Based on a cult comic strip, this mix of fantasy and madcap criminality is directed with mischievous glee by horror specialist Mario Bava. In many respects, the film is a companion piece to Roger Vadim’s Barbarella (1968). Producer Dino De Laurentiis set in motion these two Euro trash comic book adaptations in the wake of the phenomenally successful Batman TV series.
The films are cut from the same kitsch cloth, share a star in John Phillip Law – as the master criminal who curries favour with the populace by destroying Italy’s tax records – and both were released in the same year.
Yet while Barbarella enjoys the stronger cult following, Danger: Diabolik is the superior offering.
Its high camp flourishes are offset by a gleefully amoral sensibility – our protagonist is a nihilistic supervillain who barely utters a word on screen, yet we find ourselves rooting for him as he faces off against idiotic government bureaucrats and crass opportunist criminals.
Utilising stylised sets and encouraging his multinational cast to camp it up something rotten, Bava borrows heavily from the Bond series to craft a series of increasingly outlandish action set pieces, but offers the viewer a chance to delight for once in the bad guy emerging victorious.
The finale, with its radioactive gold shower, is justifiably famous, and the press conference given by pompous minister Terry-Thomas, under the influence of laughing gas, is riotously funny.
John Phillip Law
Minister of Finance
Sir Harold Clark
Edward Febo Kelleng