Halloween Endurance Test: The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Hands down my favorite Mario Bava film. Concerning a young woman who’s obsessed with thriller novels visiting an aunt in Italy. After arriving, her aunt dies, and on the way to hospital the girl is mugged and knocked unconscious. Upon waking, she witnesses a girl’s murder across the plaza. She then discovers there’s been a string of young girl murders in the same spot over the years. Each victim’s last name starting with the next corresponding letter of the alphabet. And you guessed it, her last name, “Davis,” fits into the pattern.

“Killers don’t read many detective novels… Her latest novel was just published in Philadelphia, meaning it couldn’t have been translated to Italian yet.”

The best scene in the film is one right after she starts receiving phone calls from the killer. She freaks out, but decides to fall back on all the tricks she’s learned in her thriller novels. Covering the floor in talcum powder (to make it slippery) and then weaving cord randomly throughout the apartment (to entangle any intruders and thus make the talcum powder more effective). Naturally a red herring; the cloaked man outside is actually a cop looking up on her, and John Saxon, her love interest.

This leads to numerous chases through surprisingly clean-looking French motel rooms. She meets a reporter responsible for the arrest of a homeless man for the murders; who now doubts his choice. Racked with guilt, he too falls victim to the killer, though his death strangely goes unentered into the serial killer’s driving alphabet scheme.

Hailed as the first, true “gialloThe Girl Who Knew Too Much lacks the saturated color those films would become famous for. Instead providing the prototype plot of girl trapped in a plot with numerous groups who, if they aren’t out to get her, are also assuredly not out to help her. Bringing to mind Argento’s Opera; another film who’s rather pedestrian plot is saved by all the imaginative great shots.

It also features the earliest showing of the horrendously effective “looking up from the grave as a casket is being lowered” shot. A shot not seen again until the ’90’s Dellamorte Dellamore.

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