Thursday, April 30, 2015

Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Let's take a journey back in time to before any of us were born pretty much. It's a magical time full of psychedelic colors, svelte soundtracks and action movie heroes who slaughter people indiscriminately. One of those three things has survived today, anyway, but unlike your latest Liam Neeson flick, this one has a complete lack of any moral center. But on the other hand, it has lots of gold and money that the characters have sex on top of, so you can live vicariously through that.

Director: Mario Bava
Starring: John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell

Co-written with Michelle.

Directed by renowned schlock artist Mario Bava, this was based off a comic book from back in the day. It was a cheesy flick back in the day and seems even moreso now. And since this comic is apparently being remade again now (because we don't have enough comic book movies yet), I'm sure we'll get a modern remake full of dark grittiness and moral grey areas and all kinds of melodrama. But maybe, just maybe, if I review the original, I can help steer Hollywood in the right direction to make a better film.

This movie begins with an acknowledgement that cars are pretty cool: 

We don't need to see your driver's license test, guys.

And especially when they drive under bridges and stuff!

We also get some sweet swirling psychedelic colors for the opening, which go on longer than that time you were given a swirly in the school bathroom by that kid who smells like his drunk father's cigarettes.

Groovy, man.

Apparently main character Diabolik and his girlfriend, Eva Kant, are professional criminals who have stolen a lot of money from under the noses of the cops. A recurring theme throughout this thing is that the cops are apparently completely powerless to stop these two – like they're demigods and the cops are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs at the donut counter. It's pretty one sided.

As this was the 60s, I guess the fashion is a bit different. I'm not one to harp on little things like fashion from a different time, but some of these choices are starting to push it, man. Like, Eva really needs a shirt with a hole right where her boobs are? Really? That's kinda like a guy wearing pants with the zipper wide open all the time.

For that matter, it takes a hell of a woman to want to fuck a guy who looks like the bad guy from The Collector.

Diabolik and the girlfriend go back to their mysterious cave home, because why not, you know? If you're rich enough, fuck it, just forsake housing altogether and live in a fucking cave with futuristic gizmos enough to make Superman blush.

Look at this shit – they have enough money to just throw it everywhere on their weird rotating circle-bed thing and have sex underneath the giant piles of money. I get the idea this is what rich people fantasize about doing with the money they get from tax write-offs and stuff. It's what Congress members would do if they still had any sex drive.

They say money can't buy happiness, but...well, they're probably poor as shit if they say that and are just jealous!

Afterwards, they take showers in the best showers ever made, which is to say they are completely transparent boxes with no curtains, just weird ornaments hanging over where the boobs and face are:

Ah yes, Salvador Dali's shower designs finally got some good use...

So I guess the plot, if you're really paying attention instead of just gawking at all the bizarre shit they put in this cave, goes like this – this other crime lord guy makes a deal with the cops after they catch up to him, telling them he can deliver Diabolik, who is a much more wanted criminal. The cops are apparently so baffled that they can't find the guy despite him driving fancy cars and living in a goddamn futuristic cave – but I guess we can excuse them.

After all, they are trying their best. Like when they let this obvious serial killer and sexual deviant up on the podium to waggle his crazy eyes at everyone:

He's supposed to be some kind of political figure, but I think he killed the real official and is a crazy impostor.

Diabolik, meanwhile, is enjoying the spotlight so much that he can just sneak up on an entire press conference full of cops and spray them with laughing gas and somehow get away afterwards.

Eh, it WAS pre-9/11...we'll give it a pass.

I think these cops just secretly like being bested by this guy. Maybe it gives them an odd titillation and thrill and helps them sleep better at night knowing a challenge is out there, always right outside their reach. Only this is a challenge that sometimes likes to blow the shit out of your police cars and slaughter innocent policemen with throwing knives.

"Don't tell my family I got killed by a guy in a GIMP costume!"
"No promises!"

Meanwhile, the other crime lord is flying on a plane with his henchmen, and when one of them doesn't agree with him, he opens up a trap door right where the guy is standing and lets him fall to his death. And I think that's great, because more planes need trap doors. It's a lost art.

But enough of that nonsense. Let's have a scene now where Diabolik stretches out a long role of mirrored screen so the oncoming cars will see it and crash into it because their headlights blind them, then go careening off a cliff to fiery, horrific deaths.

If this brutal violence for no reason bothers you, just pretend the guys who died were child molesters. Did that make it easier to swallow their deaths? I think it did.

That should be a good palette cleanser from these scenes that didn't have Diabolik in them!

Diabolik breaks into a castle to take some pictures and really just kind of fuck with the cops some more. He's also trying to steal a necklace for Eva, which he does very easily, because this place leaves its valuables on a platter for any thief to take. Like almost every scene in this movie, there are just some things that don't make sense. There's a “secret” security camera hidden inside of a painting. It's instantly noticeable, because when I think of terrible security, I think of defacing classic works of art.

