Evil Eye/The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Kino Lorber, NR)

EE 75The Italian version, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, is by far the better film.

EE 500

One of the most obvious features of giallo films like Suspiria and Black Sabbath is their use of intense colors (including red—red blood, of course) and stylized imagery to get past your reasoning mind and straight into your emotional core. What, then, would a giallo look like if shot in black and white?

It would look like The Girl Who Knew Too Much, a 1963 film directed by Mario Bava and distributed in the United States by American International Pictures as Evil Eye. You can see both versions of this film (they differ in editing and soundtrack as well as language) in a new DVD/Blu-ray release by Kino Lorber. (Historical note: many consider The Girl Who Knew Too Much to be the first giallo, and it’s also the last film Bava shot in black and white.)

The Italian version, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, is by far the better film, so I recommend watching it first. The story is the same in both films, but the American version feels more goofy than scary, as if Elvira had had a hand in the editing, and the world’s worst dub job doesn’t help with the suspension of disbelief either. In contrast, The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a classy film that shows a mastery of visual storytelling and expressive camerawork. Shadows, unusual points of view, odd camera angles, extreme close-ups, and other well-known tricks of the trade are all put to good use in this film, which also offers you a little tour of Rome including tourist highlights like the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps.

The story is a murder mystery that manages to play it straight (i.e., it can be really scary) and also parody the genre. Nora (Leticia Roman), a young American woman, is visiting Rome to see her elderly aunt, who is being cared for by Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon, whose name, for the record, was Carmine Orrico before Henry Willson changed it for him). The aunt dies, Nora goes to seek help, and is robbed and knocked out. She regains consciousness just in time to see a bearded man pulling a knife out of a woman’s back, but when she tries to report this to the police, all traces of the event have disappeared.

Gradually, Nora figures out that there’s a serial killer on the loose, killing women in alphabetical order. Next up is the letter “D,” which happens to be the first letter of her own last name. She also encounters several “interesting” local characters, including a beautiful older woman (Valentina Cortese), in whose house she stays, and an investigative reporter (Dante DiPaolo) who has been secretly observing Nora. The story is a bit complicated, but even if you miss some of the details, the visuals alone deliver a real emotional impact. The acting is also quite good, particularly by Roman and Cortese.

Besides the general tone, one principal difference between the two versions of this film is that The Girl Who Knew Too Much has a jazzy score by Roberto Nicolosi, while Evil Eye has a much more conventional score by Les Baxter. There are other differences—among them, that the American version removes references to marijuana, the Italian version removes a little goose-step routine by Saxon, and the American version includes an interesting dolly shot early in the film (along with some of the silliest interior monologues ever recorded on film)—so that it’s worth watching both, if only to see how the same material can be used to quite different effect.

Extras on the disc include an informative audio commentary on The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Tim Lucas (among other things, he points out differences between the two versions of the film, and helpfully identifies many of the filming locations) and the original theatrical trailers. | Sarah Boslaugh

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