February 7, 2020


Mario Bava's Danger Diabolik (1968) is finally coming to Blu-ray in the States via Shout Factory in May (see my post) and Spy Vibe is celebrating with Diabolik week! One of our early missions here was to look at the great set designs from the 1960s. I did a top-10 countdown and Danger Diabolik came in at number one! Here are some of my observations from the first year of Spy Vibe: Underground Lair tops set list! Art Director: Flavio Mogherini (Satyricon, Mamma Roma, OSS 117 Murder For Sale). Production Designer Carlo Rambaldi (Planet of the Vampires, Barbarella, E.T.). Costume Designers: Giulio Coltellacci (The 10th Victim) and Pieri Gheradi (La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, Juliet of the Spirits, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die). Imagine clicking your garage door opener on a mountain road, engaging a giant clam-shell door, and driving into a series of electronic hatches and elevators down (deep deep down) to a cavernous lair that sports a fleet of E-type Jaguars, Sci-Fi gadgets, a Habitrail-like network of tubes and chambers, glass "see-through" showers, and a giant revolving bed with futuristic technology and television monitors. I’ll give you a moment to recover. You’re right- it’s simply the coolest pad any spy, criminal mastermind, or lounge cat could crave (they had me at Jaguars). Add Marisa Mell, John Phillip Law, and a score by Ennio Morricone to the mix and you can see why this Mario Bava cult classic jumps right to the #1 spot on the list. There are wonderful adventure conventions in the film, including a trap door... in an airplane!

The film is based on the popular Italian comic Diabolik, created in 1962 by two sisters from Milan. Diabolik is an anti-hero, a kind of Fantomas-meets-Golgo 13-meets 007 in a Sci-Spy crime adventure, and he is a great example of the European tradition of weaving adventure stories around anti-heroes. Comic and film maestro Steve Bissette suggests [in his 2005 DVD commentary] that this reflects a post-war skepticism of authority and a spirit of late-60s counter-culture. Where 007 works for queen and country, Diabolik relishes in high-stakes heists and in acts of destruction against the state. His other passion is to enjoy a life of pleasure with his partner, Eva. Celebration of the individual perhaps taken to the extreme, yet Diabolik remains empathetic and ultra-cool. One infamous scene shows Diabolik and Eva making love in piles of money on his giant revolving bed. As the detective mentions just before this image hits the screen, Diabolik has a use for the money that only a mind like his can conceive of...

The counter culture influenced not just this 60s anti-hero, but notions of aesthetics, lifestyle, and values. Somehow, I don't see the Rat Pack generation choosing a Lair like this. Designer Verner Panton is once again an influence. His "total environment" installation exhibits, such as Visiona (1968) and Visiona II (1970), were room constructions of fluid, organic forms. Here is Panton's design followed by Diabolik's vault room.

The sets have a fantastical feel of the late 1960s and the dynamics of a comic page. Originally given three million dollars to make the film, Bava stuck with his familiar bag of budget-conscious tricks to create one the greatest comic book adaptations in movie history for a mere... $400,000. Actor John Phillip Law recalls seeing most of the sets piled up in a corner of the studio. Steve Bissette adds, "Bava did it with collage of photos glued to glass! He was a magician! Bava really understood the magic of "the frame" as the essential cinematic illusion, and within that frame worked wonders." Like all of Bava's work, Danger Diabolik crackles with atmosphere, imagination, and sensuality. The director (a former cameraman himself) made great use of wide-angle lenses, forced perspective, mattes, and foreground design to create a stylized look- one which Video Watchdog founder, Tim Lucas, says shows "a fantastic view of the 1960s that only existed in the movies and in Playboy magazine perhaps." It's groovy, stylized, smart, sexy, and action-packed; I call it the Spy Vibe!

