Wednesday 28 May 2014

Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967)

Yongary, Monster from the Deep was South Korea’s 1967 attempt to climb aboard the Japanese monster movie bandwagon. In fact it was a co-production with Japan’s Toei Studio. It’s not a very good movie but if you’re in the right mood it’s kind of fun.

The movie opens with a wedding. A few hours into the honeymoon the groom is called away by an urgent message - he’s needed for a rush reconnaissance space mission. He’s a South Korean astronaut and the mission is something to do with monitoring a nuclear test in the Middle East. You might think that the Korean space program is going to play a major role in the movie, but you’d be wrong. This is one of the movie’s major faults - it throws lots of potentially interesting elements into the mix but fails completely to integrate them into a coherent whole. This is certainly a weakness but on the other hand it does add to the goofiness factor.

Once our astronaut is in orbit he notices an earthquake heading for Korea. A crisis meeting is called but neither the military nor the scientists are sure what to do. Then a report comes in that it isn’t an earthquake at all - it’s a gigantic monster reptile. One of the generals remembers hearing stories when he was a kid about a monster name Yongary and he realises immediately that the monster they are dealing with must be Yongary. 

How or why Yongary has awoken we never discover (at least not in the English dubbed version). Whatever the reason he is now leaving a path of destruction behind him. The military sends in tanks but Yongary either torches them (being a monster he naturally is able to breathe fire) or squashes them.

The next obvious step is to fire missiles against Yongary. Dedicated young scientist Ilo (the best buddy of the astronaut) is not convinced this is a good idea. His eight-year-old nephew Icho saw Yongary drinking out of a gasoline storage tank. Firing missiles against a gasoline-guzzling monster may just make him stronger. Ilo has his own ideas about combating Yongary.

Although Yongary has flattened entire cities no-one seems too worried about letting an eight-year-old boy go around chasing the monster. And top military leaders and scientists don’t seem too concerned that Ilo’s plant to defeat Yongary are based on careful scientific observations by the aforementioned eight-year-old boy.

For once it’s not Tokyo that gets stomped, which must have come as a relief to Japanese audiences watching this movie.

It has to be said that the special effects are not up to the standards of contemporary Japanese productions. Yongary looks reasonably impressive but the fact that we can clearly see the nozzle in his throat the projects the flames ruins the illusion somewhat. The miniatures are not up to Japanese standards either but as long as the movie confines itself to scenes involving miniatures only it doesn’t look too bad. The big problems come in the scenes that try to combine live action and miniatures, often very crudely indeed.

The acting is fairly dire but nobody watches Asian monster movies for the acting.

By 1967 Japanese monster movies were starting to cast the monsters in a more favourable light and this movie shows some of this influence when at a very late stage young Icho decides that maybe Yongary didn’t mean any harm, maybe he was just playing. After all a monster who dances can’t be all evil. Just, Yongary dances, in a scene that will either have you tearing your hair out or will delight you in its sheer surreal weirdness.

This is a very cheesy production and that is really its main asset - it’s so cheesy that it’s difficult not to end up having a certain fondness for this movie. Even the rather annoying eight-year-old brat adds something to the sheer outrageous goofiness of proceedings.

Yongary, Monster from the Deep is a very bad movie and certainly cannot compare to the better Japanese monster movies. On the other hand its extreme cheesiness gives it a certain appeal.

MGM’s Midnite Movies DVD release (in a double-header pack paired with the immensely entertaining 1961 Anglo-American giant ape movie Konga) presents Yongary, Monster from the Deep in a beautiful anamorphic transfer. While there’s no way it would be worth buying on its own if you’re going to buy the two-movie set to get Konga (which you definitely should) then you might as well treat it as an extra and give it a watch.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Gold (1974)

Roger Moore enjoyed immense success in the 70s with the Bond movies but in that decade alongside those Bond movies he made many others that are perhaps even more interesting. Moore clearly realised he was going to be stuck playing heroes in thrillers but if this was the case then he might as well make good interesting thrillers. And he showed very good judgment in accepting roles in some very good thrillers indeed. One of these thrillers was Gold, which appeared in 1974.

