THE MARK OF KRIMINAL (Fernando Cerchio and, uncredited, Nando Cicero, 1968) **1/2
Second and last entry in the “Kriminal” series – good-looking, light-weight Italian capers with an exotic touch originating from a comic strip. Whereas the first film concerned a string of diamond robberies (from what I’m able to recollect), this involves the search for a couple of missing paintings by world-renowned artists – the map of the location in question is hidden inside four identical statues of a Buddha. As in KRIMINAL (1966), the quest sends our anti-hero globe-trotting – London (his escape from an Istanbul prison, where his initial adventure had concluded, having occurred off-screen), Spain and, then, across the sea to the desert of Lebanon (the Goya and Rembrandt works are kept in an ancient tomb!).
Having re-read my review of the original in preparation for this one, back then I had found Glenn Saxson “a wooden lead”; however, I think he has grown nicely into the part – ably demonstrating the character’s resourcefulness (fleecing insurance companies, nonchalantly disposing of his double-crossing female partner, posing as a messenger to present his arch-nemesis with a booby-trap wedding gift[!] and an erudite gentleman on the ship in order to frame a naïve fellow passenger for his crimes: in this respect, the script often utilizes the trademark skeletal costume to throw his pursuers’ scent off Kriminal’s trail…apart from the expected scaring of gullible victims), wit and magnetism. The wonderful theme from the original (by Raymond Full) is reprised here, which blends quite well with the new score from Manuel Parada; also returning from the first film are luscious “Euro-Cult” starlet Helga Line' (albeit in a different role – a femme fatale who’s a rival to the titular figure for the priceless paintings) and Andrea Bosic as the Scotland Yard officer still after Kriminal. Here, too, are the occasional delightful transitions to animation taken straight from the comics; I’ve never come across the latter – but I guess this goes to show how the live-action version was a faithful rendition of the original.
While I don’t recall the first film enough to objectively judge how much of a lesser achievement the sequel actually is (I’m prepared to give the Umberto Lenzi film the benefit of the doubt, though I’m certain of its own rather middling qualities when stacked up against the definitive Pop Art-tinged Master Criminal film of the era – Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK ), it’s a superficial but effortlessly fun ride. If I had to put in one discernible criticism, I’d say that the desert climax is a bit long-drawn out…except that it leads directly to the surreal fade-out gag. By the way, at least one source mentions the uncredited contribution of director Nando Cicero in connection with the film; also my DivX copy froze a couple of times during playback on my compatible player but went by smoothly on my DVD-ROM. I think yet another DivX-to-DVD-R conversion is in order here...
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