In this week’s episode of the bavatuesdays film festival Paul Bond and I talk about Mario Bava’s contribution to the comic book cum film genre with Danger: Diabolik (1968). Paul has already blogged about some of the artistic influences on this film, as well as how Danger:Diabolik continues to reflect the evolution of Bava’s move to a more strict aesthetic realism—an element that will be even more apparent in the next two week’s films. Paul Bond rules!
I think this is one of Bava’s most gorgeous films, and while it’s part and parcel of the late 1960s push for kitsch inspired by the 1966 Batman film, it’s anything but camp. In addition to Danger: Diabolik, Dino DeLaurentis also produced the French comic book Barbarella as a film the same year for similar reasons, but if you watch the two side-by-side you can quickly see why Bava is consider a master. Add to Bava’s brilliant camera effects, set designs, and costumes the best soundtrack ever by the one and only Ennio Morricone and you have pure gold! This might possibly be Morricone’s wildest soundtrack. There are at least four unforgettable gems in this film: Under Wah-Wah, Deep, Deep Down, Money Orgy, and Driving Decoys (the last of which now rivals my other favorite Morricone song from Pasolini’s Uccellacci e uccellini available at the bottom of this post).
One of the most pleasant surprises of the DVD was the short documentary about the film titled Danger: Diabolik: From Fumetti to Film, which features brief interviews with Ennio Morricone, the great Dino DeLaurentis, and MCA of the Beastie Boys. But luckily the majority of the documentary’s commentary was framed by comics artist, publisher, and professor Stephen R. Bissette, who was absolutely awesome to listen to. His discussion of Bava’s comic aesthetic is one of the best I have heard, he perfectly explains how Bava primally understood the comics medium. I have included a four minute excerpt from the documentary below in which he brilliantly explains how Bava translates the Diabolik comic to film.
The only thing better than that was his discussion of the comic Diabolik as a moment in pop culture history, which provides a wonderfully contextualized discussion of the cultural history of comics in post-WW II Europe. Bissette offers a fascinating explanation of why the tradition of super criminals (or anti-heroes) took hold in Europe, as opposed to the US tradition of super heroes. If you have two-minutes to spare, I highly recommend you listen to him contextualize the cultural history of comics in post-WW II popular culture, it’s this kind of intelligent discussion and the ability to relate what might appear to many a cheesy b-movie to a broader shift in thinking as a result of historical events like WW II and the counter-culture movement of the 60s that makes me fall in love with film and film criticism again and again. It just seems like he is having so much fun make these connections, and framing his interpretation–not to mention he’s quite smart.
Another special feature on the DVD I missed was the Beastie Boys music video “Body Movin’.” I hadn’t seen this music video before, and it is a full blown tribute to Danger: Diabolik. Those Brooklyn kids have good taste in 1960s films, and they also seem to have a blast in this music video playing with the brilliant visual elements of Bava’s film.