EVIL EYE, THE (Ragazza che sapeva troppo, La) (The Girl Who Knew Too Much)


(director/writer/cinematographer: Mario Bava; screenwriters: Enzo Corbucci/Ennio De Concini/Eliana De Sabata/Mino Guerrini; editor: Mario Serandrei; music: Les Baxter; cast: Letícia Román (Nora Davis), John Saxon (Dr. Marcello Bassi), Valentina Cortese (Laura Craven Torrani), Robert Buchanan (Dr. Alessi), Marta Melocco (Doorkeeper), Gianni De Benedetto (Professor Torrani), Dante DiPaolo (Landini), Gianni di Benedetto (Dr. Torrani), Virginia Doro (Ethel Widnall); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; AIP; 1963-Italy)

“It works as a homage to Hitchcock, but without the master’s flawless power of storytelling.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Italian director/writer/cinematographer Mario Bava (“Black Sunday“/”Blood and Black Lace“) is a leading proponent of the macabre. The Italian name for Bava’s stylish black & white film translates in English to “The Girl Who Knew Too Much,” which is similar to the title of the Hitchcock thriller “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Bava sets the film in Rome and gives it a saucy Italian look. He uses many old chestnuts from mystery stories: no one believes the lady witness saw a murder, the lady witness is in peril, the lady witness becomes an amateur sleuth, and there’s a locked room in the house where the lady witness is a guest. What Bava can’t manage is make this story believable, but what he’s good at is creating suspense amid all the shadowy photography. It works as a homage to Hitchcock, but without the master’s flawless power of storytelling.

Nora Davis (Letícia Román) is the attractive 20-year-old who is on vacation and arrives by plane in Rome to visit her elderly ailing aunt, and as an ominous omen she’s given marijuana cigarettes by a passenger who is arrested when the plane lands. Her aunt (Doro) is being treated by the handsome bachelor, Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon-American actor), for a bad heart. Unfortunately, she dies on the first night of Nora’s visit, and when the phone fails she walks to the nearby hospital to notify Dr. Bassi; but, she is mugged in Piazza di Spagna, and when she wakes up after hitting her head on the cobblestone sidewalk she dizzily witnesses a dead woman lying on the ground near her and a bearded man pulling the knife out of her back. When she reports it to the police in the hospital, they find no blood, or body, or report of a murder and think she’s hallucinating because she either reads too many murder mysteries, had alcohol on her breath and was therefore probably drunk, is experiencing a psychic phenomena, or is just neurotic.

Wanting to clear her good name and find out the truth, Nora stays in Rome rather than return to her vacationing parents in the Italian countryside. At the cemetery Nora’s befriended by a close friend of her aunt’s, Laura Torrani (Cortese), who lives on the same square where she saw the murder. Laura is married to a prominent psychiatrist (Benedetto) who is hardly ever home. Since Laura plans to be with her hubby in Switzerland for awhile, she insists Nora stays in her house while visiting Rome. While rummaging through Laura’s closet, Nora comes across a drawer filled with the newspaper clippings of a serial killer dubbed by the press as the “Alphabet Killer” because the three victims had last names that ended in “A,” “B,” and “C.” Nora also notes that the last victim was Laura’s sister, the one she saw in her vision. But strangely that murder took place ten years ago. Nora soon receives a phone call saying “D” is for Death, and she’s next in line, and realizes that she stumbled upon something threatening.

Nora receives the help of the clumsy but kindly Marcello and the additional unexpected help of the investigative reporter Landini (DiPaolo), a mystery man who has been following her since he spotted her in the square. The reporter wrote about the murder story when it first broke, but believes the police with his help actually caught and got the wrong person committed to a life sentence. Landini feels so strongly that he was mistaken about the evidence he collected, that he couldn’t work for the newspaper anymore and his life has hit rock bottom while he continues his lonely search for the truth to relieve his guilt.

The thriller builds tension through a few twists, and comes to a surprise ending as to “whodunit” and why. There was one particularly clever scene where the frightened Nora is left alone in Laura’s lovely house and boobytraps her bedroom with string and talcum powder, where she traps John Saxon who came to see if she was OK. Later the two become romantically involved, as the film smoothly goes from mystery to horror to comedy/romance. Everything about this engrossing film seems to be “tongue-in-cheek.”

REVIEWED ON 10/24/2002 GRADE: B   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/