MASTER PLAN: steal everything. Based on the Italian fumetti/comic strip, this was director Bava's follow-up to "Dr.Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs" and, at first glance, would seem merely a slight upgrade from that earlier unfortunate campy fiasco. But, with the availability of a decent DVD version, the picture's strengths become more readily apparent. Bava's ability with design and color enables a fairly successful transposition from comic books to movie screens. Many might point to "Dick Tracy"(90) as another such heartfelt attempt to capture comic strip ambiance on the screen, but that one was far more blatant & apparent. Bava's creativity due to a lack of a huge budget resulted in a more subtle interpretation of comic book action, as incongruous as that sounds when talking about an adaptation of a comic strip. Some of the images here, whether large buildings or close-ups, are startling - something seems a little off in the image but you're not sure what it is. When you think about it or view it again, you realize it's a comic book come to life. Bava was also fond of filming a frame within the frame, resulting in some intriguing compositions. This also invites comparisons to "Barbarella," released a little later. But, Barbarella's images are awfully static when compared to all the movement we see here - everything and everyone moves here - whether on foot, in a sports car or on motorcycles.
Since this was the sixties, one also can't help but think of the James Bond craze of this period. The obvious difference between this and the Bond imitators is that the central character is a villain, not some agent-hero. Diabolik (Law) specializes in outrageous acts of thievery; at the point the film begins, the establishment (government & police) are well aware of him, to the point that they resort to unusual methods of transporting valuables in an attempt to avoid him; of course, they fail. Diabolik wears a weird comic book-styled suit, with a mask that covers the lower half of his face; yet, you can still see the outline of his mouth. He also has a weird, sinister laugh, though this is not over-indulged. He operates from a fantastic underground hideout, an expansion of the Batcave from the "Batman" TV show. Of course, he does not work with the authorities but against them, a rather subversive message in those pre-Watergate times, where-in the audience is placed in the position of rooting for this, at best, anti-hero; but, remember, this is from Italy (see Sergio Leone's 'Man-With-no-Name' western trilogy). Also, rather than hanging out with a younger version of himself, as Batman did, this guy gets it on with a cool chick; ah, yes, the villains do have all the fun. Keep in mind, though, his violence does extend to killing cops, so it's not just a laughing matter.
There's no 'main' plot line; the authorities make a deal with a local bigshot gangster (Celi, the villain from "Thunderball") to capture or eliminate Diabolik, but this plot is wrapped up way before the conclusion. The story switches to an attack by Diabolik on all the economic bastions of power, a rather direct act of terrorism (though there are no realistic repercussions, such as showing fatalities) and then there's some climactic action involving all the gold on a moving train. It's as if the filmmakers took several disparate plots from the comic strip and welded them together in one film; but, it holds together pretty well, against expectations. The ending is a little on the eerie side. Since this is, overall, an amusing and even silly take on the super-hero/super-villain genre, it may be why "Mystery Science Theater 3000" chose it as one of the films they made fun of, an honor they saved for the most silly movies out there. But, this has enough esoteric style and panache to place it above those clunkers and MSTK3 should have saved their efforts for some other truly dumb film. Anti-Hero:6 Villain:6 Femme Fatales:6 Henchmen:5 Fights:5 Stunts/Chases:7 Gadgets:6 Auto:7 Locations:6 Pace:6 overall:6
1 out of 3 found this helpful