Gold was based on a novel by Wilbur Smith, the author of some unusual and very entertaining thrillers.

Gold chronicles some very shady goings-on in a gold mine in South Africa. Rod Slater (Moore) is the underground manager at the Sonderditch gold mine. The chairman of the company is the crusty, cantakerous but shrewd Hurry Hirschfeld (Ray Milland). The day-to-day running of the company is in the hands of Manfred Steyney (Bradford Dillman), a decidedly oily character with two passions - he is a cleanliness-obsessed health freak and he is avaricious to the point of insanity. As we will soon learn he is involved in a complex conspiracy to manipulate the gold market in order to make a killing for a cabal of crooked financiers led by the smoothly sinister Farrell (John Gielgud).

The movie opens with a collapse in one of the mine shafts. Several people are killed, including the mine’s general manager. There is no satisfactory explanation for the accident, or for the general manager’s presence in the shaft.

A new general manager is now needed for the mine and Steyner is determined that Slater should get the job. Slater doesn’t know it but he’s being set up.

Slater is a man with a reputation for chasing women and for having been hot-headed in his youth but he knows gold mining and he is popular because he also has a reputation for treating the miners well and not taking chances with their lives.

Slater’s fondness for women soon lands him in a very tricky situation when he begins an affair with Steyner’s wife Terry (Susannah York), who happens to be the grand-daughter of Hurry Hirschfeld.

The miners have struck a formation of very hard rock and behind that formation there is water. Lots and lots of water. Enough water to flood the entire mine. A veritable underground sea. Needless to say the miners are being very cautious about all that water and any blasting anywhere near that rock formation is out of the question. Slater is therefore rather surprised to be handed a geologists’ report that indicates there is a major gold seam behind the rock and further indicates that it would be quite safe to go after that gold. Slater is only half-convinced but he’s persuaded to go ahead. He does however intend to take precautions, setting up explosive charges that will seal off that portion of the mine if they strike water rather than gold.

The syndicate led by Farrell has its own reasons for wanting that rock formation blasted and the safety of the miners is not a concern for them.

It’s a rather unusual setup for an action movie but it works. The main weakness of the screenplay (by Wilbur Smith and Stanley Price) is that it spends too much time on the romance between Slater and Terry and consequently the movie drags a bit in the middle. It does however build to a tense action-filled finale. Peter Hunt had already shown himself to be a fine action director with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (regarded by many aficionados as the best of all the Bond movies) and would go on to direct the excellent and underrated Shout at the Devil.

Roger Moore does well as Slater, the reformed (well semi-reformed at least) bad boy who finds himself faced with the task of trying to save the mine and the lives of a thousand miners. Susannah York is fine as the rebellious Terry and the chemistry between Moore and York helps when the pace starts to flag in the middle in the film. 

Ray Milland was nudging 70 when he made this movie and he looks every day of it. This doesn’t stop him from turning in a great performance as the ageing but feisty company chairman. Gold boasts an array of very nasty villains, all of them played splendidly. 

The location shooting in South Africa is spectacular and the mine sequences are particularly well-executed and look terrific.

This movie’s reputation has suffered as a result of some truly abysmal DVD releases. Odeon Entertainment have put matters right with a fine Blu-Ray release that finally gives us the opportunity to appreciate this fine unconventional action film. The main extra is a lengthy biographical documentary of Roger Moore, obviously made a few years back but giving a nice overview of his career.

Despite its minor pacing problems Gold is a great deal of fun. It’s pure old-fashioned entertainment with villainous villains and heroic heroes. Highly recommended.

