Let us, for a moment, just take for granted that we’ve all seen The Dark Knight and Spiderman 2 and the rest of the big hitters in the comic book stakes. This is, after all, about putting something on which is a little different. If you’re after something normal, bang on Batman Begins and Superman II and we’ll hear nothing more about it.
I was tempted to put in the Ultimate Cut of Watchmen in here too. Just to turn this into an endurance contest. At three and a half hours I’m not convinced it wouldn’t be quicker just to read Alan Moore’s – much better – graphic novel than sit through that again.
But, instead, I decided to turn to the great 1960s for my inspiration. Comic book movies these days are so grim, dark and serious business that a lot of what made the original comic book fun has been lost. When the last Superman movie features our hero mopping around after Lois for a hefty amount of time then you know something’s wrong with cinema.
So let us go back to 1968 and to the days of Danger: Diabolik.
First things first, our hero, Diabolik, isn’t a hero, he’s a thief who lives in a massive hideout and has more Jaguar cars than he would ever need to drive. He lives for messing with the Italian government and stealing items of incredible beauty. If this was a Hollywood movie Diabolik would be the bad guy. He is, without doubt, a bit of a prick
But what an incredible anti-hero he is. He’s the type of guy who steals diamonds for his girlfriend Eva before having sex on a bed of cash.
The reason this one makes the cut is the incredible work from Italian horror director Mario Bava (watch Black Sabbath as an example of how to do a horror anthology film well). Shot on a shoe-string he managed to use tricks like forced perspective to make the most of the $500,000. The underground lair is stunning and the use of bright colours and visual trickery gives the whole thing a psychedelic feel.
It’s achingly cool. As you can see here.
Now on to some trailers before heading on to our second film. 1960s Batman was a camp classic and, no matter what your feelings are about its closeness to the comic you’ve got to admit that this is a cool trailer.
Next up a bridge to our next feature. Dead easy and an echo to the old EC comics of the 50s and 60s. George A. Romero’s homage to the horror comics of his youth. Creepshow
It’s a little heavy handed looking back, but still a great deal of fun. But on to our second feature presentation.
It’s not based on a comic book exactly but Sam Raimi, who went on to do Spiderman has all the hallmarks of genre. A wronged man, violence against gangsters, vigilantism played for enjoyment. He’s even got a cool name which is the title as well (along with a mask) Darkman.
The story follows a scientist who is horribly burned by the bad guys and loses feeling in his nerve endings. He goes out the seek revenge.
It’s also got a great concept to it. Darkman’s synthetic skin, which he has invented in a laboratory, only lasts for 99 minutes before it melts. It means he can sneak into a location with a disguise on and do the deed but he needs to get out sharpish before his cover disintegrates.
While all this sounds very dark, and it is a nod towards the old Universal horror movies, Raimi manages to keep everything suitably exciting. It has an energy to it that is essential to a superhero film without any of the baggage of having to please the fanboys.
It’s probably been a while since you’ve seen this one but it’s worth returning to if only for Danny Elfman’s kinetic and excitable score. Also a helicopter blows up in the trailer which is always Hollywood shorthand for screaming “ACTION FILM” at you.