A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 569 – Danger: Diabolik

Danger: Diabolik – September 20th, 2011

As with most of our done-by-MST3K movies, this is probably my fault. I don’t know why, but every time I see a movie MST3K featured in an episode I feel like I need to buy it and have an unaltered copy. I don’t know that I ever truly planned to watch things like this and The Deadly Mantis. I just liked knowing I had them. I grabbed this one from the video store we used to work at in Pennsylvania. Can you imagine, they were selling this off? How could they?! But there it was, getting shrink wrapped to go in the used VHS bin. So we snapped it up, and regardless of who initially picked it up – me or Andy – I will take the blame here. I’m always willing to take the blame for non-MST3K versions of MST3K movies. Always.

Now, I will say that this one was special. It was featured in the very last MST3K episode and consequently, I think we’ve seen it twice. Most of the other episodes out there, well, we’ve seen them oodles of times. But it was hard to watch the last episode. I’m veering away from the movie a bit, but I’ll come back to it. I just think it’s worth explaining that MST3K was incredibly important to me when I was in my teens. I didn’t make friends easily and suddenly I had a bunch thanks to the online fan forums. Andy and I started talking because he saw a couple of tapes I was letting a mutual friend borrow. So when a bunch of the people I knew online all got together to watch the end of the show together (I think there were about 30 of us) it was hard. I cried, and I wasn’t the only one in tears. Consequently, we never put the episode featuring this movie into our VCR. Ever. I can remember tons of specific moments because I associate them with watching the episode in a room full of my friends and fellow MSTies. The line “Is that stud coming?” caught us all by surprise and I will never forget it. But while this movie is precisely the sort of cheese I adore, I do not know it nearly as well as I would like.

And what sort of cheese would that be? Why, a 1960s romp with a super suave master thief named Diabolik! It’s based on a long-running comic serial from Italy and oh, oh does it show. Diabolik himself is played by a young John Phillip Law (this came out the same year as Barbarella to give you an idea of how young) and he’s basically a criminal but the hero at the same time. He has a super secret lair where he lives with his sexy girlfriend, Eva, and he drives fast cars and has lots of gadgets and is generally incredibly clever and smooth. He steals from anyone he likes, whenever he likes. Watching this I am put in mind of a combo of spy movies like Bond the newer Mission: Impossible movies (since I don’t know the older show) and then also the show It Takes a Thief, where the hero is a master thief working for the government (a plot which has been recycled more than a few times). The big difference here is that Diabolik is really just out for himself. He hasn’t been given assignments by anyone. His illegal actions aren’t sanctioned by some secret organization. Nope. He just likes stealing stuff.

Does it really matter what the specific plot is in this movie? Diabolik steals stuff! People try to stop him! He gets away! He and Eva roll around in a spiral-shaped bed covered in money! He tries to steal more stuff! He almost gets caught! He does get caught! But maybe he’ll still get away with it! The particulars aren’t so much a concern to me. But I suppose they might be a concern to someone else. We begin with Diabolik stealing an enormous sum of money from the government using a smoke screen. An actual smoke screen, not a metaphorical one. The government and police are pretty ticked off, so they up the stakes and crack down on every criminal and illegal business they can find. Crime lord Valmont gets ticked off by that and makes a deal with the police to deliver Diabolik to them. He kidnaps Eva and uses her to try and get Diabolik (and some emeralds Diabolik had stolen for Eva) but Diabolik gets the better of him and escapes with Eva. And the emeralds. This only escalates everything and after destroying all tax records with a bomb, Diabolik is able to try and steal molten gold that the government is selling off. This proves to be his undoing and the movie ends with him trapped in his heatproof suit, having been sprayed with molten gold when the police raided his hideout.

Look, don’t try to make sense of it. It’s all ridiculous and over the top. But that’s the point. It’s supposed to be outrageous and unbelievable. After all, what good would the story of a regular thief and his not-so-daring exploits be? The character is meant to be larger than life, with his underground lair and all. Not that it makes it a truly high quality film, but a lot of the stranger stuff in it is clearly informed by the comics it’s based on. What I find strange about that is that there’s a lot of talk about dollars in the movie and when Eva and Diabolik are rolling around in their ill-gotten gains the money looks like US currency. But the movie was filmed in Rome and it’s clearly dubbed, not to mention it’s based on a series of Italian comics that weren’t in wide circulation in the US at the time. While personally, I think the movie is fantastic and fun, I can see how it might be a hard sell, given the lack of anything explaining the character’s motivations and his thoroughly anti-establishment nature. Still, I’m not complaining that it exists. I do enjoy it, after all. Not enough to put in the MST3K episode more often, but maybe since I own it un-MSTed, I’ll put that in once in a while.

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September 20, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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