In March 1963 with book #3 of the series “Il Arresto di Diabolik”, the sisters created the long-term female side-kick “Eva Kant” as lover, friend, complice and conscious for Diabolik. She is an attractive blond young woman from noble heritage known as “Lady Eva Kant, widow of Lord Kant”. The nobility was a hook for stories where Diabolik could steal jewels from the wealthy. That aspect was dropped through the years in favour of more hard core criminal stories with gangsters, drug lords, murderers, kidnappers, rapists…etc that readers liked to favour more.
What not many people know is that Eva Kant is not the first companion for Diabolik but his second. Another female character with the name “Elisabeth Gay”, modelled after the American actress Elisabeth Taylor, was some kind of partner for Diabolik in the first 2 issues of the series. Unfortunately Elisabeth was not, according to his creators, a good choice as counterpart for their hero so she had to go. Elisabeth betrayed Diabolik to inspector Ginko. In book #3 Eva Kant has a mysterious fascination for the dark hero and rescues him from the guillotine. As a reward the master criminal falls in love with her. In the next book #4 of April 1963 “Atroce Vendetta”, Elisabeth has to face the terrible revenge of Diabolik.
Eva Kant became the long time partner and mirror image for Diabolik. Diabolik drives a black Jaguar, type “E”. Eva Kant drives a white Jaguar, type “E”. Diabolik has short hair. Eva Kant has long hair. Diabolik has black hair. Eva Kant is blond. Diabolik wears a back mask and a one piece jump suit. Eva Kant wears no mask and a black sweater and pants. He is the burglar. She is the reason to steal the jewels, statues, money… whatever Eva Kant fancies for her enormous collection that she has build over the years.
Due to the enormous success of Diabolik in Italy in the 60’s, it wasn’t long that in 1967 a movie was produced with the title “Danger: Diabolik!”, loosely based on a few early stories of the comic book. After a long search, with candidates like Marilu Tolo, the producer Dino De Laurentiis decided that the French actress Catherine Deneuve would make an ideal Eva Kant opposite Diabolik played by John Phillip Law. During the course of the first few days of filming Mario Bava got agitated by her acting and diva like behaviour. He noticed that there was no chemistry between Law and her in the love scenes of the movie. Like in the comics, the first partner of Diabolik had to go.
Marisa Mell was, at that time starting to make a name in the international movie business with some highly visible movies like “Masquerade” with Cliff Robertson and Jack Hawkins, “Casanova 70” with Marcello Mastroianni and “Train d’enfer” with Jean Marais. She had the international appeal that Dino De Laurentiis was looking for to market his movie, not only in Italy but also internationally, especially in America.
Danger: Diabolik! was made in a period when spy movies were at an all time high thanks to the huge success of James Bond. A direct transfer from the serious Italian fumetti to the silver screen was a possibility but not chosen. High camp became the central focus of the movie! Marisa Mell, as a classical trained actress at the famous Max Reinhardt school of drama in Vienna, Austria, was able to bring this campy feeling to the movie. She had a terrific synergy with her onscreen partner John Phillip Law, just what Mario Bava was looking for. They were oozing sex on the silver screen.