Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Danger: Diabolikally great flick

(Okay, I apologize for that.)

Anywho, last night I finally got my grubby hands on the DVD for the 1968 ultra-mod caper-flick Danger: Diabolik!. Here's the, somewhat misleading, teaser trailer for it:

You may recognize this as the basis of the Beastie Boys video for Body Movin':

I first heard about this movie a few years back when Scream aired it late one night, featuring a hosted introduction that went over a brief history of the film. I tried to watch the movie, but the pan & scan version they aired was almost unwatchable. Also, as I've just learned, it was also the heavily edited original US cut, and not the cut on the DVD I purchased.

Prior to the Scream airing, all I knew about it was based on a comic, and I knew that it was what the Beastie's based the Body Movin' video, but that was about it. Little did I know that it was directed by famed cinematographer and director, Mario Bava. Bava's eye for style is what makes this romp as good as it is, as there is some amazing camera work in this flick that models the source material. Ang Lee used split screens, wipes, and other optical effects to give a mock comic book look to The Hulk, but Bava uses elements in the shot to block out panels. It's absolutely brilliant, and I'm surprised that I'd never heard about the movie prior to the Scream airing.

The plot of the film is pretty much your standard 60s thief vs. cops, cat and mouse, caper material, with a somewhat counter-cultural twist, and really isn't much to write home about. Where this movie shines, however, is in the amount of style used to tell the fairly straight-forward story. From Bava's exquisite camera work, to John Phillip Law's animated performance, to Ennio Morricone's energetic score this film is a stunning triumph of style over substance. Rumour has it that Paramount was considering shelving the movie permanently, due to the protagonists obvious terrorist tendencies, but thankfully reconsidered.

The DVD itself is amazing. The transfer of the film seems spotless, and the special features are great. There's a 20 minute featurette called "Danger Diabolik: From Fumetti to Film" that features interviews with comic artist Steve Bissette, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, Dino de Laurentiis, Roman Coppola, and Diabolik himself, John Philip Law. For such a short featurette, it gives more info than most longer pieces, and actually enhances the viewing of the film.

Also on disc, aside from a commentary by Law and Bava biographer Tim Lucas, are the trailers and, most importantly, the actual Body Movin' video complete with commentary by Adam Yauch. The features may seem sparse, but the quality of them is absolutely astounding, and makes recent releases like the V for Vendetta special edition look weak by comparison.

The best thing about this disc was the price: $7.99. (More expensive elsewhere.)

Highly, highly recommended.

***.5 out of ****.

(Also, is it just me, or does John Phillip Law look like a manlier version of Jude Law? Despite the family name, they're supposedly not related, which makes this even more curious.)



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