One of my resolutions as an avid movie-watcher is to branch out of the Hollywood box and discover more international cinema. The opportunity to work toward this resolution presented itself on a rainy afternoon in July when I stumbled upon La ragazza che sapeva troppo (English title: The Girl Who Knew Too Much) on Netflix.
Released in 1963, La ragazza che sapeva troppo was directed by Mario Bava, who is known for his pioneering work in slasher films and the “giallo” genre (which essentially consists of pulpy mysteries).
Leticia Roman stars as Nora Davis, a woman who travels to Rome to visit her aunt. While in Rome, she witnesses a murder in the Piazza di Spagna. When she reports the murder at a nearby hospital, no one believes her, and no evidence can be found in the Piazza. Even the body has disappeared.
But more murders happen as days pass, and Nora begins to suspect that these deaths may be the work of a serial killer who has been choosing victims in alphabetical order by surname for the past ten years. And if that wasn’t enough, she begins to suspect that she may be the next victim!
In America, the film was renamed The Evil Eye and given a theatrical release in an altered version by American International. According to The Chicago Reader, the alterations included removing some scenes for content (eliminating drug references) and replacing the score.
The film is quite stunning in a technical sense. There is an absolutely amaaaaazing use of light and shadow. This comes as no surprise given Bava’s knack for stylish filmmaking. He also reportedly saw the plot of this film as too light in subject matter, and hoped the film’s visual beauty would make up for that.
I can’t say I agree completely with Bava’s assessment of the film’s plot. While I appreciate the film’s visual beauty, the story it tells is an engrossing one. It isn’t an extremely complex tale, but it is intriguing and is brought to life by a highly capable cast. It has a few moments of cheese, but it also has a few great twists.
The film is somewhat Hitchcockian, which of course made me enjoy it all the more. It’s got a fast pace and a lot of excitement to keep the viewer occupied.
Roman’s performance also does a very good job of keeping the viewer engaged. She carries the film well, walking the fine line between paranoia and justifiable fright. The viewer truly questions whether she saw what she thinks she did, or whether she saw nothing at all, thanks to Roman’s strong portrayal of the character’s confusion and fear.
La ragazza che sapeva troppo is a film I’d highly recommend. I look forward to exploring more of Bava’s filmography in the future. The score: 4/5