Danger: Diabolik – 1968
Danger Diabolik is another movie I wrote about in Swedish a few years back. It had then been sitting on my shelf for a very long time before I took off the plastic and finally watched it. Furthermore, I had gotten a bit mixed up about what kind of movie it was. I had the impression that it was some sort of superhero film or at least a secret agent flick. But it turned out that Diabolik is a kind of supervillain who, with ingenious methods, robs and deceives the authorities (the state) in every way. Both possible and impossible ways I might add. Apparently, it’s based on a series that was and still is very popular in Italy. You learn a lot from watching movies; never let anyone tell you otherwise!
For me, it doesn’t matter so much if there’s a literary source in that way. Of course, I like comic book movies or whatever you want to call them. But if you’re not familiar with the source material, it’s still firsthand information, so to speak. You have nothing to compare it with. However, I can say that the reverse is true. I became extremely interested in checking out the comic book when I saw Mario Bava’s comic book movie Danger Diabolik. It has a lot of the feeling of a comic book about it. Something I often find to be quite stripped down.
I’ve seen a few films directed by Mario Bava by now. There’s a lot left, which I consider a privilege. It’s always a special feeling when you see a great movie for the first time. Statistically speaking, I will still find several great movies in his filmography. This is based on my previous experiences of course. However, it is my assumption that his horror films would be more representative of his movie-making skills. I don’t know if it’s my own preconceived notions speaking or if it’s actually the case. Undoubtedly, Mario Bava made successful films outside the horror genre as well. Danger Diabolik is certainly proof of that!
What’s special about Mario Bava is that he wasn’t really a director in the conventional sense but a cinematographer. Perhaps other names have been credited with the task in other cases, but in this case, it’s still Bava himself behind the camera. Mario Bava was fantastic with the camera. He mastered all sorts of optical effects to perfection. There are montages in the film that are out of this world. And if it hadn’t been commented on in the commentary track, I wouldn’t even have had a clue that it was trick photography. That’s how good it is! You can’t say that about today’s trick shots where it’s often obvious.
But the movie then? What’s it about? Well, it’s about Diabolik, a masked villain who seizes the opportunity to rob and steal in spectacular ways. He has no superpowers or anything like that but has such qualities that he always succeeds in the impossible, in any case. Against him, of course, is the police force, which he doesn’t hesitate to humiliate. There is undoubtedly a tone of comedy there. And what would an Italian film from the late 60s be without a fair amount of insinuated eroticism? There are low angles, short skirts, and beautiful legs. Nothing explicit, but still very effective. Maybe that’s why by the way. Less is usually more as you probably know.
I don’t consider Danger Diabolik to be Bava’s best film, and not the second-best either. But it has something special, and even though I happened to fall asleep while watching it and had to watch it again the next day, it has a tremendous entertainment factor. It’s a movie I can watch again anytime. If you’re just in the mood for laid-back entertainment, stylish camera work, and charming actors, this is a winner any day of the week.