Monday 19 May 2014

Hangar 18 (1980)

Hangar 18 is an odd mix of genres being both a science fiction first contact movie and a paranoia/conspiracy theory thriller. It’s a low-budget production with a fairly high cheese factor but it’s fun if you don’t think too much about the plot. Actually it’s possibly even more fun if you do think about the outrageous plot holes.

An American space shuttle is about to launch a satellite when a strange object suddenly appears. The object collides with the satellite, killing one of the shuttle astronauts, and later crash lands. The UFO, for that is what the object was, is taken to the top-secret defence facility at Hangar 18 for investigation.

Encounters with alien spacecraft being fairly important matters the White House is naturally contacted. That’s where the problems start. The message doesn’t get to the President but it does get to the White House chief of staff, Gordon Cain (Robert Vaughn in nasty slimy bad guy mode). The presidential election is just two weeks away, the president seems set for an easy victory, and the last thing Gordon Cain needs at this stage is aliens appearing on the scene. You see the president had had a lot of fun mocking an electoral rival who had claimed to see a UFO and if he now announces that the Air Force has captured a real live UFO those earlier jibes would backfire in a very embarrassing manner. So Cain decides that until the election is safely out of the way the whole matter must be kept very much under wraps.

It would all have worked out pretty well for Cain except for one really dumb mistake. Instead of taking the two surviving astronauts into their confidence and explaining the need for secrecy in the short term Cain and his fellow conspirators tell the astronauts nothing but instead leak a story to the press blaming them for the loss of the satellite and the death of their fellow-astronaut. That naturally makes astronauts Steve Bancroft (Gary Collins) and Lew Price (Steve Hampton) both very annoyed and very curious. Bancroft and Price immediately start digging around for information on what really happened.

An even dumber decision is not to tell NASA Deputy Director Harry Forbes (Darren McGavin), who has been put in charge of the investigation of the alien spaceship, about the treatment of the two astronauts. When he finds out, which of course he will, he’s going to be very annoyed as well and the one sure way to blow the whole conspiracy sky-high is to get someone high-profile and important like Harry Forbes offside.

While the two astronauts are busily looking for clues about their UFO encounter the investigations in Hangar 18 are producing some disturbing results. What they learn about the aliens will upset everything that is known about human evolution and human history. More disturbing are the implications for the future of the human species.

The two plot strands come together at the end with a couple of dark twists.

This was the late 1970s, the golden age of conspiracy theories, and the plot goes all-out on the paranoia angle. This is where the plot, fairly shaky to begin with, goes off the rails in a big way. Astronauts were pretty high-profile people in those days and it’s a bit of a stretch to believe that even the most cynical of conspirators would have CIA agents running about the countryside trying to kill astronauts, especially in the clumsy and very public manner in which said agents go about the job in this movie.

The Hangar 18 plot strand also gets a bit silly at around this point with some distressingly Chariots of the Gods kind of ideas starting to get thrown around.

This was a fairly low-budget movie and the special effects reflect this. That could have been a major problem but if you’re prepared to view this movie as rather silly fun (and that’s really the only sane way to view it) then it arguably adds to the fun.

The movie gets away with a good deal of silliness thanks to the performances. Robert Vaughn keeps his scenery-chewing tendencies in check and as a result he comes across as a fairly convincingly chilling villain. What makes Gordon Cain more interesting is that he’s not so much evil as too clever for his own good and desperate, and his desperation to secure the President’s re-election leads him to set events in train that will rapidly spiral out of his control.

Darren McGavin plays Harry Forbes as a slightly up-market version of Carl Kolchak, with the same mix of frenetic energy, sincerity and obsessiveness. Against the odds McGavin’s performance just about saves the movie. Whatever McGavin may have thought of the script he gives the impression he believes in it and he gives it everything he’s got.

The Olive Films DVD is what you expect from this company, a pretty decent 16x9 enhanced transfer with no extras at all.

