(A.k.a La MŠscara de Kriminal)
Review by Nick Frame Directed by Umberto Lenzi Starring: Glenn Saxson, Helga Line, Andrea Bosic, Ivano Staccioli, Jolanda Benvenuti. Source: Pulp Video (Italy) (PAL Region 0 DVD / 99mins / 2002)
Before this review of Kriminal gets underway, I need to point out one thing; I love Italian comic books or fumetti as they are better known. While spending my long summers in Italy as a kid, I started reading "Topolino", which was simply Disneyís Mickey Mouse but in Italian, but when I got a bit older fumetti began to catch my eye. Some had lurid colours, some dark and mysterious, all had strange titles. One title above all stood out and that was Diabolik. That bold red title, this masked guy dressed all in black, the hot girl next to him. I had no idea what it was about but I knew I had to get hold of a copy! This lead to me searching out other titles such as Kriminal, Satanik, Alan Ford and Dylan Dog. Some I liked, some I didnít, but it all had a certain charm as they were so different from any other type of "comic" Iíd ever read. There were also some "adult" fumetti like Lucifera, Maghella and Zora la Vampira but they were always sealed and really close to the register that I could never get a look at them. Damn! Anyway since then I have searched out any movies based on these characters, I had a great Diabolik bootleg for years before Paramount finally got round to releasing a pretty terrific DVD, which for me missed only one thing, an Italian audio track. I grew up reading Diabolik in Italian so I find it awkward watching it in English. I know one exists because it was on Italian TV last Christmas. But hey, itís a minor complaint, but one I canít point at this Pulp Video release of Kriminal as itís only in Italian. As I will now explain this should not put you off getting hold of this cool movie.
Directed by Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox) from the famous Max Bunker fumetto, (master) Kriminal is brought to life by Dutch actor Glenn Saxson (real name Rolf Boes, fact fans). While Diabolik was nicknamed "Il genio del crimine" (the genius of crime), Kriminal on the other hand is "il genio del male" (the genius of evil), he is the anti-Diabolik, a little more sadistic. The film opens with our thief, Kriminal on the verge of being executed for stealing the British Crown jewels. As you would expect he somehow escapes, and his nemesis, Inspector Milton of Scotland Yard vows to track him down. Kriminal then gets involved in a diamond heist, seducing and killing along the way in equal measure. There is a real hint of the Connery Bond movies in here, great 60ís locations (Madrid to London and Rome to Istanbul), and beautiful women, but with a central character who wears a cool skeleton costume instead of a tuxedo when carrying out his capers.
More than anything itís a great fun adventure movie full of intrigue and double crosses, with some nice set-pieces and a fair bit of humour, yet intermixed with some nasty cruelty from Kriminal; he certainly does not mess about to get what or who he wants. Without giving too much away, the ending also leaves us on a knife-edge, with this viewer at least wanting to know what happens next! Saxson plays the part well, with equal suaveness and malice and when heís in the costume he is coolness personified. Helga Line is pretty and elegant as twin sisters Inge and Trude. Lenzi keeps the whole movie ticking along nicely balancing humour and suspense. I must make mention of the great jazzy swinging score by Howard Full as well, it fits in perfectly with the movie.
Onto the disc itself and there is much to admire. The animated menus are a nice touch, with Kriminal morphing in and out of costume. The re-mastered 2:35:1 anamorphic image looks pretty good, with strong vivid colours epitomizing the films comic-book origins. Sure there are a few rough edges and scratches but nothing major. Considering the source material, itís in really good shape, and clearly Pulp Video have put a lot of work into the Kriminal movies.
Equally as good is the audio, with both a re-mastered Italian 5.1 sound track and the original Italian mono. Usually these re-mastered tracks are of little use except for trying to sell a DVD with already minimal extras. Not this time however as the rears are used pretty intelligently and the great soundtrack comes through load and clear. More language options would have been nice but Iím unsure if an English track even exists. Remember that this DVD was released in 2002 and itís only more recent Italian releases from the like of RaroVideo and NoShame Italy that have included English audio and subtitles. Also included are Italian subtitles.
Extras are the main disappointment here, only a short bio and filmography of Umberto Lenzi are included along with some cast and crew info and an outline of the movie. I would love to see any future release have some cast or crew interviews with perhaps a short history of the Kriminal fumetti. I can only dream!
Overall despite it only being available in Italian (great time to start learning!), its well worth picking up, as itís not too hard to work out whatís going on and itís just such a fun adventure movie, you canít help but enjoy it.
Story/Film-4/5 Bitch Slaps PictureĖ3.5 Bitch Slaps Sound-4/5 Bitch Slaps Extras-1/5 Bitch Slaps Overall DVD-4/5 Bitch Slaps
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