BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963) / DIRECTOR: MARIO BAVA / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: LETICIA ROMAN, JOHN SAXON, VALENTINA CORTESSE, DANTE DIPAOLO, GIANNI DI BENEDETTO / RELEASED: OUT NOW
What do cars, shoes and thrillers have in common? In fact, a certain style of Italian thriller is considered a genre of its own: giallo. The giallo film usually features the gruesome murder of a woman being witnessed by another woman who no-one believes and consequently everyone assumes is off her rocker (which she may actually be at various points in the film). There’s normally a fair bit of sex and always a lot of flashy camerawork. With some variations, that seems pretty much a giallo to us. As it happens, The Girl Who Knew Too Much is considered the very first of this most-Italian of things and it’s from one of the masters: Mario Bava. You’ll know him from no end of Italian flicks including Black Sunday (1960) and the one with the shit-scary old lady that indirectly invented British heavy metal, Black Sabbath (1963).
Letícia Román’s Nora Davis turns up in Rome to visit her sick auntie who is being treated by, of all people, John Saxon as Dr. Marcello Bassi. There’s some rum doings on the plane but it all gets really strange when her auntie dies and she witnesses a murder while running round in nothing but a rain coat. Obviously no-one believes her and, in a nicely self-referential touch, assumes that her obsession with pulp murder-mystery novels and a vivid imagination is the problem. But we know better: there’s the mysterious “alphabet murders” from ten years earlier; there’s strange things in cupboards that disappear when they seem to prove she’s not mad; there’s a locked study; mysterious phone calls; red herrings galore and all the other stuff you want in a good thriller.
Actually, in many ways TGWKTM isn’t a typical giallo as the tropes weren’t in place at this stage. There’s no sex and no lurid colours (this was actually Bava’s last black & white film) and, as suggested by that almost-but-not-quite title, it owes more to Hitchcock than anything else. But Hitchcock never looked through a camera; he paid perfectly good cinematographers for that. Bava started his career as a cinematographer so it’s no surprise that it looks fantastic and well-worthy of a Blu-ray release. Bava himself reckoned the story was actually a bit silly. He might have had a point but go with it because it’s good fun and when something is as stylish as this then you’ll get dragged along into the spirit of things anyway. Good looking and entertaining, not to mention culturally important. If only we could all be like that. Bring on the Bava...
Special Features: Audio commentary by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas / Introduction by writer and critic Alan Jones / All About the Girl documentary / Trailers / Booklet
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