Sunday, July 26, 2015

Danger: Diabolik

1968's DANGER: DIABOLIK, for all of its eccentric sets and occasional flashes of psychedelia, was a bit surprising in its rather flat presentation.  The trailer suggests a garish, over-the-top James Bond/Matt Helm-like adventure with excess in every frame.  Despite a scene where the two main characters make love on a spinning bed under and among millions of dollars, and a tracking shot of a line of hipsters smoking buddha, the movie goes about its tasks with a low profile, with less energy than expected.

To boot, John Philip Law is his usual expressionless self in the lead, a master criminal called Diabolik who seems quite fond of the high life and has a statuesque girlfriend Eva Kant (Marisa Mell), though like many such individuals may get off more on the difficulty to attain/keep them. He's a walking comic strip (in fact based on a real Italian source), sometimes clad in fetish gear as he works.  Inspector Ginco (Michel Piccoli) has been forever trying to apprehend him and capitalizes on the publicity surrounding a costly emerald necklace, certain that Diabolik will be tempted to steal it from the Saint Just Castle. The movie, by the way, takes place in a generic European country.

Rival criminal/mobster Valmont (Alfredo Celi, perfectly cast) also wants Diabolik and makes a deal - under duress- with Ginco in exchange for leniency if he can nab and deliver the elusive thief.  The plot will further involve laughing gas, melted gold, exploding train tracks, and two faked deaths.  It sounds like grand fun, and DANGER: DIABOLIK coasts on its '60s vibe alone, but director Mario Bava (better known for horror flicks) fails to give the movie any real zip or pace.  It's serviceable and competent, but unimaginative.  Far too long, too. Not the expected grindhouse guilty pleasure.  Bava's screenplay dutifully goes through the paces, but it all feels stale, despite a few eye filling moments and attractive vistas. Ennio Moricone's score is deliciously overwrought.

But I really dug the sets, especially the underground fortress in which the finale plays out.  Diabolik's pad is also very cool.  Maybe some Bel Air or Palm Beach residents sought a similar look for their cribs.

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