‘As a woman, I do not have the habit of accepting diamonds, Mr. Boss…’
International master thief Kriminal is about to meet the hangman’s noose in London after stealing the Crown Jewels. lnstead, the Inspector in charge of the case arranges a dramatic escape, in the hope that the villain will take him to the stolen crown. But Kriminal outwits him and flees to the continent…
There is a long tradition of masked super villains in Italian comic books and Kriminal was one of the most popular. Created by artist Magnus and Max Bunker, he was amoral, ruthless, and brilliant. He also dressed in a stylish one-piece skeleton suit, was quick with a gun, and even quicker with the ladies. Given the global success of James Bond, and the myriad of copycat agents running around continental Europe in the mid-1960s, it was probably inevitable that Kriminal would get in on the act, copying the popular formula of ‘girls, gadgets and guns’ but with an emphasis on crime, rather than espionage.
We begin with Kriminal escaping the gallows thanks to the intervention of Inspector Milton (Andrea Bosic), who is soon looking for new job opportunities when the mastermind slips through his fingers. Fortunately, Kriminal returns the stolen crown by parcel post anyway, presumably having only stolen it for a bit of a lark. It’s is an excellent opening, exhibiting a sense of playful fun and quirkiness that promises for an entertaining ride. On the continent, Kriminal gets involved with a pair of beautiful twins, both played by Helga Liné, and a plan to relieve the rich husband of one of them of his stash of diamonds.
Unfortunately, despite a series of ongoing plot twists, the tale is never very gripping and rather humourless, the potential of the main character never realised. Our blonde, chiselled hero is Glenn Saxson, a Dutch born actor who made few features; his only other notable turn being as Django in ‘He Who Shoots First/Django Sparo Per Primo (1966). There’s a suspicion that it may have been his good looks that got him these roles, rather than any great acting ability. He’s not exactly bad, but brings little personality or star quality to the table, and that’s rather a drawback when he’s so heavily featured. Thankfully, Liné is certainly pleasant to look at, and Bosic provides a halfway decent foil as the perennially frustrated policeman, chasing Kriminal halfway across Europe only to be regularly outwitted.
Double cross piles up on double cross, there’s real diamonds, fake diamonds, disfigurement, disguises, and even an unpleasant type of aftershave that comes out of a spray can, but it all fails to ignite, making for a very middling film that doesn’t linger long in the memory. The signature skeleton suit gets only a brief workout, although it is hard to establish credibility for it as a disguise, given that it’s almost exclusively used at night. It’s not exactly great camouflage.
Copyright law was not strictly enforced in mainland Europe back in the 1960s, so there were similar characters taking on Interpol in both comic books and on film during the period; ‘Diabolik’ for example. So many were there, in fact, that there are different schools of thought as to who came first, and who was a copycat! An obvious rip off of ‘Kriminal’ was Turkish super fiend ‘Kilink’ who never appeared without his skeleton suit, and appeared in a series of movies all the way into the 1970s. They were cheap, cheerful productions, and very, very silly, but had a sense of style and humour that would have helped ‘Kriminal’ no end.
A sequel ‘The Mark of Kriminal’ (1968) followed.