Girl Who Knew Too Much, The / La ragazza che sapeva troppo (1963)

3.0 out of 5

From the moment we see actress Letícia Román reading a giallo paperback on the plane at the start of Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much we are in the company of a self-conscious narrative intent on developing the conventions of a new filone. Nora Davis is so enamoured with the lurid world of the literary murder mystery that she secretly craves the opportunity to experience one herself. She is given that chance when she visits an aged relative in Rome and is the unwitting spectator of a murder. Bava and his collaborators set up the conventions with alacrity and style; the amateur detective at battle with their own memory, a repressed or hidden event that erupts violently in the present, a plethora of red herrings, and plot convolution.

From a narrative perspective this film provided a template from which all other gialli followed. But Bava’s decision to shoot the film in black and white marks it out as a stylistic aberration, and his next giallo Blood and Black Lace which overflowed with sumptuous colour became a far greater influence. The flippant tone, lightness of touch, and sense of humour is ill at ease with the sombre visuals creating a tension that is never truly resolved.

The unremarkable performances from Román and John Saxon take a back seat to Bava’s obvious love of Rome. Bava takes the audience as well as the characters sightseeing, and the Piazza di Spagna which is a bustling tourist spot by day becomes a dangerous haven for murderers by night. Bava brings to life both the artifice and the hidden dangers of Rome with the consummate skill of one in love with his surroundings.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics