(Mario Bava, 1968)
What elevates Danger: Diabolik above many other cult films of the 1960s is the direction of Mario Bava. A great visual stylist - most evident in his giallo work - Bava is a little more controlled here than in much of his output, perhaps sensing that in this case, he can simply allow the sets and wardrobe to take much the burden of style.
He still pulls off many audacious moments and his sense of movement and colour is still intact and striking. The campy story adapts an adventure by Italian comic book legend Diabolik (John Phillip Law), basically a super-villain who resides in a series of underground caves, performs elaborate heists and escapes and likes to have sex with his beautiful girlfriend Eva (Marissa Mell) upon all the money he's stolen when he's not planning thefts or playing tricks upon the police.
The dull bits of the plot focus on the efforts of various policemen and politicians to catch Diabolik, but the fun scenes are all the moments showing him in action. Whether it's scaling a castle turret or foiling police pursuers with a giant mirror, everything Diabolik and Eva do is a strange mixture of funny, sexy and cool. While some moments are dated, it has aged remarkably well. Again, this is down to Bava's visual sensibilities; the way he stages and shoots action scenes, his economical camera movements, his beautiful use of colour.
John Phillip Law is a little wooden but Bava makes great use of his distinctive eyes, and even better use of Mell's voluptuous beauty - few genre films take such unambiguous delight in the physicality of their leading lady as this one.To underline the debt to the Bond series - Danger: Diabolik mocks and parodies a few of its contemporary influences - Thunderball's Adolfo Celi is well-cast as a crime boss who likes to drop those who have crossed him through a trap-door on his private jet.
The Ennio Morricone score is, obviously, superb.