There are also a bunch of guys dressed as Revolutionary War soldiers hunting Diabolik right alongside the cops, because again, why the fuck not? It makes perfect sense to me.

The powdered wigs help them aim better.

Diabolik himself has chosen a fitting outfit – he's dressed like a sperm as he crawls up walls and takes pictures inside fancy rooms.

I will also accept 'KKK ninja.'

Then he ditches the suit so the cops go chasing after that while he hides, presumably naked, up on the roof of this castle. Good job, Diabolik. They'll never notice a naked man wandering around their weird castle place. But then again, even though that was sarcasm, somehow it's true and they really won't ever notice him.

Meanwhile, some goons working for that crime boss kidnap Eva while she's at this spa place and take her away. They use her as leverage against Diabolik, forcing him to give himself up. He agrees, but then throws himself along with the crime lord out of that conveniently placed trap door in the plane. They go free-falling through the air like sacks of potatoes dropped from the sky, landing right where they need to be to find Eva – who is tied to a bed and getting burned with cigarettes by her captor.

There truly is no middle ground between damsel in distress and hot kick ass "Black Widow" type chick with no personality. It's just a matter of which kind of sexism you prefer more.

To let Eva get away, Diabolik pretends to be dead by taking a pill. He gets taken to the morgue and presumed dead while apparently every member of the media comes to see. Eva somehow poses as a nurse and gets him out of there.

They go back to Diabolik's cave and sit in a pool while Diabolik puts priceless gemstones all over Eva's breasts and shoulders. Not to echo a sentiment done too many times already, but again – why the fuck not? You got that much money and jewels, hire a girl with big tits and put them all over her. I'd do it too if I was that shamelessly wealthy.

They also blow up a bunch of buildings, which is totally reprehensible and bad, until they hit this one:

In their infinite wisdom, the cops decide to move a shitload of gold right now – right after the notorious unstoppable thieves who have proven they can fuck you over just for fun escaped being dead. Yeah. I'm sure THIS won't backfire at all, right? I'm sure that gold will get to its right place without any incident. That's why they're showing this part in the movie – to show how effortlessly the authorities can move gold without it getting stolen!

Couldn't just keep it in one place for a while, huh guys?

Also, get this – they melt it down and put it inside of some kind of indestructible container. Bit overkill when you know nothing bad is gonna happen and this gold isn't gonna get stolen at all, guys. Come on. Have some faith in yourselves.

Big surprise, Diabolik and Eva manage to steal the gold. Through a complex sequence of events involving seducing truck drivers and scuba diving, they get the gold back to their cave. The cops find the cave NOW of course, because it's the climax of the film. A shoot out ensues, in which the gold explodes and covers Diabolik. The film ends with him alive and encased in gold.

Which I'm sure, despite the fact that he can no longer move, eat or drink anything, makes him happy – the guy's lust for wealth has finally led him to its logical conclusion. This is what he deserved all along.

This movie is pretty bonkers and over the top, but it's not bad for all that, and it remains entertaining with no real plotholes. It's a crazy, wild and bizarre movie from a crazy, wild, bizarre time. The action is fun and the characters are enjoyably insane. It's also very colorful and fast paced and it doesn't take itself all that seriously.

Really, a lot of modern action flicks like John Wick and The Equalizer just glorify revenge and make it too glamorous looking. They goad us to root for unstoppable killing machines and make us not care about how many random goons die at their hands who didn't deserve to. Most action movies do that in some measure, but the ones I'm talking about are worse because they try and make it a moral thing. They want you to root for these killing machines because they're doing it for a good reason. So, you know, that makes mass murder okay.

The random thugs killed in a movie like John Wick are made to look as despicable and one-dimensionally evil as possible. They don't have any humanity to them on purpose, because they aren't real characters – they're tools used to elicit a cheap emotional response. The movie isn't terrible or anything, but the way it's written just doesn't lend any kind of depth to the revenge storyline. It comes off as hackneyed and morally bent, and rather than a compelling story it's mostly just a silly good versus evil cartoon. Since the movie was not going for that, the effect is dampened a bit.

At least in movies like Die Hard where the main character kills a lot of people, he's doing it because they attacked the building he was in first. And he's also not invincible, and really struggles like an underdog to save everyone in the building. In John Wick and The Equalizer, the main dudes are just completely immortal badasses who hunt down their prey like serial killers. But again, it's okay, because they're doing it for the right reason. Right?

Danger: Diabolik forsakes all of this. It doesn't try to have a moral at all. The main character just kills whoever the hell he wants, with no hesitation, and then never thinks about it again. It's just a goofy action flick, and I love it for that. I guess if you take one thing away from this, well, uh...if you can get rich off stealing from people, do it. The rewards are pretty fucking sweet.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.