Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day 11: Danger: Diabolik

Song: You, only you, deep down… in my heart deep down, in my blood deep down, very deep deep down...

Danger: Diabolik is a winning, lurid movie. It’s exciting, funny, absurd, and so very of-its-time that its retro-charm destroyed my retro-charm meter (which looks curiously like a mood ring). Any movie that opens with its hero, an arch criminal, stealing ten million dollars from under the noses of the authorities and laughing at them — no, cackling at them in a full-throated MUAHAHAHAHA — is off to a good start as far as I’m concerned. If the movie then launches into a title sequence featuring random spinning colors while a song, written by Ennio Morricone, blares out, grabbing you by the ears to tell you, “listen, dammit, LISTEN OR I’LL JUST GET LOUDER...” I’m confident I’m going to like it. This is one very fun comic book movie.

Effectively combining the worlds of Batman and James Bond, the world of Danger: Diabolik is a colorful, archetype-filled landscape of cops and robbers, cool cats and squares. In this world, it is possible for one man to bring down the tax system of an entire nation by exploding a series of buildings with signs that say “TAX”. It’s the kind of world where mob kingpins own planes with trapdoors to dispose of their disobedient associates (and the air pressure problem is somehow fixed too). And in this world, it’s not unlikely to come across a round bed, rotating around a not-too-distant-futuristic hi-fi system.

This movie is ridiculous, to be sure, but there’s wit to it. One sequence has Diabolik trapped on top of a castle spire after stealing a necklace. The cops are in hot pursuit. He glances at a catapult. No way, I thought, he’s going to catapult off the roof! Sure enough, the cops break down the door in time to see Diabolik’s white-costumed body flung off the top of the building. The effect is fake-looking and laughable, but it fools the cops. They run down, unaware that a naked Diabolik is crouched behind the catapult, grinning, and, I assume, barely restraining another MUAHAHAHA. I had no reason to restrain my delighted laughter.

Yes, the pace lags occasionally. Yes, it’s the highest of high camp as Diabolik runs around in a black mask and suit, cackling at the authorities. Yes, the acting is bad and, yes, there are some real questionable plot and editing choices in the movie. But does it matter? When the pace lags, it’s because the movie is pausing to show off its mod stylishness, John Philip Law plays the titular character with infectious gusto, and if there are story problems, Morricone’s silly, in-your-face score covers up any ill-will you feel. Anyway, there’s a surprising sweetness to the relationship Diabolik has with Eva, his blonde bombshell partner-in-crime. The dialogue is also more clever than you’d expect, though the movie’s full of howlers (“I had the gold radioactivated”).

So, yeah, the movie’s not a triumph. It’s outrageously cheesy, but every time I thought I was laughing at the movie, it winked right at me, telling me I was laughing with it. When Diabolik flipped over the side of his car, it made me laugh, it thrilled me, and it reminded me of why the hell I watch movies anyway. Some things are just cool.

The 16mm Shrine

Just thought I'd give a throw to this blog by "Ash Karreau"

The 16mm Shrine

My blog is like his, only his is devilshly funny and mine is like a puppy that tries too hard.