-guarded door or the window and the window opens onto a sheer drop that is completely unclimbable.

What part of “world’s greatest thief” do these guys not understand?

Diabolik scales the wall with the aid of suction-cups, fools the camera surveillance with a well-placed photograph, and dupes the police into thinking he catapulted himself off the tower wall when it was just his empty suit. Unfortunately, during their escape Eva is slightly injured. Because Valmont also had men casing a local unlicensed doctor that they suspected to be Eva’s, she is captured. Valmont calls Diabolik telling him to bring $10 million dollars and the emerald necklace or Eva will be brutally killed.

Who is going to come out on top here is never really in question.

If the film has a failing it is in its episodic nature. One caper follows another, almost as of you are watching the continuing adventures of Diabolik on ABC. When Eva is rescued and Valmont is vanquished you’d think that would be the end of the movie, but instead we find out that the new Prime Minister of the Interior has placed a million dollar bounty on Diabolik. Not one for taking that sort of thing lying down Diabolik announces that he believes this action to prove that the current government does not know how to handle its taxpayers hard earned money. So he blows up all of the tax offices across the country. Extreme thy name is Diabolik.

Tyler Durden totally ripped off Diabolik.

And the film is still not over. Without tax revenues the government needs some emergency funds, so they melt the gold reserves into one giant 20 ton block so that it would be impossible for a thief to make off with it. Seriously, have these guys been watching the same movie we have?

Underwater heist 
Twenty tons of gold is more buoyant than you’d think.

The film comes to a rousing conclusion with mini-subs, gold smelting lasers, a police raid on Diabolik’s secret lair and our “hero” encased in gold.  So impressed with how much Maria Bava saved him on the budget Dino De Laurentiis asked Bava to make a sequel with the leftover funds, sadly Bava had grown tired of working with Dino and decided to pass.  That we didn’t get a whole series of these movies like the Bond films is the real crime here.
Midas Touch 
Will Diabolik return?

Danger: Diabolik is an exciting romp, showing us a version of the sixties that only existed in the movies and the score by Ennio Morricone is simply one of the best movies scores, it’s a shame that it never got released as an album.

Though it’s structure may be flawed I had too much fun watching John Phillip Law and Marisa Mell cavort from one escapade to another to care. The only real question is, “Who is prettier, Diabolik or Eva?”
Diabolik and Eva

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