Cult Classics: Danger Diabolik

1 Dec

Danger: Diabolik is a 1968 film directed by Mario Bava about a master criminal who steals almost everything imaginable from the government of an unnamed country.  It is also one of three cult classics that I will be focusing on over the next several days in a special Cult Classics Retrospective.  There is a 2001 film called CQ that is basically a combination of Danger: Diabolik and Barbarella.  So, today we will be discussing Danger: Diabolik, Barbarella will be next, and we’ll finish up by deciding if CQ lives up to the two movies it borrows so much from.

I will begin this by confessing that the only Bava movie I had seen before this was Twitch of the Death Nerve, the original slasher film.  Before anyone jumps down my throat, let me assure all of you that I’m terribly embarrassed by this situation, and I will be rectifying it as soon as possible.  But I thought this needed to be said at the beginning because I can’t honestly compare it to other Bava films.  And that’s usually a huge thing for me.

I think that Danger: Diabolik is great.  It has all the qualities I love about sixties “man” movies.  The slickest cars ever made constantly surround our leading man.  The look of the film is made up of “mod” styles and sixties architecture.  Our hero’s goals don’t really make sense, but they’re still perfect for the story.  And there’s even a soundtrack by the master of sixties spy music, Ennio Morricone.  This is just a cool movie.

John Phillip Law plays Diabolik, a master criminal with an incredibly impressive, underground hideout and an incredibly beautiful girlfriend named Eva (played by Marisa Mell).  The story follows him as he robs the government over and over again, despite the best efforts of the police and the criminal underworld.  We’re never told why he is so determined to plague the government, but it doesn’t really seem to matter.  Watching him commit the crimes is so fun that you don’t really care what his motivations are.

I knew I was going to love this movie from the opening scene of twenty something police motorcycles driving in formation down the street.  There’s something about the way Bava shot the opening that immediately grabbed my attention.  From that point on I only became more and more enamored with what I was watching.  And it wasn’t just the story or the cinematography either.  I loved all the little things, like the mask Diabolik wears.  I love that he drives a black Jaguar and Eva drives a matching white one.  I love that Adolfo Celi, who played Emilio Largo in Thunderball, is one of the villains.

I could go on and on naming things I liked about this movie, and perhaps that’s the point.  There is no overarching characteristic that makes this film stand out.  I mean, Bava did a fantastic job of directing, and his use of matte paintings and camera tricks are phenomenal, but it’s admittedly not the kind of movie you would learn about in a lecture on break-through film directing.  The plot of the film is good too, in fact it’s praised to this day as being one of the most loyal comic book adaptations ever filmed.  But it’s not any better than other sixties spy movies.  Its when you take this well directed spy movie and combine it with how crazy the mask is, how beautiful Marisa Mell is, and how insane the tools Diabolik uses to scale walls are that you see Danger: Diabolik for what it truly is.  Amazing.  An amazing, sexy, sixties, crime film.

looking for more Bava films already,

David

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2 Responses to “Cult Classics: Danger Diabolik”

  1. Kevin Lipe December 3, 2009 at 1:52 am #

    That horror movie we watched at your house last Halloween was a Bava movie, “Twitch of the Death Nerve” (the Italian title was “Chain Reaction”). If you remember, it featured a guy getting a machete stuck in his face.

    …which was awesome.

    • iamhrothgar December 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm #

      Oh, I remember it well. I wish you lived here so I could borrow that Bava collection you have.

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