Blu-ray Review: The Girl Who Knew Too Much

Originally published on So So Gay on 18 November 2014.

When American tourist and murder mystery fan Nora Davis (Letícia Román) heads to Rome to visit an ailing relative, the last thing she expects is to cross paths with a killer. While those around her are disbelieving of the murder she claims to have witnessed, Nora finds help in the form of Marcello Bassi (John Saxon), the dashing young doctor caring for her aunt. Together, they set about unearthing the truth behind some decade-old murders.

Inspired by the great Alfred Hitchcock, Bava’s creation is first and foremost a technically proficient and striking film. With a plot borrowing its structure from Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, The Girl Who Knew Too Much is built on some memorable set pieces and engaging performances by Román and Saxon. It’s also significant for initiating the giallo genre in Italian cinema. Meaning ‘yellow’ in Italian, the genre derived its name from the trademark colour of the paperback covers that were frequently used for mystery novels in Italy from the 1940s onwards.

While its story may not be particularly special and contains the occasional plot hole, the film has a nice twist in its conclusion, even if it the culprit’s demeanour is rather incongruous with their preceding portrayal. But what makes The Girl Who Knew Too Much a truly captivating watch is Bava’s effortless style. A talented cinematographer, Bava bathes his set pieces – particularly Rome’s famous Spanish Steps – with dynamic lighting that is further enhanced by the film’s simple black and white palette. The world he creates is both creepy and beautiful, and Roberto Nicolosi’s score complements it well, proving suitably malevolent and dramatic, without becoming hysterical or overbearing.

Peek-a-boo: Nora Davis (Letícia Román) stumbles into a real-life murder mystery while holidaying in Rome
Peek-a-boo: Nora Davis (Letícia Román) stumbles into a real-life murder mystery while holidaying in Rome

Beyond the beautifully crisp restoration of the original film that showcases what a wonderful eye Bava had, this Blu-ray release also features the re-scored, re-cut and retitled US edit of the film, Evil Eye. While on the surface it may seem like you’re merely getting the same movie twice, it’s actually an interesting and worthwhile chance to compare and contrast the two quite different cuts, made for two distinct audiences. For example, the American edit is longer and removes the minor references to marijuana, as well as placing a greater emphasis on the more comedic moments, revealing of the film’s tourist adventure/rom-com origins. As such, and quite rightly, both the international and US trailers are also included.

The collector’s booklet, as with all Arrow releases, is one of the best things about this reissue, including an in-depth essay by author Kier-La Janisse, who comments on the film’s significance and analyses the different implications of both edits of the film. Also included on the disc is an interesting (if flatly delivered) audio commentary from Mario Bava’s biographer, Tim Lucas. Additionally, there’s a neat mini-feature called All About the Girl, where filmmakers Luigi Cozzi (The Killer Must Kill Again) and Richard Stanley (Dust Devil) discuss the film, alongside authors Alan Jones (Profondo Argento) and Mikel Koven (La Dolce Morte). While a nice and relevant inclusion, it’s a pity that the 10-minute interview with John Saxon is a fairly old one (recorded in 2007), and that they didn’t think to do one with Letícia Román, since clearly a lot of care went into the rest of the package.

The original movie may be lacking somewhat in terms of a coherent plot, but for a genre-founding piece of Italian cinema it is visually magnetic and has been majestically restored by Arrow for this release, coming packaged with a generous set of bonus features.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is available now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon. Images courtesy of Arrow Films. Watch the trailer:

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