Kriminal (1966)

Country: Italy
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Glenn Saxson, Helga Line, Andrea Bosic, Ivano Staccioli, Esmeralda Ruspoli, Dante Posani, Franco Fantasia, Susan Baker
Music: Raymond Full, Roberto Pregadio

The character Kriminal has a rich history, which is a bit out of my depth to discuss at length. Put simply, Kriminal began in a series of adult comic books (called Fumetti) in Italy. The success of the comics lead to two Kriminal movies, made in the mid sixties and starring Glenn Saxon as the titular hero.

The film opens in London. A man is being lead to the gallows. The man is ‘Kriminal’ – an evil genius. He is to be executed for the theft of the Crown of England. Kriminal mounts the scaffold, and the noose is slipped around his neck. At the last second, before Kriminal swings, the lights go out and the rope breaks. In the confusion Kriminal escapes.

The escape had been carefully planned down to the last detail. But not by Kriminal though. It was the police that allowed Kriminal to escape. Why? Because the Crown has not been recovered. If Kriminal had died, the secret location would have died with him. Instead, the police have secretly positioned officers in cars and on foot to follow the fiend, hopefully to the regal headpiece. But as I mentioned at the top, Kriminal is an evil genius, and it does not take him long to slip through the cordon of officers, leaving Scotland Yard with egg on their face and a lot of explaining to do.

Taunting the police further, Kriminal returns the crown, letting everybody know that it is a goodwill gesture on his behalf, rather than the tactics or investigation skills of the police that have returned this priceless artifact.

Now free from the shackles of imprisonment, Kriminal can return to his old ways, and when committing a crime, this involves wearing a full body skeleton suit. It’s a pretty threatening ensemble, but you could only get away with wearing it in the sixties. No modern evil mastermind would be seen dead wearing it. When we next see Kriminal he’s in his suit and breaking into a ladies bedroom. When he flicks on the light the lady awakens, and then confronted by Kriminal, she screams. As she does, he takes off his mask. She recognises his face and stops screaming. Her name is Margie Swan and she used to be married to the man standing in front of her. And all that time she never knew she was married to an uber fiend. But that is all in the past. Margie is all set to remarry a rich man. She now works for the Tradex Diamond Company and her new love, is her bosses son. But Kriminal isn’t interested in Margie’s love life. He’s interested in Tradex’s next big shipment of diamonds from London to Istanbul.

The thing about masked fumetti characters like Kriminal or Diabolik, is while they are criminals themselves, their actions tend to take down people and crime syndicate’s that are worse. The regular criminals have no code of honour, or worse still, pretend to be upright citizens. Kriminal’s skeleton suit says to the world, ‘look out’, I am a bad person, ‘stay out of my way’. But criminals who do not wear are costume are hypocrites who want things both ways. They want there ill gotten gain, but they also want to be accepted and fit into society. That’s exactly what happens in this film. Kriminal attempts to steal some diamonds, but finds that they have already been stolen. But of course, he gets the blame for the theft, while the perpetrators get off scott free. But Kriminal is an evil doer of the highest order, so naturally he seeks retribution.

Kriminal is an interesting film. It’s fun in a glossy sixties jet-setting fashion, but there are a few ‘evil’ moments. Generally, the nasty things happen to people who deserve the atrocities, but a couple of innocents get caught along the way. It’s this subversive or slightly malevolent tone that may put a few people off this movie. But mostly it’s cartoon mayhem, with a dash of sixties glamour.

October is the month of the Skeleton Suit! Or Skeletons, Skulls and Bones, and in a month long celebration, The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit is checking out the Skeletons in their closets.

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