The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Posted: March 30, 2021 in Uncategorized

Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava viewing with The Girl Who Knew Too Much, widely regarded as the first giallo, and a film long missing from my viewing history. And indeed, almost all the elements of that form are here: the twisty murder mystery, the amateur sleuthing, the elaborately staged opening murder, the gestures toward pseudo-science (here, the possibility that heroine Letícia Román has had a vision of the past) later picked up by Dario Argento in the likes of Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Deep Red.

What is yet to appear is colour, a black-gloved murderer, and heightened, violent grotesquerie in the murders. The body count is a mere two here (if we don’t count the ones from the past that we then hear about), and the murders are positively decorous compared to what would come later — and would come almost immediately later, in fact, as Bava’s own Blood and Black Lace (1964) would bring all of these elements to the fore, and then some.

What I didn’t expect was just how humorous the film was, and in that respect is indeed a worthy cousin of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, especially the 1956 version, which would have been the clear reference when this was released. Jimmy Stewart’s slapstick struggle in the taxidermy shop finds its close relative in John Saxon’s misadventure with Román’s Home Alone-style booby trap. Saxon is a great sport all round, and his mounting indignities are the heart of the film’s humour.

The one serious misstep is the narration. Always redundant, rarely contributing (except perhaps once a bit of wry humour), it’s as if the film doesn’t trust us to get it. Elsewhere, Bava is much more content to let us sink or swim, and that’s to the benefit of those films.

An entertaining start for the giallo form, then, but something of a rough draft for the baroque excesses to come.

Comments are closed.