Danger: Diabolik

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Danger: Diabolik
"John Phillip Law is a bit wooden in the central role, though, like Roger Moore as Bond, he compensates by doing one particular expression really well."

Recent adaptations of comics to film have tended to focus on character arcs, clever references to canon and iconic imagery at the expense of spirit and style. Danger: Diabolik, by contrast, is a masterclass in the latter, with Mario Bava supremely confident at the helm. Yes, it's tacky. Yes, the acting is terrible and the bad dubbing makes it worse. But anybody who loves the Diabolik comics will delight in seeing the very essence of the uncatchable thief captured here.

Diabolik is a master thief. We are invited to sympathise with him for two reasons: because he's really glamorous about it, and because he mostly steals from those who arguably have too much to begin with. He also has a history of taking on organised crime, though in this case it comes looking for him as frustrated detective Ginko (Michel Piccoli) makes a deal with gangland boss Valmont (Adolfo Celi) to try to bring the troublesome hero to heel. Fortunately, Diabolik is equipped with fast cars, a spectacular secret base, fabulous clothes and gadgets to fill Adam West with envy. He also has cool and curvaceous partner in crime Eva (Marisa Mell) at his side.

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John Phillip Law is a bit wooden in the central role, though, like Roger Moore as Bond, he compensates by doing one particular expression really well. The story provides plenty of action and atmosphere, with simple but nicely managed stunts and some highly inventive set pieces. Like all Bava's work it's shot in lush colour - not cartoonish, exactly, but certainly vivid - and smart editing perfectly captures that comic book sense of motion. Then there's Ennio Morricone's score, playing around with Sixties psychedelia yet as elegantly composed as any of his work.

This is a film that one can't afford to take too seriously. Often characters ignore simple solutions in favour of more troublesome ones, apparently merely because they wish to entertain the audience. They play fast and loose with the laws of physics and it's difficult to know how to take the final twist. That said, if you're looking for fun, you won't need to be a comic devotee to find it here.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2012
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An audacious, costumed thief seeks out new challenges despite knowing the authorities are out to capture him.
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Director: Mario Bava

Writer: Angela Giussani, Luciana Giussani

Starring: John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell, Michel Piccoli, Adolfo Celi

Year: 1968

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy, France

Festivals:

Glasgow 2011
EIFF 2016

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