In the world of Italian horror, there are many familiar names. Sergio Martino, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Umberto Lenzi, and Michele Soavi are a few among the many that really stick out in the minds of genre fans around the world, all creating memorable films, some of which date to as far back as the early 1960’s. As much as I have attempted to get my hands on the works of these horror maestros, there are always tons more that seem to slip right past me. I don’t think I will ever be able to view all of their films, but it is nice to be able to cross some off the list as time goes by. The latest to scratch off of the list is Mario Bava’s 1963 flick, The Evil Eye.
While on vacation in Rome, Nora (Letícia Román), a young woman with an obsession for murder mystery novels, finds herself caught up in a real life murder mystery. After witnessing the stabbing of a stranger, she takes it upon herself to begin her own investigation into a string of crimes, which started over a decade earlier, known as the Alphabet Murders.
By today’s standards, it is almost impossible to even classify The Evil Eye as a horror film. There is no real terror involved here and depending on which cut you watch (American or Italian), the tone of the film is actually rather upbeat for a story about murder. While it plays out more as a crime drama, however, there are indeed a few glimpses into what would later become the giallo and slasher genres. As Bava’s last black and white film, The Evil Eye, with its imagery and intrigue, was able to open the door for him to create some more, much darker films in the years after its 1963 release.
The Evil Eye features a cast of some very talented stars. Letícia Román was fascinating as the film’s perhaps overly curious protagonist, Nora Davis. Román is accompanied by a very young John Saxon (of Italian descent and whose birth name is Carmine Orrico) who appears here 20 years before his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street, as the charming Dr. Marcello Bassi. Finally, rounding out the most noteworthy cast members is Valentina Cortese in her role as Laura, who delivers the most surprising performance of them all, which can be seen in the final act of the film.
Kino Lorber has done a wonderful job bringing both the Italian and American cuts of the film to us, beautifully remastered. I prefer the Italian version, titled The Girl Who Knew Too Much, as it plays out with a much darker tone than the English rendition. Both versions feature different scores and have some alternate footage causing some differences in not only the runtime, but the entire feel of the film. Either way you watch it though, if you’re a fan of the earliest of gialli and Italian crime films, you will enjoy this release.
Evil Eye and The Girl Who Knew Too Much are available now from Kino Lorber in their Kino Classics line, so be sure to pick up a copy today.
I give the film 3 newspaper clippings out of 5.