Danger: Diabolik is the best Batman film the '60s should have made.
Diabolik, an Italian cat burglar antihero, was created in 1962 by sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani for their own publishing company Astorina. In a precedent for graphic novels, they compiled the adventures annually in digest format for the adult train commuter market. The pair wrote the enduring series' first 20 years abetted by a handful of artists, but most notably Sergio Zaniboni since 1969. The Giallo digest medium allowed for fumetti stories edgier, sexier, more ambivilent, and more violent than standard superhero comics, a rising trend in the European wave of graphix stories.
The late-'60s pop zeitgeist was Batman Barbarella Bond. Director Mario Bava's response here is more perversesly outlandish than the Batman TV series, often kinkier and more kinetic than Barbarella, and sometimes more stylistically epic than Bond. Looking like a black fetish Romulan, copping the moves of Fantomas and the icy eyes and laugh of The Shadow, coolly plotting from a Italian futurism cavern complex, tearing up whiplash mountain roads in a black Jaguar-E, Diabolik (John Phillip Law) is the Mod/Psyche Bruce Wayne we deserved. Ennio Morricone accomplices Bava's often startling visuals with a score that Bond would die twice for: paranoid surf guitar, sitar drones, gladiator horns, atonal abrasion, sunshine pop chorals, and Edda Dell-Orso's cooing.
All adds up to a bracing delirium that is still contagious. The film inspired the Beastie Boys' "Body Movin'" video, and Roman Coppola's film CQ (2001). And revolutionary "Swamp Thing" artist Stephen Bissette considers it the best comic book translation to film for the decade.