Saturday, 31 January 2009

If you didn't see him... he's there.

No 429 - Danger Diabolik
Director - Mario Bava

At last! A completely stupid film I can have a bit of fun with! I have wanted to watch this film since I first saw a still of it in Empire magazine many a year ago. It looked utterly ridiculous. And from the moment I started the disc and was met by a DVD menu of go go dancers and swinging 60s Jazz I knew I was going to love it!

The film is completely absurd. It is the work of producer Dino De Laurentiis who also gave the world Barbarella (seriously.... how is this film in the Empire top 500 and not Barbarella! What a criminal injustice! I mean.... just look at Jane Fonda!) - The film has a lot of similarities with Barbarella, the main one being John Phillip Law who plays the masterful thief Diabolik, but who also played blind angel Pygar.

This film follows a Kool Kat swinging super thief called Diabolik as he goes about his many adventures and the police set up ever more ridiculous traps to try (and fail) on catching him. Diabolik is wickedly cool, and I think this comes from his utter refusal to be inconspicuous in any way. At all.
How is it believable that the police have failed to catch this guy? Let us look at the facts:

1 - He wears a black PVC cat suit at all times. This would be fine, possibly even sensible (although sweaty) if he worked under cover of darkness... but he doesn't. He plans all his robberies in the middle of the days driving around in his identical black or white Jaguars. In fact the only time he does change out of his black catsuit is during his one night time mission. That is where Diabolik's true genius shines out. Faced with the challenge of climbing up a vertical beige wall, he removes his black PVC catsuit to reveal..... A BEIGE CATSUIT. That man must be boiling. All the time.

2 - His lair is a ridiculous Thunderbirds-esques world, complete with giant trap doors that open up to the outside world. Unless he is managing to grow turf on these giant platforms that rise out of the ground, shouldn't the police just look for the enormous square of AstroTurf which is bang in the middle of desert. Easy to find.

3 - He has the same escape plan. After every heist he pretends to be dead and the police leave him alone... Surely they would have learnt by now.

However, the police are terrible bumbling idiots. Inspector Ginko seems happy to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on over elaborate schemes to catch Diabolik and the chief of police is a fantastically over the top gurning Terry Thomas. Terry Thomas's scenes just explain everything I love about him. Despite playing the chief of police (and later the minister of finance) he doesn't let this alter his presentation. Turning up in immaculate evening wear for his press conferences, complete with dress shirt and monocle.
His bumbling police men and their over ambitious schemes should be foiled by Diabolik, but that doesn't make him a nice person. Not in any way shape or form.

I'd go as far as saying he is a horrible piece of work.

As I have already mentioned, Diabolik lives in a stereotype underground lair and appears to be very, very, rich. he also uses his money "In ways we couldn't imagine" (to quote Inspector Ginko).
These ways seem to mostly be covering his bed in $100 bills and having sex (I can't get you a full size picture... Google has failed me). Which seems like a totally excellent way to spend the $10,000,000 he steals at the film's start.

Over the course of the film he commits the following nefarious deeds:
  • Steals $10,000,000 being delivered to various banks around the city
  • Steals a priceless emerald necklace from an elderly couple
  • Blows up several government buildings containing all the tax records of everyone in the city
  • Steals a trainload of Gold which is being used to pay for the City commodities as no one is paying tax anymore.

Let us then add the fact that

a) He is clearly INCREDIBLY rich and just stealing things for fun and for a magpie-esque love of shiny things (and his girlfriend who occasionally asks for things)
b) Each mission will result in some deaths. Cars explode, helicopters crash, 9 of the elderly couple's guards are killed. Not to mention the hundreds (maybe even thousands) of office workers who worked in the 3 institutes destroyed by Diabolik.

Are we meant to root and cheer for this man? A cold hearted, vain and downright evil terrorist? If it wasn't for the fact that he has the best collection of ridiculous catsuits I'd probably hate him. As it is he is my second favourite super-rich evil bastard (after Swan of course - Follow this link if you don't know what I mean, and BUY IT. You won't be disappointed!)

My final comment is about the bizarre sense of dubbing in this film. I don't know if it is because of a sound transfer issue, if it is because the film is from the 60s or if it is because most of the cast seem to be Italian... however the whole film appears to be very badly dubbed. Which adds to the nonsensical whimsy of the piece!


Claire said...

What an odd film! I shall look out for it...totally weird about the Barbarella snub though!


EK Biddle Esq said...

You left it at my house you silly twisted boy you.
Good film. Utterly, utterly evil & ridiculous, with a love of aesthetics & narcissism rivalled only by ourselves. It was like Clueless meets James Bond and for bastards.