International horror has always been a sort of gray area for titles, versions, and means of access. Mario Bava films – despite critical acclaim and fervent fandom – fall into this very issue. His 1963 film – that which is often cited as being the catalyst for giallo cinema, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, was released in English as Evil Eye by AIP with a new score and new footage. Dubbing and re-titling were (and to some extent) still are par for the course with international productions, but the addition of new footage and redoing the score go well beyond the norm, making Evil Eye seem like a very different film from The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Luckily, for us, Kino have put out a new Blu-ray that features both versions making version comparisons easier than ever before.
Kino have released the AIP version of Black Sunday already – that one mostly altering scenes of violence – and will release the AIP cut of Black Sabbath later this summer, with those titles having their respective Italian versions already available separately (and neither being re-titled). What’s most strange about Kino’s handling of Evil Eye is that the packaging makes no real mention of The Girl Who Knew Too Much outside of listing that the original version is included, practically as a supplement. I was really hoping to find alternative artwork hiding behind the Evil Eye design, but nada. This strikes me as odd considering that up until very recently, I had only ever heard it referred to by its Italian title. But, I digress, we have both versions available on one disc and Bava fans should be very happy about that.
Considering how twisty and careful Bava’s film is, I’m not going to get too thorough about the plot. Unlike his more gothic and/or excessive later features, this one is much more in line with Hitchcock films of the decade prior (the Italian title should tell you that much) and it works just as well, if not better at times. This may be Bava at his most restrained but he is also at his most clever and sinister. No character here is truly good and you’ll be hard pressed to figure out who is the worst of the bunch before any major reveal(s) happen(s). It’s no surprise that this is the film typically labeled as the giallo starter. The images here are cold, claustrophobic and really striking. You can see them as a blueprint in motion for filmmakers like Dario Argento or Umberto Lenzi, even though they’re in black and white. The differences in versions are hard to discuss outside of spoilers, but they’re enough to make the viewing experiences quite different. I’d start with the Italian version – which I vastly prefer – and then jump into the AIP cut shortly after. It carries a short runtime, allowing both versions to be watched right around 3 hours. Not a bad way to spend an evening.
As mentioned, Kino have included both cuts on one Blu-ray disc. I was a bit worried about compression when it came to transfers but things look good for the most part. The Girl Who Knew Too Much was previously released on Blu-ray by Arrow in the UK. I never got around to checking out that disc but reviews were solid across the board. I’m happy to say that its US debut is pretty damned good too (though I can’t directly compare). Black and white photography looks great, with solid blacks and whites that aren’t blown out. There is some damage present, mostly dark scratches, but not to the extent of being distracting. A nice layer of grain is present throughout. I didn’t notice anything all that different between the versions. Both look really good. Audio is available in 2.0 in either Italian or English for its respective version. Both tracks sound fine, with the Italian sounding a bit better balanced overall especially in regards to the score. I can’t imagine many finding anything to complain about in this presentation.
For supplements, the only major thing that we get is a commentary from Bava biographer Tim Lucas. The track only plays on Evil Eye – or at least that’s all I could get it to play on – and is a really thorough examination of the differences in the cuts, the production and distribution history and all sorts of other historical and analytical points that should be eaten up by fans. A trailer for each version is also included.
Kino’s release of Evil Eye/The Girl Who Knew Too Much is as good as I’d hoped it’d be. I had never seen the AIP version until now and, though I can’t say that I’d ever watch it again over the original, I’m very happy to have it on hand. The presentation is great and the commentary by Tim Lucas is indispensable for Bava fans. Definitely recommended.