Friday, 13 September 2013

Pulp Villainy

Being ill again slowed my imagination down a bit so I'm watching videos more.

Have filled in some holes in my pulp history and watched Danger Diabolic and first of 60s Fantomas Trilogy. Both are classics often overlooked by non Europeans. Fantomas has been filmed many times from silent to modern era and is a bridge between 19th century villainy and modern serial killers.

In the 60s a trilogy was filmed a bit more light hearted with little murder. Basically a non stop chase with some slapstick comedy. What we can get from this is how a villain once interested in a hero seeks to sadistically meddle in his life. The villain has become interested in the hero he will mess with heroes life. Stealing his face to commit crimes, seduce his girl and ruin the heroes populaity. The villain is supremely competent but uses agents for most of his plans. Sabotage heroes vehicles and having getaway craft (like a stylish submarine) is a must too. In the pulp novels he imaginatively kills with bizarre deathtraps like snakes, sand filled rooms and worse. When he steals though he leaves calling cards and seems to like being chased a little bit, with elaborate escapes at the ready. His victims usually realise the crime fairly quickly after the fact thanks to his use of calling cards.

Danger Diabolik is one of the most stylish 60s action films ever. Based on a very long running stylish comic book sadly not printed much in English. His secret base makes Batman's seem like a hovel. Moricone sound track sadly 80 pounds at the moment or Id snap it up.  Diabolic was raised and trained on an island base of criminals. He escaped and killed them all and now mostly robs criminals. With his incredibly beautiful girl Eva he robs with daring plans, gadgets and disguises. He likes to humiliate the law. In the film when when new minister announces a million dollar reward for him he blows up all Italian tax offices and records in revenge. The government melts all remaining gold into a giant ingot to tempt him which he of course steals. Villains of this sort apparently are tempted by traps like this allot. In the comic he uses knives and preys mostly on criminals. He is kind of a antihero James Bond and Robin Hood.

Both villains don't seem to steal for wealth. As genius inventors they could clearly make billions from the defence industry. Almost concerned more by aesthetics. The villains in the cartoon Cutie Honey only steal to deprive ordinary people of pretty things. More like impulsive magpies than greedy.

Dr Phibes would fit in as well for his bizarre cruelty and sadistic traps would fit in here and comes off more horrible than either previous mentioned film versions of these villains. Motivated by love and revenge make him only slightly less awful. I need to watch both these films again to get a good handle on him and am not looking forward to another Tim Burton Johnny Depp hash job. Old style Batman villains panache for deathtraps, weird objects of desire behind crimes fit in this mould. FuManchu Sax Romer novels worth a read despite racism bur that is a given in anything that old and I'm sure future people will  laugh at our own age of hypocrisy. Marvel comics did a Kung Fu comic in 70s with a Bruce Lee inspired hero with MI6 vs FuManchu which was pretty good too.

Perhaps I need to do a d100 deathtraps for any genre

I have neglected good villains in my DnD games. Heroes seem pretty good at destroying everything but bad guys usually escape. I had someone abuse me for this online saying competent heroes should be able to stop villains escapes. Competent villains always escape and the best have plans to return from the dead.

On a related note here are the writing tips from Doc Savage creator Lester Dent
We could all benefit from his advice.


  1. I too know and love the movie Danger Diabolik (from having watched it as the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 - one of their best and I think they liked it too), so I did a search for the soundtrack and found it for download here:

    Seems to work! Deep deep down, I knew it would.


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