Tuesday, November 19, 2013
La ragazza che sapeva troppo (The Girl Who Knew Too Much)
Holy macaroni, it seems I stumbled onto the very first giallo film! This is Mario Bava's tribute film to Hitchcock, and the original international trailer was attached to the dvd of another Bava movie I haven't reviewed yet. I was hooked instantly, both by the heavily stylized black-and-white imagery and the hypnotic groovy beat (I'm not being sarcastic, I've since bought the song on iTunes). I invite you to watch it, as it will say far more about the movie than I can.
Like many of our stories do, this begins with a vacation gone wrong, except instead of the middle of nowhere it takes place in Rome. Nora Davis travels from America to stay with her aunt, who might not be feeling well but at least she has handsome young John Saxon as her doctor. The very first night Nora is there her aunt dies, and when she rushes outside for help she gets mugged. Delirious from shock and moments away from losing consciousness, she sees a woman stagger out of a nearby home with a knife in her back. When she awakes, she discovers that the events she witnessed took place ten years ago on that same spot...
This movie could have been a five-star classic if not for an unnecessary overlay of occasional clumsy humor. There are a few telling quotes from its Wikipedia page, such as "Director Mario Bava thought the plot of The Girl Who Knew Too Much was silly and focused more on the technical aspects of the film," and this bit of bitchiness: "Director Mario Bava didn't look back positively on the film, claiming that he 'thought [the film] was too preposterous. Perhaps it could have worked with James Stewart and Kim Novac, whereas I had...oh, well, I can't even remember their names.'"
Ouch! I think he's being too harsh there, both on his players and the plot. Without the misplaced humor it could have played as well as most of its contemporaries. Ah well.
Two more things: Bava got a lot of mileage out of shooting in Rome, which is a splendid location. Admittedly I have a soft spot for Rome because it was the first foreign city I ever visited, but also it's freakin' Rome.