Nora Davis (Leticia Roman) jets away to Rome to vacation with Edith, an old family friend. Unfortunately, her trip is anything but relaxing... On the first night, Edith dies - and as Nora runs into the night for help, she becomes an eyewitness to a murder as she sees a woman stabbed to death on the Piazza di Spagna! Being a young woman with an insatiable appetite for murder mysteries, Nora can't get anyone to believe her story, but with the help of the attentive Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon), she learns that a murder did occur on that very spot - 10 years earlier - when Emily Craven fell victim to the "Alphabet Murderer"! What did Nora Davis really see, and who is stalking her through Rome? Could it be the Alphabet Killer, looking for victim D?
"Who said Italians were so polite?"
There's just something about 60s Italian cinema that makes me relax, settle into my seat, and let a grin stitch across my face. It could be how they shoot their films without sound and dub in effects and voices later, but it could also be their playful nature that makes them so appealing. Whether it's a sword and sandal film like 'Hercules Unchained' a spaghetti western like 'The Man With No Name Trilogy,' or even a gross-out horror flick like 'Zombi' - something in their makeup, some unidentifiable element just gets me excited. Mario Bava's 'Evil Eye' or ' The Girl Who Knew Too Much' is no exception. Cribbing the best elements of Hitchcock, Bava carefully constructs this thriller to be equal parts terror, chills, thrills, and laughs.
Young Nora Davis (Leticia Román) is on her way to visit her Aunt in Rome. Obsessed with pulp murder mysteries, she excites herself by imagining the crimes she reads about and tries to figure out how she would do things differently. Once the flight lands and she arrives at her Aunt's home, she's surprised to be greeted by Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon) whom is caring for her ailing relative. He assures her that while unwell, Nora's Aunt shouldn't have any unexpected health troubles, but should any arise the hospital he works at is very close.
As Nora unpacks her bags and settles into a new murder mystery, her Aunt dies suddenly. Delirious, she heads out into the dark of night and is immediately mugged and hit over the head rendering her unconscious. When she comes to, she witnesses a woman screaming out for help with a knife in her back. With the fog of unconsciousness hanging over her vision she believes she sees a man standing over the woman. After passing out again she's found the next morning by a passing police detective who mistakes her for a drunk. She begs and pleads with anyone willing to listen to her story - only nobody believes her. Except of course for the young Doctor Bassi who agrees to help her. With Marcello at her side, Nora must sort out the murder mystery she saw with her own two eyes facing any number of dangers, none the least of which is the famed Alphabet Killer who has killed "A" through "C" and is in search for "D." Nora Davis appears to be the perfect candidate.
'Evil Eye' / 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' is often looked at as a transition film for director Mario Bava from lighter fair to more violent and visceral entertainment. In spite of the content warning at the beginning of the film - 'The Evil' eye is deliciously twisted entertainment that is actually fairly tame. Playing to the strengths of such Hitchcock classics as 'The Man Who Knew Too Much' and 'The Trouble With Harry,' 'Evil Eye' also owes a bit of a debt to the films of Fritz Lang - 'M' and 'Ministry of Fear' immediately springs to mind with its intense sense of paranoia and constant looming dread.
Ninety percent of the fun of this film is owed to the cast and crew. If Leticia Roman, John Saxon, Valentina Cortese, and Luigi Tomaino hadn't been at the top of their game, Mario Bava wouldn't have been able to pull together such a creepy and fun movie. It's difficult to talk about specifics of the movie do to potential spoilers, but suffice it to say that this is just one of those movies that simply works. But which version works better - the english language 'Evil Eye' or the Italian Language 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much?' That's a tough one to call. 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' at 85 minutes plays things much closer to a strict thriller. There are some fun bits, but the material is a lot more sinister feeling throughout. On the other hand, 'Evil Eye' runs about eight minutes longer and restores a lot of the playful vibe to the film giving the audience a little breather to the tension. Personally - I like 'Evil Eye' better. I enjoyed the playful tone a bit more and the added footage pumps up the character development helping to suggest that Nora really is a fish out of water and is in way over her head investigating a series of real-life serial murders. But to each their own. If you want Hitchcock - watch 'Evil Eye.' If you want Fritz Lang - watch 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much.' Either way you should have a great time. Both make for great dark and stormy date night entertainment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Mario Bava's 'Evil Eye' makes its Region A locked Blu-ray debut thanks to Kino Lorber. Pressed on a BD50 disc and housed in a standard case, the disc opens directly to a static image main menu that allows the viewer to easily select either version of the film.
Framed at 1.77:1, this recently restored 1080p is pretty beautiful if slightly problematic. Most of the film is crystal clear and absolutely beautiful looking retaining fine film grain and outstanding detail levels. All you have to do is look at Nora's snake skin coat to see this film looks pretty incredible allowing for some rich black and white cinematography. There is some occasional softness to the image here and there, but largely everything looks fantastic. The print is also in fantastic shape with hardly a nick or terrible scratch to be seen. However, trouble creeps its head in in the form of image shutter and jitter. It's not terrible, but it is distracting and it brings down the presentation a mark.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
Framed at 1.66:1, this cut of the film is noticeably darker than 'Evil Eye' - but not in a bad way. If anything this darker presentation adds to the more ominous mood of this particular cut of the film. Detail is still incredibly strong and offers some fantastically inky blacks to enjoy. Film grain has also been retained nicely allowing for some beautiful detail shots to appreciate. If there is an issue here it's with the print, there are a more specks and scratches here than on the 'Evil Eye' print. Not so many that you ought to complain much about - but they are there. Still this is a beautiful looking film and has made for a fine transition to Blu-ray.
Both 'Evil Eye' and 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' enjoy strong and vibrant LPCM 2.0 audio tracks. Dialogue, music, and sound effects have plenty of room to breathe and retain that auditory delightful "Italian" feel to them. Levels are nicely balanced for both tracks as 'Evil Eye' is a bit louder with more spring in its step while 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' has a more dissonant and lower register tone. While free of any kind of drops or breaks for both tracks - I did pick up a bit of background hiss for the English language track. This isn't terribly distracting by any means, but it is there so I thought best to let you all know. All around both films get a great kick out of their audio presentations.
Audio Commentary: Author Tim Lucas flies solo here offering numerous insights to the production, the filming locations, the films influences and the differences between cuts.
Evil Eye Trailer: (HD 2:10) this trailer is very rough, but tons of fun and does a great job marketing it like it's supposed to be part of a drive in double feature. Warning: very spoliery so watch at your own risk!
The Girl Who Knew Too Much Trailer: (HD 2:38) Dark, creepy and beautiful Italian trailer. Does a bit better at hiding spoilers, but without any dialogue it can be bit hard to tell what the film is about.
Whether you check out 'Evil Eye' or 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' you're in for one heck of a great time. The best part of having two cuts of the same film is how differently they play to thriller sensibilities. There is the light and fun version or the deeply dark and sinister version. Take your pick! With the strong A/V presentation and the incredibly informative commentary track from Tim Lucas - Kino Lorber delivers a great movie to Blu-ray in grand fashion. Highly recommended for those ready and willing to have a good time!