Film: Danger: Diabolik

Now here’s an enjoyable slice of stylized, sixties cheese. Based on an Italian comic, Danger: Diabolik (1968) is an amusingly retro crime caper with a dash of period political commentary. Diabolik (John Phillip Law, who looks pretty sharp in his skin-tight spandex costume) is the James Bond of master criminals. His favorite target is the government; his favorite accomplice is his beautiful girlfriend Eva Kant (Marisa Mell, who looks pretty sharp with her clothes constantly almost falling off). Diabolik and Eva have a science fictional secret lair with a fleet of sports cars, his-and-hers showers, and a rotating bed they bury in stolen money. Diabolik has made such a fool of the police that Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli) comes up with a new strategy to rein him in: he turns up the heat on an organized crime kingpin named Ralph Valmont (Adolfi Celi). “It takes a thief to catch a thief,” Ginko says, promising to lay off Valmont if Valmont can deliver Diabolik. Let the heists, chases, and double-crosses begin!

Danger: Diabolik is dated, poorly dubbed, awkwardly paced, sexist, and silly. But it’s a great deal of fun, full of sex symbol eye candy, crazy psychedelic visuals, and groovy Ennio Morricone music. Director Mario Bava recaptures the comic book feel nicely, and while the trappings are largely wish-fulfillment fantasy, there’s an intriguing countercultural vibe to them: the greedy, indulgent antiheroes are also gleefully dismantling capitalism, after all. Of course, you could remove the plot entirely and it would still be fun watching Law and Mell slink around their preposterous hideout, making eyes at each other. Hardly a cinema masterpiece, it’s great in an ironically watched, lazy afternoon, one-step-removed kind of way.

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