Friday, May 29, 2015

Danger: Diabolik - A Fun, Kitsch Laden Crime Caper

By Steve D. Stones

Danger: Diabolik (1967) is Italian director Mario Bava's most kitsch laden film. Bava is best known for his atmospheric horror and suspense themed films - such as Black Sunday and Kill Baby Kill.  Diabolik, however, is pure tongue in cheek, psychedelic era entertainment. The viewer might even mistaken it for a 1960s TV episode of Batman. The character of Diabolik even has an underground, secret headquarters filled with computers and other electronic devices - just like Batman's bat cave.  Diabolik dresses in a skin tight black outfit, similar to a diver's suit.

After stealing ten million dollars from under the noses of government agents and a priceless emerald necklace, Diabolik (John Phillip Law) confronts an Italian crime boss named Ralph Valmont - who has kidnapped Diabolik's girlfriend Eva (Marisa Mel) in exchange for the ten million dollars and the necklace.

Diabolik and Valmont fall out the bottom of a plane during a fight and land safely on the ground, as government agents quickly close in on the two. Valmont is killed by gun fire, while Diabolik swallows a capsule to give the appearance of being dead, allowing him to live in suspended animation for twelve hours.
Diabolik escapes while on the examination table at the hospital morgue, then plans his next big heist - the robbery of a 20-ton gold bar being transported by train. 

He blows up a bridge the train travels across carrying the giant gold bar and retrieves it underwater. He takes the gold bar back to his secret headquarters. 

The ending of the film may be giving a parody reference to the 1964 James Bond film - Goldfinger. Diabolik melts down the gold bar, but is accidentally solidified in the hot gold while wearing a protective suit.  Although the government agents think he is dead, he winks at the viewer through his helmet to indicate he's still alive.

The coolest aspect of Diabolik is that he does summersaults across the hood of his Jaguar when he's in a hurry to get away, and sleeps in a giant bed piled with money. The strange psychedelic score by Ennio Morricone adds greatly to the kitsch quality of the film. Opening credits give the impression of being spun in the spin cycle of a clothes washer.  Happy viewing!

(Art by Steve D. Stones)

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