Friday, February 16, 2018


Umberto Lenzi

Superheroes are great and all, but supervillains are a lot more fun. Sure, there have been some successful antihero projects, but it is curious that the popularity of superhero films in the 21st century has not produced any notable supervillain centered movies. In the 1960s, Italy and France produced a slew very popular super criminals, Diabolik, Killing, and Kriminal among them. Produced for adults these comics and movies had no small amount of violence and kink.

Kriminal (Glenn Saxon) is a world-famous master thief and killer. We meet him for the first time already incarcerated and awaiting his turn at the gallows. Of course, Kriminal has things well in hand and makes his escape. Eventually, he finds himself conspiring with a wealthy socialite to steal a batch of priceless diamonds and engage in a little insurance fraud. Double-crosses abound and Kriminal finds himself not only plotting revenge on some would-be assassins but also working to stay away from the clutches of his arch nemesis Inspector Milton (Andrea Bosic). There are plenty of women who fall for his good looks along the way.

"For the last time, lady, I am not Arch Hall Jr."
Kriminal is most definitely a product of 1960s Italian genre film. It’s colorful, playful, accompanied by a smooth jazz sound, and mixes violence and comedy in equal measures. Despite all of the backstabbing and scheming from the characters, the movie retains a light touch. There really isn’t much story to the film, it is just a series of obstacles that Kriminal encounters and overcomes without so much as breaking a sweat. This does mean that things keep moving at a good pace which is vital for this kind of film.

Kriminal himself has a roguish charm about him. Glenn Saxon’s performance is stilted but he seems to be having fun with the role. One element that plagues Kriminal and is still a problem in many costumed character films today, is that he just can’t leave his costume on for more than a few minutes. Its fun to see him prowling around and knocking out goons dressed as a yellow skeleton man, but those times are few and far between.

Kriminal and the Case of the Missing Pelvis
From what I can gather the film version of Kriminal is far less dark than the comics in which he would regularly kill his lovers to protect his identity. Still, the Kriminal of the movie is without a doubt a villain. He disfigures and kills his opponents, lies, tricks, and steals all for his own gain. The film lessens the blow a bit by having his main opponents be criminals as well, but it is still interesting to watch a protagonist like this who has no interest in a redemptive arc. Kriminal and his ilk are almost the moral inverses of the suave Euro-spy icon, jet-setting, seducing and killing but for selfish reasons rather than in service of a nation.

The movie ends on a cliffhanger and is followed by the sequel Mark of the Kriminal (1968), but those have been the only two Kriminal films to come from a series that ran for over 400 issues. Kriminal is lightweight but it still should have no problem stealing 98 minutes of your time.

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