When the government tries to ship $10 million, they set-up an elaborate decoy - but can't stop Diabolik
(John Phillip Law) from stealing the money, and then escaping from two
police helicopters in his black Jaguar. Returning to his secret cave
hideaway Diabolik, and his woman Eva, discover the joy of money
loving... Meanwhile the Interior Minister (Terry-Thomas) is irately
disciplining his staff. After applying for special powers, the
Government men start to crack down on organised crime, which begins to
annoy the various mob groups led by Valmont (Adolfo Celi) and they set
out to capture Diabolik themselves. When a British minister and his
wife arrive in the country with an incredibly valuable emerald
necklace, both Valmont and the police set traps for Diabolik, but he
still tries to make a grab for it... anything for Eva.
Based on a very popular Italian comic book, Diabolik
is an accurate translation and considered for a long time to be the
best 'film to comic book' adaptation. In contrast to most
Anglo-American comic books, Diabolik is a villian rather than a hero,
and in a twisted Robin Hood varience he takes it upon himself to steal
from the the government and kill its agents, while keeping the money
for himself, with no moral qualms - although he is completely loyal to a single woman (compare this to Casanovan James Bond). The
near-anarchist era of Central-European culture is reflected in his war
against the government, although we never really find out what the
public perception of Diabolik is. The film works pretty well - the
story is essentially in four parts with links between them, just like a
series of comic books. Pacing is pretty strong, although it does start
to drag towards the end of the final quarter and a trim of 10 minutes might have aided the film's flow.
As with most of
his productions, Mario Bava's direction really lifts this film - from a
standard comic-book style story to a true visual comic. Bava's
trademark colour scheme is always apparent, from the multi-coloured fog
he used at the start, through to the colour saturated climax, his srong
camerawork really lifts the film.
At strong use of visual effects, including matt paintings and model
work, creates the appearance of a massively budgeted movie and allows
Bava to go completely over-the-top with set design. Ennio Morricone
really gets in on the game with an excellent soundtrack that pushes the
film into the realms of near-perfection. Sadly, the film is not perfect
with some very obvious rear-projection shots, day-for-night photography
and some jarring errors in the mixing of second-unit work. However,
this does not ultimately distract too much.
Phillip Law plays the lead role - relatively little known now, this
film was a major career boost and he went on to shoot similarly trippy Barbarella
(1968) for which he is probably best known. Law's acting here is rather
limited, although he excels in the action scenes and in the suit - and
has an uncanny resemblance to the original comic book character.
British comic actor Terry-Thomas plays the Minister of the Interior and
later the Minister of Finance and gives a very distinctive performance,
aided by his own dubbing. Adolfo Celi plays his typical Mafia Boss role
to perfection, with some nice over-the-top evil flourishes for that
comic book feel. The rest of the cast look fine.
One of the best comic book adaptations until Sin City (2004), Diabolik
is a well written film boosted by strong direction and a wonderful
soundtrack that really gives a comic book feel to the whole production.
An entertaining 90 minutes, but don't expect anything too clever.
Anyone famous in it?
John Phillip Law - An occasional Euro-cult star who appeared in dark SW Death Rides a Horse (1968). Adolfo Celi - An Italian actor, most famous for Thunderball (1965) who made a career playing mafia dons.
Directed by anyone interesting?
- Often considered to be one of the best European cinema directors he
directed a wide range of films, but was most at home in the horror
Some fights, gun shots and knifings - a little blood.
Several covered-up nude scenes, nothing revealing.
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour. The
print is generally strong, with good detail. Some scenes have notable
scratches, and there is some speckling. Importantly, the colours are
English original mono - sounds fine.
Feature: 1hr 40m 12s (PAL)
The disc includes:
Commentary by Tim Lucas and John Phillip Law - starts slow, but imparts loads of interesting facts and stories.
Interview documentary with J.P.Law, Morricone, De Laurentis and an American cartoonist. Interesting. (20m 22s)
Beastie Boys Body Movin' music video that spoofs Diabolik. Plus alternate audio commentary version with singer Adam Yauch. (6m 25s)
American Trailers - teaser and theatrical (1m 05s + 2m 22s)
Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
film is believed to be fully uncut. The print used is English language.
An exciting film, really benefiting from excellent direction and a good soundtrack. Recommended.
good looking print, and decent English audio with some interesting
special features. Recommended.