The Film (4/5)
I was surprised when reading my friend Richard Glenn Schmidt's debut book Giallo Meltdown (buy it now, here) that the cinematic tradition of giallo dated back much earlier than the work of Mario Bava, and in fact had started in the 1930's. However, the giallo as we know it today black gloves, and lurid kills certainly stems from the work of Mario Bava, the most obvious influence on the giallo as a whole being his 1965 film Blood and Black Lace. However, he would begin delving into the realm that would be giallo with his 1963 film The Girl Who Knew too Much released with on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber this month with it's AIP release title Evil Eye (but including both versions on the release).
The film stars Leticia Roman as Nora, a young woman coming to Rome to help her ailing Aunt recover from an illness, unfortunately for Nora her trip was for naught as shortly after arrival her Aunt would pass away. While on the way to the hospital, Nora witnesses a murder, but the shock causes her to pass out. When she awakens (reeking of whiskey courtesy of a homeless gentlemen who tried to stir her with the booze), the body, and all traces of the murder are gone. The police do not believe her, but she manages to convince a Doctor she met earlier Marcello (John Saxon) to help investigate. The pair begin to realize that they are in the midst of a rash of killings by the so called Alphabet Killer, and the closer they get the more danger they are in.
The film is gorgeously shot in crisp black and white by Bava, who also acts as cinematographer. This would be the final film in which Bava would shoot black and white and he goes out in style. Obviously, the title harkens back to Hitchcock, and the influence of that master can certainly be felt in the film. That being said I felt the visual style was a mix of the gothic horror style Bava had been developing with his earlier Black Sunday and the Whip and the Body, and influences ranging from the work or Orson Welles to Carol Reed's the Third Man.
The performances from Saxon and Roman are quite good, and though Bava seemed to discredit their performances later in his career they do bring a certain charm and charisma to each of their roles. No one can really claim Girl Who Knew Too Much is prime Bava, and in fact before I saw it on tis Blu-ray, I essentially wrote it off as a largely dull affair, however, it really opened up to me on this viewing, and though it's not something I imagine revisiting often I don't think it will be as long between revisits as before.
Some of Kino's prior Bava releases have been, not exactly great. So seeing The Girl Who Knew Too Much look as good as it does was an excellent surprise. Kino presents the Bava film in a splendid 1:67:1 AVC encoded 1080p transfer preserving the film's original aspect ratio. The transfer from Kino offers wonderful fine detail, excellent contrast, and a healthy layer of film grain present throughout.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much is presented with Italian LPCM 2.0 Mono Evil Eye is presented with the same in English. As I stuck to Girl... for my primary viewing that means I stuck to the Italian track as well. The dialogue came through nicely, as did the film's score, and effects. The same could be said for what I heard of Evil Eye ,and Les Baxter's score sounded great there as well. I did not detect any audio issues.
There aren't a lot of extras on this release, but that's to be expected. We get a trailer for each version of the film, and then we get a commentary track by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas who as per usual goes into an amazing amount of depth on the film, and Bava, and offers a fascinating and informative listen. It's not often such a slim array of extras gets as high a score as this, but a commentary as good as this definitely kicks that up a notch.
I first saw the Girl Who Knew Too Much in Anchor Bay's Bava Box Set, and was not impressed. I finally came back to the film with this Blu-ray, and was sucked in by the film's beautiful black and white imagery, and the excellent performances by Leticia Roman and John Saxon. The film isn't without issues, but it's a great proto-giallo from director Bava. The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber looks and sounds fantastic, and the extras though slim, include an informative commentary from Tim Lucas that is almost worth the price of admission alone. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.