Thursday, October 8, 2009

La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963)

... aka: Evil Eye, The
... aka: Girl Who Knew Too Much, The
... aka: Incubus
... aka: Obsession Diabolique

Directed by:
Mario Bava

Crucial title in the Italian horror canon, and normally considered the very first giallo, Girl is a pulp murder-mystery, a bit lighthearted and romantic at its core, with scenic Italian locations as a backdrop and absolutely stunning black-and-white cinematography from the director. American tourist Nora Davis (blonde, wide-eyed Leticia Roman) finds herself accidentally associating with a drug smuggler aboard a plane. The man is immediately arrested once they arrive at the Rome airport and Nora, avoiding implication, goes off to stay with her ill great aunt Edith. She briefly meets her aunt's handsome doctor Marcello Bassi (John Saxon) that evening, who advises her about what to do in case of an emergency, and later than night Edith passes away. Nora stumbles into a vacant city square and runs into a mugger, who swipes her purse and knocks her to the ground. She hits her head, gets a concusion and through foggy eyes thinks she witnesses a woman being murdered. Talk about having a bad day!

Because of the attack, the head trauma, a rainstorm that conveniently washes all the blood away and no murder weapon or corpse turning up, Nora finds herself in a very Hitchcockian situation where nobody believes her about what she saw. After a short stint in the hospital, she goes to her aunt's funeral and meets a friendly, wealthy middle aged woman named Laura (Valentina Cortese) who offers to let her housesit while she's out of the country visiting her husband (Giovanni Di Benedetto). Laura's home just so happens to be right across from where the Nora saw the murder, so our intrigued, mystery novel loving heroine decides to stay there and try to get to the bottom of things. She finds some newspaper clippings detailing a series of murders commited ten years ago referred to as "The Alphabet Murders" by the press (the three victims had last names beginning with A, B and C) that occured right where she's staying... ten years ago. Will a similar fate befall Ms. Davis?

It took six people (including Bava, Bruno Corbucci and Franco Prosperi) to write a script that's muddled, extremely far-fetched, a bit skimpy on characterization and saddled with a disappointingly predictable resolution. In strictly visual terms, however, it's an exciting and arresting piece of work, with a breezy air throughout punctuated with some very nicely executed moments of suspense and terror. It also deserves credit - along with Bava's BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) - for helping to shape a subgenre that would become very popular toward the end of the decade in Europe. There's also a great, recurring jazzy theme song ("Furore") by Adriano Celentano and Paolo Vivarelli. Dante DiPaolo, Milo Quesada, Gustavo De Nardo and Franco Ressel co-star.

When originally released to the U.S. (titled The Evil Eye), it was dubbed, all references to marijuana were removed and the horror scenes were trimmed to focus more attention on the travelogue and romantic elements. The 2007 Anchor Bay DVD release is the original Italian-language cut.


1 comment:

CavedogRob said...

Great review!Glad you see this has gotten a decent US release. A version I saw years ago was "muddled" to say the least.

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