Wednesday, 4 May 2022


Kant Buy
Me Love

Italy 2021
Directed by Antonio & Marco Manetti
RAI Italian Ltd Edition
Blu Ray Zone B/DVD Region 2 set

Warning: Very light spoilers.

So, after both the 1968 Mario Bava movie known in the UK as Danger Diabolik and an animated series, Diabolik returned to Italian cinema screens at the end of last year. Alas, it’s still not found an English distributor for either a UK cinema or home video release (or possibly even streaming, at time of writing) but I wanted to do this right so, rather than just watch a free HD copy online, I managed to acquire the new limited edition Italian Blu Ray/DVD set, which also comes with a replica copy of the third issue of the original fumetti, The Arrest Of Diabolik (on which this film is based, along with also taking material from a 2012 remake comic book of the same story) but, since I can’t read Italian to get the one detail about a certain jewel I wanted to know, I can’t work out whether a specific reference was put there by the Manetti Bros or if it was in the original version of the comic... or, indeed, if it’s just a coincidence (I’ll get to that possible reference in a minute).

The new film starts off with a very similar style opening to the Mario Bava version (reviewed by me here), to which the first time viewer will obviously compare it to, at least for a while. So the film is set in the late 1960s and we have Diabolik in his black Jaguar evading the police after a heist. It’s one of very few action sequences in the movie, actually and, I suspect, those who are not intrigued by the story and the absolutely wonderful performances of Luca Marinelli as Diabolik, Miriam Leone as Eva Kant and Valerio Mastandrea as Inspector Ginko... may find the lack of stunts and explosions etc a little disappointing. However, because the story is so strong... it’s an origin tale, of sorts, for the way that Diabolik and his future girlfriend Eve Kant first met... I found it absolutely absorbing from start to finish and didn’t notice the 2 hour 15 minute running time.

Okay, so I won’t say all that much about the plot but two things that caught my attention were the diamond and a section of the story involving an execution by guillotine. Okay, so the jewel that Diabolik is after from Eva Kant, which brings him to her door, is a very special pink diamond. So my first thought was obviously the specific diamond named The Pink Panther, which was the plot device of the 1963 film and which birthed the animated title sequence using a literal pink panther, thus giving kids all over the world a new hero when the title sequence character got his own cartoon show (which used to feature an Inspector Clouseau cartoon as its second half each week, if I remember correctly, both segments utilising Henry Mancini’s themes from The Pink Panther and A Shot In The Dark respectively). It’s a nice touch but I’ve no idea now if it was a deliberate reference or not, due to the dates being fairly close (if it did appear in that original fumetti).

The other thing I noticed which, judging from my look at the replica fumetti... since the first two thirds of this movie seem to follow it fairly closely (and so don’t blame the Manetti Brothers for eschewing action sequences, it looks like they are trying to do it fairly straight to the source material)... deals with the mistaken execution by guillotine of one of the characters who has been switched out at the eleventh hour, allowing Diabolik to escape justice. Now, I’ve read the first Fantomas novel from 1911, years ago and, honestly, it’s an absolute steal from that inaugural story but, of course, it’s not rocket science to figure out that the original character of Diabolik was blatantly inspired by the French master criminal.

So, okay, I had two slight problems with the movie. One is.... and I suspect this is endemic of the current state of Italian film production in general... that, although I’m sure a lot of money was spent on this new movie, there’s something about it that makes it look really cheap. Like it’s a TV movie or something. It all looks like it’s just been shot on a high res video camera and so doesn’t have that cinematic feel I was expecting from it (and no, I didn’t have the stupid motion smoothing setting on, thanks very much). However, once I got  used to it I managed to forget about it.

The other thing is... there are no real surprises in the film. Even though the narrative structure is deliberately built to hide information until certain things happen, I could pretty much second guess the entire movie. For example, during the first meeting between Ginko and Eva Kant, I realised that this was probably not Ginko at all... in which case, the same kind of fictionally heightened style masks used in the Mission: Impossible series and films was probably being used here and, yep, indeed it was.

However, when a film is put together this well, the lack of unpredictability is not that distracting... there are lot of other good things to grab your attention. Some of the frame designs, for example, are nicely done with the directors sometimes emphasising vertical patterns to echo the frames of a comic book... something which they do big time in the last third of the movie, which is basically a heist, much of which is made of dynamic, split screen compositions. I found it odd that they saved the use of split screen for only the last third of the movie but it works effectively for the sequence and was as good a solution as any other. There are also some sets of camera movements that are a little reminiscent of some modern horror movies, in that they’re designed to conceal rather than reveal elements of a scene before a particular story point is reached.

The comic strip style is further enhanced by details which you wouldn’t necessarily get away with in other forms of fiction in a credible manner. For example, the fact that Diabolik has managed to have a raising ramp built right into the middle of a street so he can take that route to evade the police, after making sure he gets boxed into the correct location. Hmm... yeah... don’t know how he would have managed to install that one without being seen. Also, the ears of the character protruding from either side of his mask (either that or his ears are also very tightly covered in latex) which would look really silly if not for the fact that they’re lit so well to hide any colour or texture change in the scenes where they are prominent. Also, Diabolik has a very strong widows peak, which echoes the open eyes section of his mask to remind you who he is when he’s not wearing his criminal costume (Ginko has a widow’s peak too).

The structure of the piece is good also. Like I said, no real surprises but there are a few sequences where conversations are cross cut with other conversations (often with one of the same characters) so the present of a character can be at counterpoint with a reveal needed to make more sense of a scene when it comes up later. Again, even though I’d figured out most of those reveals on this one way before they happen... mostly due to just thinking logically about the way what I was watching was unfolding... it’s a nice way of presenting the information and the two or three times where this is done in the movie adds to an overall ‘corporate style’ to the film.

I really liked the sexual chemistry between Marinelli  and Leone as Diabolik and Eva too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere near as evident or blatantly expressive as the version of the relationship between John Philip Law and Marissa Mell’s versions of the characters in Bava’s movie but, the camera does still linger on the strength of their attraction to each other here as the glue which holds their relationship together... so that’s nice. I was worried they were going to shy away from that element here.

So it’s a shame, then, that due to the film’s release schedule being delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic, Marinelli is unable to reprise his role as the title character for the two sequels which are just winding up back to back production in Italy as I write this review. I hope the new guy they’ve got is able to at least match his, mostly emotionless and chilled performance here.

And that’s me done with the new Diabolik. I hope this one manages to find someone to give it a UK and US release because, frankly, our cinemas need more ‘shades of grey’ characters like this. This is a pretty good adaptation of the comics is my best guess, not to be compared to the Bava movie (which will always have the number one spot in terms of this character) but still doing something of its own with the material. And also... I love it whenever Diabolik throws his knife and the camera follows it at the same speed by keeping it in centre frame before we see who it killed (and, yes, I know it probably wasn’t captured like that but, that’s the impression it’s trying to create and it works really well, I think). Diabolik doesn’t need ‘bullet time’ when he has ‘dynamic dagger duration’ moments like this.

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