Danger: Diabolik
Italy - France / 1968
Directed by Mario Bava
Starring
John Phillip Law
Marisa Mell
Michel Piccoli
Color / 100 Minutes / PG-13
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Paramount Home Video

No one can catch him...
WAV format | 0.3 MB
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9
    10   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by Troy Howarth
Diabolik (John Phillip Law), a criminal mastermind, steals and kills with the help of his luscious lover, Eva (Marisa Mell)...
    Based on the popular fumetti, Danger: Diabolik (or just plain old Diabolik, as it's known in Italy) is Mario Bava's most lavish directorial outing. Accustomed to working on a shoestring with a minimum of interference from production, the director found himself under more pressure than usual and, in one of the few interviews he ever gave, spoke of the film as being a nightmare from a production standpoint. Whatever Bava's feelings were on the film, his efforts certainly delighted producer Dino De Laurentiis, who put three million dollars at the director's disposal a huge sum for just about any director in 1967 but certainly untold of for somebody like Bava, who preferred to rely on his imagination and succeeded in bringing the film in for a measly $400,000!
    In many respects one of the most successful comic book adaptations ever filmed, Diabolik shows Bava at the top of his game. A painter with a tremendous interest in graphic design, he clearly understood the comic book medium exceptionally well. Compared to other films of its ilk including the better known Barbarella, shot at the same time with some of the same cast and crew it never comes across as condescending to its subject matter or stiff in its attempts to translate the art form to the cinematic medium. Bava allows the story to take whimsical turns and his use of artificial, terrifically stylized mise-en-scene helps to put the proceedings in the proper context. With its eye busting production design by Piero Gherardi () and Flavio Mogherini and irresistably catchy soundtrack by the great Ennio Morricone, Diabolik not only does a commendable job of translating the comic book to the big screen, but works as an invaluable time capsule of 1960s pop culture.
    The cast is perfection. John Phillip Law looks as if he were literally born to play the arch super criminal, Diabolik. With his cocked eyebrow and sardonic laugh, he totally fulfills the central function of being a badass, but he's also able to invest the role with a depth of feeling that goes beyond other such screen characters. True, Diabolik is a thief and a bad guy on the commentary track for the DVD, Law and Bava biographer Tim Lucas aptly refer to him as being a "terrorist" but he shows genuine warmth and humanity in his relationship with Eva, played with statuesque perfection by Austrian born Marisa Mell. Mell, a last minute substitute for Catherine Deneuve, who balked at doing some of the saucier scenes and showed zero chemistry with Law, is not only a stunningly beautiful performer but a slyly amusing one as well. Like Law, she walks the tightrope between camp overplaying and genuine acting with grace and style; together, the two make for the sexiest pair of criminals imaginable and they generate no small amount of heat in their numerous love scenes. The supporting cast includes standout performances from Michele Piccoli (Belle du Jour), as Diabolik's nemesis Inspector Ginko, Adolfo Celi (Thunderball), as slimy gangster Ralph Valmont, and British comedian Terry-Thomas (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) as the comically pompous Minister of Finance.
    Sumptuously photographed by Bava, with assistance from Antonio Rinaldi, Diabolik is a visually stunning experience. It's also a light, playful affair bound to surprise viewers accustomed to the heavier tone of the director's Gothic masterpieces.

Paramount's SE of Danger: Diabolik is cause for celebration. Originally announced as a barebones release, it was then pulled from an approaching release date and given the special treatment by Kim Aubry of ZAP (Zoetrope Aubry Productions). Aubrey's efforts pay off in one of the best Bava DVD releases to date. The 1.85/16x9 image is stunning. Some dirt and wear are evident in a handful of shots, but there's nothing distracting to complain of. Colors are absolutely fabulous, sometimes eye-poppingly so; Bava was a real master of color and this film shows that off in spades. Taken from an English language source print, unlike the previous VHS and laser disc releases, this actually includes the English titles, which add a couple of new names to the screenplay credit (Tudor Gates, later to write the Hammer horror The Vampire Lovers, being one of them).
    This being taken from a new source, the DVD offers a different soundtrack from the one many viewers may be accustomed to. The English mono track is the original English dub prepared for U.S. consumption in 1968. The vocal performances of Law, Mell and Thomas, also preserved on the alternate English track, are included, but the other dubbed performers feature different voices. This track is, in some respects, superior to the one included in the previous video releases, though some of the voice casting (notably Piccoli) sounds a little campy and overly theatrical. The track is clean and robust, doing ample justice to Morricone's soundtrack.
    Extras include a featurette From Fumetti To Film with appreciative comments from Law, director Roman Coppola (who helmed the 2001 Diabolik homage CQ) and comic book artist Stephen Bissette, as well as less complimentary 'insights' by Beastie Boys frontman Adam Yauch. A lively and informative commentary track with Law and Tim Lucas is the definite highlight, with Lucas (sounding far more at ease than in his previous solo commentary tracks) enthusiastically tossing out Bava factoids and Law relishing the opportunity to relive it all. A teaser trailer and theatrical trailer are also included, both in surprisingly good condition and framed at 1.85, as well as the Beastie Boys video Body Movin', which pays tribute to the film. The video contains optional commentary by Yauch who, as in the featurette, displays a generally flippant attitude towards "old, campy" movies. The video itself, however, is worth a look.
6/21/05
UPDATE This disc went OOP in 2008. Maybe we'll get a Blu-ray edition someday...
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