Danger: Diabolik (1968) Review



Danger: Diabolik is a swinging good time with loads of style to spare.

Plot: Diabolik (John Phillip Law) and his gorgeous girlfriend Eva (Marisa Mell) perform a daring series of heists while pursued by Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli).

Summary: Apparently, this movie was based on a comic book – I’ve never read it, but I would be interested in checking it out after seeing this movie. That should indicate my thoughts on it; if the movie sucked, why would I want to read the source material?

The truth is that Danger: Diabolik is an entertaining movie. Yes, the plot is basic, and some people may draw parallels to James Bond or the French super-criminal series Fantomas, but truthfully, this movie is very much a product of its time. There’s a lot of style and flair to the film, and it’s got some funky psychedelic imagery and a moody soundtrack that all tell you that this is a 60s action-comedy that’s main aim is to entertain the hell out of the audience.

And does it! It starts with a charismatic lead, played superbly by John Phillip Law. His character, master criminal Diabolik is by turns sinister and hilarious. Yes, he’ll shoot an adversary with emeralds (!!!!) fake his death, and derail a train carrying gold, and gloat over his good fortune while cackling like the Joker. He’ll also disrupt a press conference with hilarity gas (!!!!) and isn’t above giving the camera a cheeky wink when it looks like he’s finally been bested. His girlfriend, played by Marisa Mell, is just breathtaking and director Mario Bava makes sure to show you every inch of her gorgeousness. She’s more than just a pretty face, though, and she holds her own with Law, which is difficult, to say the least. It would have been even better if the officer chasing down Diabolik was as memorable as the villain, but Michel Piccoli’s Inspector Ginko is more blandly somewhat competent than a real match for Diabolik. English comedy legend Terry-Thomas has a couple of scenes, though, that are pretty funny.

As for the action, this movie has some decent set pieces – I think they did a decent job with showing how outrageously resourceful Diabolik is and how he has a maneuver no matter what situation he is in. Are the effects dated? Yes. But they’re still not bad for a 1968 film, and while it’s no James Bond, I enjoyed scenes like the train heist and the mid-air parachute battle. At least this type of movie knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything else. I also enjoyed the creativity behind the sets, including the castle and Diabolik’s insane hideout, which looks like it could solve the housing shortage. Everywhere you look in this film, it projects a bigger-than-life scale.

So, that’s it for Danger: Diabolik. It’s a cult classic and if you haven’t seen it to this point, check it out. You’re not going to find a mopey good guy here who wants to give it all up for a female heroine you barely remember – no, this movie was made in an era where filmmakers wanted to entertain and be over-the-top and memorable and, in all counts, Danger: Diabolik succeeds.