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Italy 1968
Directed by
Mario Bava
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars

Danger: Diabolik

Synopsis: Diabolik is the world’s number one super-criminal. The masked bandit is constantly pursued by the bungling police but escapes their every plan. The police soon realise that the only way to catch a thief is to make a deal with the underworld but Diabolik escapes the Mafia and wins back his girl. After contaminating some stolen gold the police track down and raid his underground lair and the robber is engulfed in molten gold, as always though, Diabolik has the last laugh!

Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik may well be the ultimate cult movie. The delirious 1968 crime thriller has everything; an iconic performance by John Philip Law, guest appearances from English comedy legend Terry Thomas and Thunderball villain Adolfo Celi, outrageously camp costume designs, lashings of sex appeal in the delectable form of Marisa Mell and a ultra-kitsch lounge soundtrack by the inimitable Ennio Morricone.

The unsung hero of Italian cinema, Bava’s massively influential career is steeped in horror legend; his innovative Giallo thrillers like Blood and Black Lace and Hatchet for A Honeymoon inspired the career of Dario Argento and are adored by the likes of Martin Scorsese. With Bava seen as a hired hand by producers; Danger: Diabolik started life as Dino De Laurentiis’s unofficial sequel to Roger Vadim's saucy sci-fi flick Barbarella, but it soon had taken on a life of its own after Bava took control.

The cast is a who’s who of cult cinema; John Philip Law fresh from his performance as an Angel in Barbarella,looks fantastic in the title role, a character driven by greed and a delight in outwitting his enemies. Euro-legend Marisa Mell is sex godess incarnate as she rolls around naked under millions of dollars of Diabolik’s ill gotten gains. Thomas and Celi add a touch of class and the rest of the Italian cast give the film a Mediterranean flavour. The English language dialogue is terribly dubbed but this doesn’t distract from the gaudy on-screen visuals.

The film’s delicious visual style belies its low-budget origins, Bava using every trick in the book - fades, gels, wipes, and forced perspective - the imagination on show is sensational. Diabolik’s underground lair, complete with money-covered rotating bed, is a sumptuous adult version of the Batcave.

The Morricone soundtrack is sublime; from the opening track Deep Down to the groovy swing of the nightclub scenes, the fuzzed up guitar work and demented trumpets drive the film along at a frenetic pace. The film ends with a wink, a knowing glance at the audience. It is a pure candy-coloured fantasy and more enjoyable for it.

 

 

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