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Film / Danger: Diabolik

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Not so-gentlemanly thief Diabolik (John Phillip Law, of Barbarella and Space Mutiny fame) terrorizes the European countryside, killing, maiming and stealing to satisfy the mercurial whims of his girlfriend Eva, all whilst dodging semi-competent Police Inspector Ginko. For Eva's birthday, Diabolik determines to steal an exquisite emerald necklace from some rich old toddy. Unfortunately for him, it's a cunning trap set up by Inspector Ginko. Doubly unfortunate, the European criminal element has united under mob boss Ralph Valmont (Adolfo Celi) in order to capture Diabolik. Will Diabolik escape the two-pronged trap, or will Ginko finally get his man? Will Valmont play the hero? Will Eva survive her experience in the Infrared Room? And what of Diabolik's plans to swim through the center of the sun?

This 1968 movie, which was produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by Mario Bava (yeah, THAT Mario Bava), is based upon an Italian comic book character. The movie also served as the inspiration behind the Beastie Boys' music video for "Body Movin".

It was featured as the series finale for the original version of Mystery Science Theater 3000. See here for that episode.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Adolfo Celi plays his character like he did Largo in Thunderball.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Though still clearly a Villain Protagonist in the film, Diabolik is much less sinister than his comic book counterpart; a ruthless sociopath who has no qualms about letting innocent people get hurt in the crossfire and frequently resorting to murdering anyone who gets in his way.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: A mild example, but still: In the original Diabolik comics, Ginko is a suave, conventionally attractive, relatively young man; in this film he's portrayed by the older, balder, and more rugged Michel Piccoli.
  • And I Must Scream: If you take it at face valuenote  the ending, where Diabolik ends up completely encased in gold, and apparently still alive.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Poor Ralph Valmont.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Zig-zagged. Inspector Ginko is victorious in the end, but he's a Hero Antagonist so it's actually a good thing. Meanwhile, Villain Protagonist Diabolik is thwarted, but he does survive and, since Ginko's men didn't bother trying to retrieve his "body" from its golden cocoon, it's implied he will soon escape.
  • Batman Gambit: Both Diabolik and Ginko attempt these. Only Diabolik's succeeds.
  • Board to Death: Valmont executes any criminals who don't agree to his plans for capturing Diabolik.
  • Camera Spoofing: Diabolik pulls the Polaroid Punk to steal an emerald necklace.
  • Canon Foreigner: Ralph Valmont bears some resemblance to comics' character King insofar as he's a powerful crime boss who becomes Diabolik's nemesis, but he's otherwise an original character.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Right as Diabolik is asking Eva what she wants for her birthday, a news report airs concerning a visiting dignitary and his wife's fabulous emerald necklace. Justified in that Diabolik was aware of the report and timing his offer.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Diabolik, according to the film.
  • Death by Materialism: Subverted. Diabolik gets covered in molten gold which soon solidifies around him, but his safety suit saves him. And by Joker Immunity, it's implied he will soon escape.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Eva is the living incarnation of this. In the course of the film she proves she can daze and distract basically anyone she pleases, including Diabolik (it's a wonder the man ever musters the will to leave his giant, rotating bed). She even distracts herself from time to time—when Diabolik momentarily ceases paying attention to her in order to watch a police news conference, a bored Eva idly extends one bare leg and admires it lovingly. Yes, she is that sexy.
  • The Ditz: Valmont's squeeze Rose.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Diabolik's, to a truly absurd degree for someone who seems to have absolutely nothing in the way of actual henchmen or employees to actually build or maintain things other than Eva (and her skill set is entirely centered around Distracted by the Sexy... at which she admittedly excels, but still.)
  • Enemy Mine: Ginko's police are raiding and shutting down Valmont's activities at various nightclubs. In order to get Ginko to agree to back off, Valmont promises to help Ginko capture and arrest Diabolik. Their partnership goes better than you would think.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Ginko balks at letting a seemingly dead Diabolik be exploited by the press.
  • Evil Laugh: Especially at the very end, where someone, presumably Diabolik, lets out a very Vincent Price-like echoing cackle.
  • Expo Label: The "exhilaration gas" and "anti-exhilaration pills."
  • Fanservice:
    • Eva. Oh so much.
    • The entire film has John Phillip Law in leather or shirtless.
  • Fictional Country: Like its source material, the film is set in the fictional European city-state of Clerville. It's an amalgam of various Southern and Western European coastal regions, including Marseilles and the Bay of Naples. The populace speak The Queen's Latin, the currency is in dollars, and the architecture is mostly real locations in Rome and Turin, where the film was shot.
  • Flatline Plotline: Diabolik drugs himself to temporarily fake his death.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Including Diabolik himself.
  • Here We Go Again!: One way to interpret the ending. Once again he's in a tight spot with seemingly no method of escape, and once again he seems to have a trick up his sleeve.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: "If you didn't see him [Ginko], he's there."
