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Diabolik

Danger Diabolik
Gefahr: Diabolik

Italy/France 1968
produced by
Dino De Laurentiis, Bruno Todin for Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica, Marianne Productions
directed by Mario Bava
starring John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell, Michel Piccoli, Adolfo Celi, Terry-Thomas, Claudio Gora, Mario Donen, Carlo Croccolo, Caterina Boratto, Lucia Modugno, Annie Gorassini, Lidia Biondi, Andrea Bosic
screenplay by Dino Maiuri, Adriano Baracco, Mario Bava, Tudor Gates, based on the comic by Angela Giussani, Lucina Giussani, music by Ennio Morricone

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When the biggest money transport ever in Italy takes place, inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli) decides to leave nothing to chance, so that master criminal Diabolik (John Phillip Law) won't steal the money, including sending a heavily guarded transport off as a decoy while hiding the money in an inconspicious car (well, not totally inconspicius, it's a Rolls Royce). But of course, Diabolik is always one step ahead, inasmuch as he doesn't try to only steal the money but he steals the whole car, & later makes good his getaway with hte help of his girlfriend Eva (Marisa Mell) & a black & a white Jaguar. Not only that, with the help of some laughing gas, he makes the whole police department & the finance minister (Terry-Thomas) the laughing stock of the nation.

But inspector Ginko has a rather unorthodox plan to catch Diabolik ... he reinstates the death penalty for big time gangsters like Ralph Valmont (Adolfo Celi). Now Valmont is quite good in evading justice & stuff, but since he doesn't want ot gamble his life, he suggests a deal to Ginko: Diabolik for Valmont's life. Ginko - who has expected such a deal - agrees.

Soon, the papers are full of the priceless diamond necklace of Lady Clarke (Caterina Borratto), & everybody (including Diabolik) knows that Diabolik will make an attempt to steal the diamonds, only nobody knows just how he is going to do it ... easy as pie actually, first he has Eva spy out the place, a midieval cawtle, disguised as a streetwalker (though it's not quite exsplained how), then he climbs the castle walls, picks up the necklace when nobody's looking & ultimately catapults himself from one of the castle's tower when the police & Valmont's men are after him ... only, he didn't really catapult himself, only his costume to trick his pursuers, & he walks out the castle through the front door ... of course pretty much everyone picks up pursuit once they have found that out, but of course Diabolik can escape them.

Unfortunately though, one hooker is able to identify Eva as Diabolik's friend, & at the next opportunity they kidnap her & hold her for ransom: Lady Clarke's diamond necklace & the money from the money transport ... plus of course Diabolik himself.

But to the money transfer (in an airplane with a trap door (!), Diabolik hasn't come unprepared, & soon enough he has blown up the plane & only saved himself & Valmont - who has meanwhile taken Lady Clarke's diamonds from Diabolik, hence Diabolik's noble gesture.

Of course once on the ground, Diabolik has just enough time to free Eva, then he gets into a gunfight with the police & Valmnt, during which he shoots Valmont - with Lady Clarke's diamonds as ammouition, then fakes his own death.

Awaking in the morgue, he gives the coroner the fright of his life, but has not much time to stay because he has to fetch the diamonds from Valmont's body (who has just been incinerated). & thus Diabolik has triumphed over the police again.

But how to top it ?

Easy, blow up the finance ministry & the national bank, so all the state's money & all the state's tax records are lost, so the state has to sell its gold reserves ... but again, inspector Ginko tries to stay ahead of the game in melting all the gold the state has to sell into one giant, 20 ton nugget (try to steal that, & seal it into a steel container that needs 2 days to be welded open, then has it transported in a train (& try to kidnap a train), with the whole route heavily guarded !

Of course though, Diabolik is one step ahead of Ginko after all when he explodes a truck on the railtracks to have a tunnel blocked, forcing the train to detour, then blows up a bridge over the sea the train has to pass, & once under water, snatches the container containing the gold after all. Furhtermore he doesn't try to weld the container open but only makes to tiny holes into it & uses a laserbeam to melt the gold & let it drip out - ingenious, if inspector Ginko hadn't equipped the container with a radio & now follows its signal to Diabolik's hideout & engages him in a gunfight until the goldcontainer - having gotten a tad too hot - blows up & covers Diabolik in gold.

This could be the end of Diabolik, a gold statue for all eternity, but he's still wearing his protective suit, so it might only be another plan to get away once more ...

 

Let's get one thing clear right away, Diabolik is not a masterpiece on par with Mario Bava's classics like (to name but 2) La Maschera del Demonio/Black Sunday & Terrore nello Spazio/Planet of the Vampires, it's rather a silly, campy adaptation of a then immensely popular comicstrip. That said however, Diabolk is extremely enjoyable, a fast paced action flick full of glorious pulp elements like the hero in latex suits, driving Jaguars with a beautiful blonde on his side, & inhabiting a decadent unerground hideout. & his crimes are always over the top, with his outrageous plans to get the loot only exceeded by the police's even more outrageous plans to prevent him from doing so. & Mario Bava's very stylish direction full of carefully chosen colours & camera angles, with the occasional hint of psychedelia thrown in, & the film's overall refusal to take itself too seriously only add to the film's high entertainment value & make it one of the best comicstrip adaptations araound (not that that would be too difficult a task).

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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directed by
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written by
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