Selected Spy Vibe Posts: Danger Diabolik BluCount Arthur StrongHoney West Title CardsBowie DayNew Year CosmonautsNeil Innes R.I.P.Claudine Auger R.I.P.OHMSS at 50Italian Job 50th OSTCharles Schulz ModernPaul DesmondPython 50thRandall Hopkirk 50thThunderbirds DayLazenby Returns to MI6Dr. John R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio: Lupin IIILupin SkaSpy Vibe PrimeZigomar TranslationThe Village: Part 1Monkey Punch R.I.P., Bubble Girl 63ITC SoundtracksSpy Vibe Radio: Public EyeUFO PrimeSpaceship to MarsModesty Blaise CompanionSpy Vibe Radio: FantomasGeorge DayFantomas BluDark Shadows DocBedazzled Blu-rayMary Quant ExhibitLaika CalypsoLost in Space JapanSpy Dust CalypsoAtomic CafeJohn Barry MonoInterview: John Barry BookLand of the Giants ScoreSkyfall ConcertDearest EmmaSpy Vibe Radio: UppersevenOgilvy at ElstreeMabuse PropagandaBond Beatles DaySpy Vibe Radio: LiquidatorDiabolik LPFab DressesEurospy Music CollectionBeetle Bailey in West BerlinWhy Mort Walker?Spy Vibe radio: The Beatles Help!Avengers Critical GuideThe SpotnicksBenny SpiesJames Pond 0017'Satire StonesAnnette Andre BookCat DaySpy Vibe Radio: Get SmartCaine: My GenerationInterview: Ian OgilvyHorror of Party BeachSylvie Vartan RenownRingo At 78Dark Shadows StripsSpy Vibe Radio: FlintArchie Batman 66Paul at 76Beatles Pac-ManSpy Vibe Radio: Jerry CottonThe Invaders007 Horowitz Book TourMcGoohan/Prisoner Event at ElstreeThe Prisoner Interviews Vol 1British Underground PressInterview: Fab4 ManiaBond Cocktail BookBond at BletchleySpy SmasherSpy Vibe Radio: Peter GunnAgent Zero MNew Prisoner ComicDr. No Villains Edition,  Spy Vibe Radio: Danger DiabolikDr. No 60thOy-Oy-SevenSpy Vibe Radio (UFO)Cold War Comic StripsThunderball EventMission to IndiaMort Walker Celebration,  Peter Wyngarde CelebrationBatman 66 ExhibitPrisoner Fifty EventIan Fleming Publications 2017-2018Interview: Ed Hulse PulpAvengers Audio DramaInterview: Callan At 50Interview: Playboys, Spies, Private EyesTWA ReturnsSpy Vibe Radio 8Interview: Ryan HeshkaMid-Century Modern SchulzAgent WerewolfJohnny Sokko 50thInterview: Trina RobbinsEddie IzzardThe Prisoner Capt Scarlet 50thHugh Hefner R.I.P.Jack Good R.I.P.Interview: Shaken Not StirredCallan 50thSpy Vibe Radio 7The Prisoner 50th EventSpy-Fi EventKaho Aso 007Two MillionBo DiddleyCarnaby PopLe Carre EventsBilly Bragg SkiffleElvis 68Jack Kirby The PrisonerCasino Royale ConcertReview: The Prisoner Vol 2Interview: The Prisoner Essential GuideMaud Russell MottisfontSpy Vibe Radio 4Batman GallantsAdam West R.I.P.Village TriangleRoger Moore R.I.P.Spy Vibe Radio 3Sgt Pepper 50thSatanik Kriminal OST60s OverdriveMake Love in LondonSpy Vibe Radio 2Spy Vibe Radio 1James Bond StripsPropaganda MabuseInterview: Police SurgeonXTC Avengers1966 Pep SpiesBatman Book InterviewExclusive Fleming InterviewAvengers Comic StripsRobert Vaughn RIPUNCLE FashionsThunderbirds Are Pop!, Interview: Spy Film GuideLost Avengers FoundThe Callan FileMission Impossible 50thGreen Hornet 50thStar Trek 50thPortmeirion Photography 1Filming the PrisonerGaiman McGinnins ProjectIan Fleming GraveRevolver at 50Karen Romanko InterviewMod Tales 2Umbrella Man: Patrick MacneeNew Beatles FilmThe Curious CameraEsterel Fashion 1966Exclusive Ian Ogilvy Interview007 Tribute CoversThe Phantom Avon novels returnIan Fleming FestivalArgoman DesignSylvia Anderson R.I.P.Ken Adam R.I.P.George Martin R.I.P.The New Avengers ComicsThe Phantom at 80007 MangaAvengerworld BookDiana Rigg Auto ShowThe Prisoner Audio Drama Review.

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