  • Impossible Theft: The government tries to stop Diabolik from stealing the gold reserves by melting the entire thing into one giant obelisk-sized ingot moved by train. Stealing this would be totally impossible for a normal thief, but Diabolik is anything but normal...
  • Jabba Table Manners: Valmont in the pool.
  • Joker Immunity: The only explanation for the last scene, where Diabolik is still alive after being trapped in gold — something that really should have killed him.
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • One of the elements that make Diabolik and Eva Villain Protagonists. They don't give a damn about how many people — cop, crook or innocent — get killed by their exploits, as long as they get what they want in the end.
    • Made worse when compared to Ginko, who isn't thrilled with others gloating over Diabolik's fate, and shows sympathy to Eva.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Diabolik trapped in gold. Ginko invokes this.
  • Latex Perfection: Surprisingly Averted in spite of being a staple of the original comic book. His balaclava, however, is molded to his face.
  • Laughing Gas: Diabolik and Eva disrupt a press conference held by the Minister of the Interior by releasing "exhilaration gas" into the crowd (after taking "anti-exhilaration pills" to remain unaffected), which causes everyone else in the room to suffer a simultaneous fit of hysterical laughter.
  • Made of Iron: Inspector Ginko. He is on a small train full of ammunition, which is blown up on a bridge and falls 30 meters into a deep bay. The next time we see him he only has a dainty band-aid under one eye.
  • Male Gaze: Eva. An early scene has her reveal a shapely leg from out of a pile of money.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: During Valmont's Thrown from the Zeppelin moment, his ditzy girl Friday stands rather close to the trap door.
    Rose: Oh, Ralph, how nice! Fresh air.
  • Money Fetish: Diabolik and Eva have sex in a big pile of it.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Played oddly straight when Diabolik is coated in molten gold, even though he's wearing a "swimming through the sun"-proof suit.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Ginko is the only one immune to Eva's charms.
  • Pet the Dog: Ginko allows Eva alone-time with gold-trapped Diabolik when she asks for it.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted, since most of the time Ginko only seems to fail to catch Diabolik because of some increasingly ludicrous plot contrivances, including Diabolik exiting one elevator just after Ginko and the cops enter the one next to it.
    • Also, in the film anyway, Diabolik gives off the impression of having some belief in Ginko's abilities.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ginko allows a grieving Eva to mourn at Diabolik's "corpse".
  • Say My Name: When Diabolik first appears, a chorus yells, "DIABOLIK!" out of nowhere. He's just that awesome.
  • Satellite Character: Sgt. Danek really has only one scene where he has a significant amount of dialogue. He also has one scene where he is independently taking any action to apprehend Diabolik — offscreen. Adding insult to uselessness, he fails. For the rest of the film he's pretty much just hanging around with Ginko.
  • Steal the Surroundings: Authorities try to prevent Diabolik from stealing 20 tons of gold from a train by melting it into a single ingot and sealing it into a thick welded steel container. Diabolik blows up a bridge that sends the train into the water, where the supervillain steals the entire container with the aid of balloons and a mini sub. Once back at his lair Diabolik drills a hole at the top of the steel container to insert a super heated rod to melt the gold inside. He then attaches a hose to a hole drilled at the bottom of the container in order to pour the melted gold into molds so that it can be converted to regular sized gold bars. This is taken step for step from the comic book (the story "Desperate Fight").
  • Super Identikit: Valmont and his men get a woman who has seen Eva to describe her to a mook with an Identikit set. It doesn't seem to go well at first — the film pulls an Art Shift into a chaotic sequence where all sorts of wrong features flash across the screen — but the end result is a remarkably accurate portrait. (The picture is in fact copied from the original Diabolik comic books.)
  • Tempting Fate: Quoth the Minister Of The Interior: "He [Diabolik] is certainly not going to make a fool of me!" Needless to say, he immediately does exactly that.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: One such dissenter is dropped out of Valmont's private plane. In a darkly humorous case of Be Careful What You Wish For, Valmont did this specifically because said dissenter begged not to be shot.
    Valmont: Since you said "please", I won't shoot...
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The original trailer includes the entire ending scene, where Diabolik gets encased in gold.
  • Villain Protagonist: Diabolik. He's also this in the source material, who has no problem with stealing and killing, but here he's a bit less indiscriminate about the latter.
  • Villain Respect: Diabolik thinks this of Ginko.
  • Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?? Most likely he pays for them using his stolen money, or he steals them too.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Ginko tries to make a shipment of gold Diabolik-proof by melting it into a single 20-ton ingot and welding it inside a huge container. When Diabolik manages to steal it anyway, Ginko reveals that he also had a small part of the container "radioactivated," meaning the police can trace it back to Diabolik's hideout.
  • Zen Survivor: Diabolik, faced with capture, takes a cyanide-like capsule and goes into a death-like trance, allowing him to awaken and escape later.
    • The pill works on a very rigid timetable, too. He says it knocks him out for exactly 12 hours before it kills him and Eva wakes him up with exactly three minutes to spare. Pulse rate? Body mass? Don't matter; it's 12 hours on the dot before you die, and that's that. (Then again, Diabolik knows his own pulse rate and body mass.)