Welcome to All the Colors of Horror—a monthly column that will focus on Giallo’s: the Italian horror/murder mystery films that populated cinemas during the 60s and 70s.
Launching a Giallo-themed column during “Black and White Frights” month might seem odd, especially given the vibrant use of color often associated with the sub-genre. However, if you swim in the horror social media pool, you’re well aware of the month one event—Giallo January. This celebration is a yearly tradition where fans watch a Giallo film for every day of the month. While we won’t be covering thirty-one Giallo’s for January, I figured we would go back to the beginning and see where and how this sub-genre sprang to popularity.
The Giallo began its storied history as a series of pulp crime paperback novels adapted into Italian by the publishing company Mondadori. The popularity of these adaptations and their bright yellow covers would soon catch the attention of studios intent on copying their success. While the yellow covered paperback is often attributed to the rise of the Giallo, the cinematic version of this sub-genre initially came to life in German cinema in films that would come to be known as Krimis. The early Krimi films were based on the novels of Edgar Wallace that typically focused on a masked killer prowling the streets of London with a cop investigating the murders.
“The Girl Who Knew Too Much was Mario Bava’s last black and white film before permanently moving into lavish color, and in my opinion black and white has never looked more amazing.”
That leads us to our movie of the month: Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) or as it was known in the U.S. for many years Evil Eye. While Bava certainly gets the credit he deserves as The Godfather of Italian Horror, and for bringing the many tropes found in Giallo’s to the screen with 1964s Blood and Black Lace, it’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much that is often credited as being the first Giallo. Filmed in Black and White, and lacking the vibrant colors, impeccable fashion, and black-gloved killer tropes typically associated with the sub-genre, The Girl Who Knew Too Much feels closer to its genre-cousin the Krimis, or the popular Hitchcock films of the time (notice the title), than its Giallo offspring.
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For those unfamiliar, The Girl Who Knew Too Much tells the story of Nora (Letícia Román), a mystery-loving tourist who witnesses a murder while traveling through Rome. Nora soon finds herself in deeply entrenched in the mystery, as the crime was committed by a serial killer responsible for what the police have dubbed the Alphabet Killings. Nora then finds herself recruited by the police to help catch the killer before he can claim his next victim.
Like many in the U.S., I first discovered The Girl Who Knew Too Much under its alternate title Evil Eye, and honestly, for years, I never knew these two films were the same. Upon rewatching The Girl Who Knew Too Much before writing this column, I was shocked at how different the two films are; and even more surprising was when I discovered that the American version of the film was cut at the same time as the Italian original.
The Evil Eye American-cut of the film added many scenes not found in the original. Other differences include a new score. The voice-over depicting Nora’s thoughts is missing and Nora’s last name is changed from Davis to Drowson in the US Version. Like many foreign films of this era, the Evil Eye cut is also missing much of its original dialogs altering the narrative of the story, and adding a more humorous tone to the film. However, the most significant change comes in the finale of the film; each version is entirely different from the Evil Eye cut, adding a new character to the film.
“The Girl Who Knew Too Much does not feature many of the surface level tropes typically associated with the genre. However [it] rivals any Giallo in terms of pure beauty.”
So, you may be asking yourself, “How is this film a Giallo?” As mentioned above The Girl Who Knew Too Much does not feature many of the surface level tropes typically associated with the genre. However, if you dig deeper you will find many tropes not usually talked about when discussing this sub-genre. In The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Nora is technically an amateur sleuth—she is a normal person caught up in a murder mystery. She befriends Doctor Bassi played by the incredible John Saxon. She may or may not be having psychic visions of the killer and while the black gloves may not be present, the coat-wearing, knife-wielding killer is often shot out of frame and in the shadows.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much was Mario Bava’s last black and white film before permanently moving into lavish color, and in my opinion black and white has never looked more amazing. From Bava’s use of light, to the gorgeous locations, The Girl Who Knew Too Much rivals any Giallo in terms of pure beauty. If you’ve never watched The Girl Who Knew Too Much/Evil Eye I highly recommend picking up the Kino blu-ray—the transfer is gorgeous, and it includes both cuts of the film.