Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 20th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, January 24th, 1968
Director: Mario Bava
Writers: Adriano Baracco, Mario Bava, Brian Degas, Tudor Gates
Cast: John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell, Michel Piccoli, Adolfo Celi
DVD released: June 14th, 2005
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Paramount Pictures
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
Synopsis: Diabolik (John Philip Law) is a master thief who with the help of his girlfriend Eva Kant (Marisa Mell) steals from the rich and government. Inspector Ginko (Michel Piccoli) who is assigned to track down Diabolik whose criminal acts are viewed as acts of terrorism. After Dialolik latest caper the Minister of Finance (Terry-Thomas) grants Inspector Ginko unlimited powers in his search and capture of Diabolik. Inspector Ginko uses a priceless emerald necklace as bait to trap Diabolik. Will the police finally catch their man or will Diabolik slip through their hands again.
Mario Bava is most remembered as a director of gothic horror films even though he worked in just about every genre imaginable. Two things that have always been strong in virtually every color film that he has directed is his ability to frame picturesque shots in his cinema photography and his exquisite use of colors. Both of these assets would help him greatly when it came time to direct Danger: Diabolik which was based on one of the longest running Fumetti’s “Diabolik” which was created by two Milan sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani. Right off the bat Diabolik is a direct contrast to what we normally recognize as a superhero especially since he really is the villain of piece who at best could be consider an anti-hero. He is cold and calculated to the point that he will kill anyone who gets in his way. His girlfriend Eva Kant is not as sadistic as her personality relies more her sexuality which often gets her what ever she wants. Mario Bava’s $400,000 budget for Danger: Diabolik would be the largest budget of his career and the film benefits greatly form this. Many of Bava’s films suffer from lack of budget and even though his is very good at working wonders with a shoe string budget they still don’t have the overall polish Danger: Diabolik does. The optical effects used in this film now feel dated; still no one could manipulate a miniature or a matte painting like Mario Bava. The sets and costumes are deliriously over the top in their design which adds to the comic book feel of the film.
Acting wise Danger: Diabolik is blessed with strong leads and an equally strong supporting cast. John Philip Law has had a long and varied career as an actor with 1968 being his most memorable as he starred in Death Rides a Horse, Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy and Danger: Diabolik. His performance as Diabolik is a good as a performance as I have ever seen from him as he perfectly balances his more sinister side with his laid back ladies man persona. Marisa Mell has been known to steam up the screen in the various films that she has starred in and as Eva Kant she exudes sensuality with her sex kitten approach to the character.
No discussing about Danger: Diabolik without the acknowledgment of Ennio Morricones contribution to the film via his masterful score. Just like he had done previously with Sergio Leone he sets the mood and tone of the film with musical cues that are in many cases associated with certain characters. The music is playful most of the time like in an early scene when the police officers are getting ready to transport the money. There are many wonderful set pieces through out Danger: Diabolik with my favorite being the scene in which Diabolik and Eva make love on a rotating bed filled with money. This version of Danger: Diabolik is the longer Italian version that restores footage missing from the American release most notably the scene in which Diabolik and Eva make love in a bed filled with money. Visually Danger: Diabolik is rich with texture as Bava lay’s on layer after layer of eye candy. Danger: Diabolik may not be the first comic book adapted to the big screen, but it is most certainly one of the best examples of the genre. Many films have tried to copy the look and feel of Danger: Diabolik only to fail miserably. While other films like the Austin Powers’ films and CQ go the other route by paying homage Danger: Diabolik instead of imitating it. Overall Danger Diabolik is Mario Bava’s greatest achievement as a director.
Paramount presents Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 Panoramica aspect ratio. The overall image is in great shape as Bava’s bold color palate looks nicely saturated and the black levels remain strong through out offering an exceptional amount of detail. There are no problems with compression or edge enhancement. There is some noticeable print damage in the form of specks and nicks that in most cases appears during optical effects shots.
This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original English language which has been restored for this release. Previous releases of Danger: Diabolik didn’t feature John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell and Terry-Thomas’s voices they were replaced by an alternative English audio track. It is presented in a Dolby Digital mono that offers a clean audio source and even though the mono source sound range is limited at times the end result is more then adequate. There are no problems with hiss or distortion. English subtitles have been included for this release.
This release comes with a wealth of extras that include a theatrical teaser and trailer for Danger: Diabolik. Also included is the Beastie Boys video Body Movin that contains footage from the movie Danger: Diabolik. This video can also be watched with an audio commentary with Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Other extras include the documentary “Danger: Diabolik – From Fumetti to Film” which runs about twenty minutes in length. The documentary includes comments from John Phillip Law, Adam Yauch, Dino De Laurentiis, Ennio Morricone and cartoonist Steve Bissett who talks the majority of the time. Overall this piece is very informative and it is nice to here some of the participants reflect on working on Danger: Diabolik. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with John Phillip Law and Tim Lucas author of the upcoming book Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. This commentary is filled to the brim with juicy bits of insightful information as it never lets up during its duration.
Overall Paramount has delivered an amazing release that has been given the kind of tender loving care one would except for a recent Hollywood blockbuster. Danger: Diabolik is one of the best comic books to film adaptations ever to grace the silver screen and it is also one of Mario Bava’s more accessible films that demands to be seen by a wider audience, highly recommended.