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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) "La ragazza che sapeva troppo" and released in the US as "The Evil Eye", is a Mario Bava film that is not quite a giallo but is definitely a nice mystery thriller. If the film was more serious it would more easily be considered a giallo but there is some light hearted more humorous scenes that move it away from that genre. It has some cautionary messages in it about drugs and reading murder mystery books that were a bit contrive. The film opens with the main character flying to Italy to stay with a family friend. Nora Davis (Leticia Roman) is just twenty years old and off to have her time abroad. She is a reader of murder mystery books but has sworn them off on the trip. The gimmick here is that our girl is about to take part in a murder mystery. Here love and knowledge of the books will be an asset as she weaves her way into the story. The second gimmick has to do with the gentleman sitting next to her. Trying to pick her up he offers her a cigarette and then his whole pack. It is amazing in the present to think that lighting up on an airplane was once very common place. The point of this entire interaction is somewhat strange until we see the two in line at customs. Four men come up to the man and arrest him. In his suitcase is what looks to be packets of cocaine and cigarette packs they say are laced with marijuana. It creates the opportunity for a quite tense scene. Nora standing next to him remembers that he gave her a pack of smokes. What is she going to do? She could be caught with illegal drugs in a foreign country. She smoothly lowers the pack and lets it fall to the floor. But as she moves away a cop picks the cigarettes up for her and returns them to her. This scene is then cut here, Why? There could be a very tense will she get through customs scenario but it seems it was all so at the end of the film she can question whether she was high and lost her sense of reality? Very flimsy if you ask me but here it is in 1963 and marijuana is being used as a prop in a film.
  The murder mystery comes pretty quickly we meet Mrs Windell (Chana Coubert) the old lady that Nora will be staying with. She is ill and being attended to by Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon) who is worried about her heart. The old lady is reassuring to Nora saying she will get over her cold in a couple days and the two will have a wonderful time. Bassi on the other hand makes sure that Nora knows where the old lady's medication is and directions to the hospital he will be at. This is an ominous beginning and the storm outside confirms this. In the night Nora is called by distressed pleas by Mrs. Windell and she rushes in her attract black nightgown to her side. Panicking a bit she prepares the woman's medicine but unfortunately is too late. Mrs. Windell is dead and Nora is a nervous wreck. She throws her raincoat on and rushes out to get the doctor at the hospital. What were those directions again? Down the steps of the Trinita Dei Monti and turn right. On her way though her night goes from bad to worse.
  As she heads down the stairs of the famous church she is spied by a mugger who jumps out and pulls her purse from her. In the process her pushes her so that she falls and hits her head. Unconscious with blood in her hair she does not wake until she hears the scream. Dizzy and half awake she sees a woman stumble from the side of the stairs, she is in pain and falls, a knife in her back. A man follows her out into the light and Nora sees his face. He does not see her though, being more interesting in retrieving the victim. Nora passes out again as the rains start up again more strongly, washing away the blood and any trace that a murder had taken place. A man finds Nora in the morning and she is still very groggy. He feeds her some alcohol from a flask but then a cop starts up the stairs scaring the man away. Now the cop find Nora but smelling her breath thinks she must have fallen down drunk. This is why we don't let our daughters run around the globe on there own. When Nora wakes again she is in the hospital being treated as an alcoholic.
  This is the start of the murder mystery. No one believes her about seeing a murder. There is no evidence of one since the rain washed it away. The poor girl attends the funeral of her benefactor and probably would have gone home if not for what seems a chance meeting with Mrs Torrani (Valentina Cortese). Laura Craven Torrani is a socialite living in the apartment near where Nora saw the murder. She is very engaging with the girl and offers to let her stay in the apartment while she travels to Germany to be with her husband (Giovanni Di Benedetto). Was that a chance meeting, the photo on the piano of Mr. Torrani says not. He is the same man Nora saw drag the murder victim away, but she never sees the photo as it was removed by Laura before she left. So the setting is in place for the solving of the crime. The audience knows more than the protagonist and can sense she is in danger.
  Not to give the whole plot away since this is a film you should see, but it is Nora sifting through the clues like a detective in one of her murder mystery navels who finally will find the answers. While doing so there is the love interest of Dr. Bassi to help her on the way and in the end protect her. The serial killer aspect much like a murder mystery novel involves a killer who has been killing in alphabetical order, Gina Abbot, Maria Beccati, Emily Craven all have died over the years in a similar way. Now it is up to Nora davis to end the killing without becoming the next victim. All the while we see that she is being followed and watched by a man whose face we never see. Designed to make us believe that it is Mr. Torrani and add tension to the story. When Nora finally figures ouut the mystery the direct calls back the beginning of the film.
  Marcello and Nora are together looking over the sights of Italy talking about marriage. She reaches in her bag for a cigarette and remembers they are the same smokes given to her by the drug dealer. Could she have been smoking pot through the entire film? She wonders if this is the case and everything that happened was a pot induced dream. Hilarious. So it is a solid film with decent acting and a good twist. A bit dated but with lovely on location scenes in Rome. I definitely recommend this one for people who like murder mysteries.
Rating (6.7) 5.0 and up are recommended, some more recommended than others.

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