Director: Mario Bava

Super criminal, mastermind and terrorist Diabolik, aided by his lover and partner Eva continuously foil police and rival criminals alike in their attempts to capture them.

Shot between April and June 1967 at Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica in Rome, Bava’s adaptation of the Italian “fumetti” (comic strip) created by Angela and Luciana Giussani was made just prior to BARBARELLA (1968) and shared the same leading man in the person of John Philip Law. This is a film that I have always wanted to see, ever since coming across the bizarre imagery of Law encased from head to foot in leather (except for his eyes) have been fascinated with this rare piece. Highly regarded by many within the comic-book cognoscenti - Steve Bisette (“Swamp Thing”) features heavily in the newly produced featurette (20 minutes). This long-awaited DVD has finally arrived.

The film is a gloriously entertaining mish-mash of German "Krimi" and superhero/super criminal aesthetics, from its opening heist, to the closing moments where the law closes in on Diabolik’s (pronounced dee-ah-bolik) cave. Law is perfect for the lead role in his dark satanic steeliness, and Marisa Mell (ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER, 1969) is stunning as his great love, and sidekick Eva Kant. Law claims to have had a romance with Mel during shooting; indeed they display great chemistry in their love scenes. Check out the iconic scene in which the leads roll naked in money, it is probably the most widely publicised moment in the film, and it does not disappoint!

Primary colours run rampant, and the superb opening credit sequence (swirling colors similar to the scene changes in the 60s “Batman” TV series) sets the tone perfectly for this quintessential 60s time-piece! Amazingly, Bava was given a budget of $3 million, but brought the film in for $400,000! De Laurentiis was delighted, and immediately offered Bava the option of filming an immediate sequel, which he turned down. Bava hated the interference imposed by the producer and Paramount.

Michel Piccoli and Adolfo Celi (fresh from THUNDERBALL, 1965) give fine support as foils for our anti-hero as the cop on the case and a leading crime overlord respectively. Terry-Thomas steels every scene he is in as a government minister, and Annie Gorassini (8 AND A HALF, 1963) is goofy and sexy as Celi’s moll Rose.

Paramount’s fine DVD is presented in the original Panoramica aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The image seems to be zoomboxed at times, especially in the sequence displaying newspaper headlines (25:27). This does not seem to cramp compositions unduly however. A virtually flawless print (which only shows signs of dirt and blemishes during the various camera optical effects) displays the superb color values of Flavio Mogherini’s production design; good black levels and contrast. The sound is good clear mono, channelled into all five channels.

The aforementioned featurette (“Danger Diabolik – From Fumetti to Film”) is mostly dominated by Bisette (who aptly illustrates how Bava adapted the original comic for the big screen), but also includes contributions from John Phillip Law, Adam Yauch (from The Beastie Boys), Roman Coppola (director of the DIABOLIK-inspired CQ), producer De Laurentiis and composer Ennio Morricone. You also get a candid, entertaining commentary from John Philip Law and Bava biographer Tim Lucas (Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark). Lucas shares a lot of information about the cast, crew and the technical aspects (including the many glass matte shots that Bava executed so brilliantly) while Law remembers quite a lot about making the film, and his anecdotes are a pleasure to hear. Lucas prompts him with all the right questions, and we learn a lot of fun trivia, like the fact that Carlo Rambaldi designed Diabolik’s masks in the film and that Catherine Deneuve was in line for the role of Eva until Bava decided she wasn’t right for the role. “Body Movin',” a 1998 Beastie Boys music video that amusingly incorporates scenes from DIABOLIK is also included, with an optional commentary by Yauch. Rounding out the extras are the original Paramount teaser trailer and a regular trailer (both of which seem to be narrated by Telly Savalas!). (Richard Curzon )