The Evil Eye (1963)

The Evil Eye is also known by its direct Italian translation, The Girl Who Knew Too Much.  As the name implies Mario Bava was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock when making this film.  There are certainly such touches, but this movie is considered one of the first giallo films.  There isn't as much sex, and no black-gloved killer, but the plot itself lends itself to the genre more than to Hitchcock, with a number of strange twists and turns as we, along with the protagonists, try to figure out what exactly is happening.

Nora Davis (Letícia Román) returns to Rome to care for her sick mother.  After reaching her mother's apartment she meets Dr. Marcello Bassi (John Saxon) who frequently looks in on her mother.  She starts having fantasies of him, weaving him into her obsession with detective and romance novels.  However, on the first night there, her mother passes away during a major storm that knocks the phones out.  She tries to make her way to the hospital to inform them but is mugged and suffers a head injury.  Upon waking she sees a woman stumble out of a nearby house with a knife in her back and a man remove it.

She is found by the police the next morning and tries to convince them of what happened, but there is no body and no evidence.  They pass it off as her obsession with detective novels but, when she meets the owner of the home, Laura Craven-Torrani (Valentina Cortese), she finds out a murder like that did happen 10 years prior.  It was Laura's sister, the last victim of a series of killings known as the Alphabet Murders.  Soon Marcello begins helping Nora, who is concerned that she may be the next on the list despite the time gap. 

The Evil Eye starts off as a mystery, hints at being a ghost story and then moves into familiar territory as Marcello and Nora try to piece together what happened in the past and what is happening in the present.  To Bava's credit he is able to take the convoluted story and make some sense of it, as well as not making the reveal too much of an eye roll.  There are still some questions left hanging and bits that don't fit, but that's par for the course for most gialli

This was Bava's last black and white film and he made the most of the format, as well as taking advantage of shooting in and around Rome.  It's a beautiful film to look at, which is a benefit as things do get slow at times and one can just stare at the skill that Bava had and often doesn't get enough credit for.  As for performances, as usual it's hard to tell with the dubbing, but Román's performance is quite believable as a woman who is slowly being pushed to her limits.  There is also a comedic edge to her as Nora is quite clumsy, often causing issues for men in her life.  

The Evil Eye is often overshadowed by many of the other movies that Bava did around the time but it remains an interesting thriller.  It does take some time for things to get going and to start understanding what is happening, but sticking with it is rewarding in the end. 

The Evil Eye (1963)
Time: 86 minutes
Starring: Letícia Román, John Saxon, Valentina Cortese, Dante DiPaolo
Director: Mario Bava



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