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THE DIADEM / MINI-KILLERS (1966 / 1969).

Ever since I was a kid, I was smitten with Diana Rigg -- no doubt, thanks to her weekly, black-leather cat-suited appearances as Emma Peel in THE AVENGERS. She had class, she kicked ass, her fashion sense was impeccable, plus she was a damned fine actress to boot. But few of her fans have any knowledge of these strange, no-budget amateur gigs, which were filmed in the late-'60s, distributed on 8mm, and never (to my knowledge, at least) acknowledged by Rigg. Think of these silent shorts as stag films for AVENGERS fetishists, who love watching Rigg beating the bejesus out of burly guys, amidst secret agent-style shenanigans. If Diana's post-AVENGERS career had gone straight down the crapper, I'd chalk this duo up as desperate attempts to cash in on her Emma appeal; but the fact is, Rigg was starring in big studio fare such as ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and THE ASSASSINATION BUREAU at the time, and had no discernible reason to make these crude li'l pics. Nevertheless, I'm glad she did, and that some enterprising fan transferred them to video... The German-lensed THE DIADEM is in b&w, only 13 minutes long, but jam packed with action. It begins with Rigg piloting a plane into town and leaping into a convertible, while being followed by a sinister bloke. Later, at an aquarium, she swims with dolphins and accidentally loses the title jewelry in the pool, with an enemy frogman stealing it. While trying to retrieve this (cheesy-looking) tiara, she's gassed, takes a champagne break, avoids a lethargic snake, uses the hoary old 'pull-the-rug-out-from-under-him' routine against her nemesis, and continually relies on Emma Peel-style judo flips and karate chops to fend off her two-bit attackers. This extremely slight adventure boasts serviceable music and sound effects, but no dialogue, while its disjointed cutting and odd camera angles make this feel like a bizarre, avant-garde homage... MINI-KILLERS is an even more outrageous endeavor. Unlike DIADEM, this 28-minute, Spanish project obviously had some funding behind it, since its production values are on par with most low-grade EuroTrash outings. It's also in color, which makes Rigg's groovy '60s fashions all the more vibrant. Still, director W.V. Chmielewski couldn't afford sync-sound or even looped dialogue for this half-baked gig. The movie is broken up into four 7-minute segments, and after trippy opening credits, this silly espionage yarn commences with an assassination -- perpetrated by a child's doll that squirts a deadly poison. Diana Rigg enters in a black body suit, tosses a heavyweight clod for a loop and begins to investigate these killer dollies. Part 2 has Rigg lounging on the beach, doing surveillance on a nearby luxury yacht. She's soon caught in a fishing net, but escapes while dressed in a skimpy bikini (hubba hubba). Onboard this boat, damp Diana proves she's smarter than your average low-I.Q.'ed screen villain, while collecting evidence against some rich dude who's behind the deadly devices. Along the way, she's ambushed by explosive dolls, gets captured, is put in life-threatening peril, battles the bald henchman who's been trailing her, and (of course) saves the day. This is a satisfying little oddity, and its most alluring moments are thanks to Diana's wardrobe (check out that retina-melting, candy-stripped mini-dress!) and her ultra-cool sports cars. No question, these short films are must-see items for hardcore Rigg-o-philes. They're crude yet charming skeletons in her closet, and it's impossible not to be curious about the backstories behind them both. Since Diana still isn't talking, we may never know.

© 2002 by Steven Puchalski.