Directed by Mario Bava with his usual visual panache, DANGER: DIABOLIK is a super-stylish live-action adaptation of the popular 1960s European comic-strip about the exploits of a super-criminal who confounds the police and tangles with the underworld. After pulling off a daring hijacking of a $10 million currency shipment, suave thief Diabolik (John Phillip...read more
Directed by Mario Bava with his usual visual panache, DANGER: DIABOLIK is a super-stylish live-action adaptation of the popular 1960s European comic-strip about the exploits of a super-criminal who confounds the police and tangles with the underworld.
After pulling off a daring hijacking of a $10 million currency shipment, suave thief Diabolik (John Phillip Law) shows up at a press conference given by the finance minister (Terry-Thomas) and sprays the participants with laughing gas. Police Inspector Ginco (Michel Piccoli), continually
frustrated by Diabolik, tries to bait the thief by announcing that the wife of a visiting dignitary will be wearing a priceless emerald necklace at a party, but Diabolik manages to steal it anyway. Ginco then makes a deal with mob czar Valmont (Adolfo Celi) to trap Diabolik. Valmont kidnaps
Diabolik's beautiful partner and lover Eva (Marisa Mell) and holds her for ransom, but Diabolik rescues her and escapes. Diabolik becomes a national hero after blowing up all of the nation's tax buildings and destroying the income tax records. He then steals a 20-ton gold ingot, unaware that it's
been made radioactive, and the police follow the radioactive trail back to his underground hideout. Diabolik begins melting down the ingot, but when the police arrive, a shootout causes the ingot to explode, and it showers Diabolik with molten gold and turns him into a golden statue. As the police
lead Eva away, she sadly says goodbye to Diabolik, but is startled to see him wink at her from inside the statue.
Easily the best of the spate of '60s European comic-strip/superhero movies (e.g., BARBARELLA and FANTOMAS), DANGER: DIABOLIK is also one of the best live-action movies ever made to be based on a cartoon, fully capturing their visual razzle-dazzle, kinetic velocity, and sense of fantasy. Utilizing
wide-angle lenses, day-glo colors, psychedelic sets, and outrageous costumes, Bava creates dynamic compositions which could have come straight from a comic-strip panel, along with some indelible images, none more so than Diabolik covered in gold at the end, or the shots of he and Eva making love
on a spinning bed while covered by a pile of money. Accompanied by Ennio Morricone's spacey score, the ingenious exploits of the black masked, leather-clad Diabolik are depicted at a furious pace, which recall the superhero serials of Hollywood's golden age, as he climbs up the side of a building
with suction-cups, tricks a surveillance camera with a Polaroid snapshot, coerces a confession out of Valmont as they freefall from an airplane, and eludes capture by taking a pill that makes him appear to be dead. The film's look may have been inspired by the 1960s "Batman" TV series, replete
with a cavernous, drive-in underground cave, but it outdoes the series in every respect (one can only imagine what Bava could have done if he had worked on the show) and the film itself seems to have influenced Tim Burton's BATMAN movies, particularly the first one, with its highly stylized look
and outlandishly tongue-in-cheek tone. Although the film proved what Bava was capable of accomplishing with a large budget (probably the biggest he ever had), and became a smash hit, the director declined future offers from its producer Dino de Laurentiis to direct some more lavish international
coproductions, preferring to work without interference on his usual low-budget horror films. (Violence, sexual situations.)