King of Thieves – Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Danger: Diabolik might not be the best comic book adaptation of all time, but this Italian-sourced feature is a faithful one and even more importantly, it is a lot of fun. Starring John Phillip Law as Diabolik and Marisa Mell as his companion and compatriot in crime Eva Kant, they do a great job as the thieves who confound the police at every move. Directed by none other than Mario Bava, a man known for visceral and ethereal visions of horror, the film turned out to be a nice surprise and for those that have discovered it since and for those that do not take it with a serious eye, it remains a picture that delivers a large helping of pop art and entertainment straight to the pleasure center of the brain.

One of the better things about this film is that Bava does not play it as a spoof, instead treating it akin to the source material – a story of a thief and a good one at that, a criminal that outwits the law at all turns and pulls off the most daring heists all the while gaining some gratification through it all. Unlike other films in the genre like Kriminal or Satanik, Bava would keep the picture on track and adhere fairly close to the source material, avoiding the absurd like the spy spoofs of the time like Modesty Blaise or Our Man Flint. While he would not necessarily aim for levity within, it does tend to seep through as one cannot have the outrageous without a little bit of lightheartedness to go along with it. So when Diabolik commits his various felonies throughout the movie, there is a modicum of humour to go along with it. Factor in the continuous action sequences and a little bit of suspense, some down-time with Kent and Diabolik’s foe, Inspector Ginko who is more than a little stressed out at continuing to be ineffective no matter what he does and the film does not lack in keeping the viewer glued to the screen.

As for Bava, he paints the film in bright colours gives the pair of criminals a hideout worthy of the most notorious villain, sets the pace of the film right from the get-go and with a little help from cinematographer Antonio Rinaldi, gives the viewers some great scenery to chew up as Diabolik goes about his affairs. There are some tense moments and some fun ones and to accompany it all is a great soundtrack by Ennio Morricone which helps to set the mood and coupled with everything else, makes for a great movie-going experience. Viewers will also notice that Diabolik as played by Law is quite handsome and suave, the man as charming as James Bond with a little bit of danger behind the eyes while Eva Kant as portrayed by Mell is as beautiful as they come, a bombshell who uses her beauty and brains to charm those who stand in Diabolik’s way and a woman worthy of earning his trust. The two are perfect for the roles they play as heroes, or villains as it were, should not only look the part, but cater to the fantasies of the audience and who would not want to be the handsome thief with a gorgeous woman on his arm?

Suffice it to say, the film could not have been bigger and better with more of a budget thrown at it to make it a real spectacle, but Bava and the cast make it work and it never fails to entertain. It might be a little silly at times and perhaps even a little ridiculous, but Danger: Diabolik is the kind of movie that a person can lose themselves in for an afternoon and come out the other end of having thoroughly enjoyed it.

4 out of 5

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