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us title: The Girl Who Knew Too Much
italian title: La Ragazza che sapeva troppo
year: 1963
director: Mario Bava
composer: Roberto Nicolosi
full details: IMDB
overall score: 71

Bottom Line: Must-See
A quintessential example of the genre.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

I am so glad that I waited until 34 other Gialli had been scored before attempting to analyze The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Mario Bava's seminal murder mystery is considered by just about everyone to be the very first Giallo on film and its influence on the 100+ films released in the 10 years that followed it cannot be understated.

Anyone familiar with Bava knows that he was a technically brilliant director and cinematographer and his talents were on full display in Girl. This was Bava's last film in black and white and he goes to great lengths to recreate the same Gothic imagery that made Black Sunday so creepy several years earlier. This time however the supernatural element is more subdued and the threat of danger more genuine. And yet there are still some scenes in Girl that make you think twice about what's real and what isn't.

If Girl existed in a vacuum as a 1960s horror-tinged murder mystery with little influence on future films it would not have collected the amount of accolades that it has. Hitchcock, Krimi and Hammer certainly have influence over this film but it's important to watch Girl with the understanding that most of the plot devices and set pieces had never been presented in this way before.

The pivotal scene of the film takes place in the Piazza di Spagna. The events that transpire here are the basis for all of the action that follows. The beautiful young female American tourist who has a penchant for detective novels wanders into the town square, distraught from the sudden death of her aunt, and is the only witness to a woman's death and her apparent murderer. Nora returns to this scene several times throughout the film to try to reconstruct the events and possibly remember something that she missed.

This concept of an "establishing scene" would be used over and over again in many of the Gialli that followed; the double-glass doors in Bird, the painting in Deep Red, the boat ride in Solange, the scarf in Torso and the New Year's Eve party in The Fifth Chord just to name a few.

But in addition to this extremely important set piece, Bava establishes almost all of the genre's trademarks in this film. On screen murders and black gloves do not make an appearance here (although they would appear a year later in Bava's 2nd Giallo, Blood and Black Lace) but a quick look through the score breakdown shows that just about everything else is accounted for.

After only 2 viewings, Girl has now become one of my favorite films of the genre, partly because of all the films I've watched before it that ironically were made after it. But even discounting the undeniable influence of the film within the genre, the Gothic atmosphere, suspense and even humorous diversions make Bava's film entertaining in its own right. 

And even though Bava's Blood and Black Lace and Argento's Bird with the Crystal Plumage will forever remain the cornerstones of the Giallo, they both owe a debt to Girl for breaking the ground.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 40/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Amateur Detective5 points
Motivation: Blackmail/Gain5 points
Avoid Capture: Killed by Police or other character5 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 21/30
Body Count >= 34 points
Italian Location3 points
Mistaken Identity2 points
More than one killer or accomplice4 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Urban Location4 points
Signatures : 10/10
Airplane1 point
Attend Funeral1 point
Foreigner1 point
Odd Clue1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Priest1 point
Psychologist1 point
Spiral Stairs1 point
Taunting1 point
Visual Misinterpretation1 point
Total Points : 71/100



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Published: 2014-09-02