Hangar 18 can’t be taken too seriously, in fact if you’re unwise enough to stop and think about it it can’t be taken seriously at all, but approached purely as a fun movie it’s actually pretty enjoyable. With those reservations in mind, and with tin-foil hat firmly in place, Hangar 18 can be recommended as pure popcorn movie entertainment. 

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Gold for the Caesars (1963)

Gold for the Caesars (Oro per i Cesari) is a fairly late and slightly unusual entry in the Italian peplum cycle of the late 50s and early 60s. It was directed by Andre de Toth whose movies are always worth a look.

This is a historical peplum rather than a fantasy peplum so there are no monsters. There’s also not a great deal of action until very late in the film but it holds the viewer’s interest by offering characters with a little more depth than was customary in the genre and with some fairly complex relationships between those characters. If there’s such a thing as a character-driven peplum then this is it.

Lacer (Jeffrey Hunter) is a slave who is building a bridge in Spain in 96 AD. He might be a slave but he’s a very favoured slave who happens to be the principal engineer on the project. He is owned by Maximus (Massimo Girotti), the Roman governor of the province.

Maximus is an ambitious man and those ambitions have been fired by soothsayers’ predictions that by the Ides of January Rome will have a new emperor. Maximus intends to be that new emperor but he has a serious rival in the person of Trajan. If Maximus is to win the purple he will need gold, and in large quantities. Gold is supposedly to be found in a valley in Spain but the valley is located in a part of the province over which Rome has no effective control. The valley is firmly in the hands of the Celtic chieftain Malendi (Georges Lycan). 

Maximus has only two legions under his command and any attempt to wrest command of the valley by force would be likely to result in heavy losses. Maximus has a plan to deal with this. He will make peace with Malendi. No-one seriously expects this to work but Maximus succeeds in persuading Malendi of his good intentions. An expedition is despatched to bring back the gold. The gold is to be found in old mines once worked by the Carthaginians. Getting the gold out will require a skilled engineer and Lacer is the obvious choice. Lacer is put in charge, with Rufus (Ron Randell) in command of the Roman troops. Since Lacer and Rufus hate each other this is always going to lead to problems.

There is of course a romantic sub-plot and on this occasion it’s quite well integrated into the main plot. Lacer and Penelope (Mylène Demongeot) have fallen in love. Penelope is Maximus’s mistress and she is torn between love and ambition. She loves Lacer but Maximus may well be emperor soon and she sees herself as having a pretty good chance of becoming empress. Maximus knows about Lacer and Penelope but he tolerates the situation because he needs Lacer.

The gold-finding expedition proves to be more difficult than expected. The mines are behind a waterfall and getting access to them makes it necessary to build a dam. Lacer is a skilled engineer and is well able to cope with these difficulties but Maximus is aware that time is against him. He has to have that gold if he is to head off the challenge from the increasingly popular Trajan. Maximus’s anxiety for fast results will lead him to interfere with Lacer’s patient efforts and this will prove to be potentially a very serious mistake, provoking the very problems with the Celts that his earlier diplomacy was intended to avoid.

Maximus is an interesting character. He is a ruthless and calculating man but he’s also intelligent and subtle. As time starts to run out for his bid for empire the flaws in his character start to appear and his previous sound judgment starts to go astray. Massimo Girotti was a very fine actor and his performance is well-judged.

Jeffrey Hunter is an adequate hero and manages to bring some subtlety to his performance. Lacer is by nature a careful and patient man but love tends to make a man forget being careful and patient. 

Mylène Demongeot is impressive as Penelope. Penelope is genuinely in love with Lacer but any woman would be a fool to give up the chance to be empress. She really doesn’t know which way to jump.

Ron Randell does his best but Rufus is the least interesting of the major characters. He is vicious and unintelligent and it’s difficult to make him much more than a mere stock villain. 

There’s some good location photography and the engineering scenes involving bridges, dams and mines are impressively mounted. We have to wait quite a while for the action scenes but they’re well-executed. 

The Warner Archive MOD DVD offers no extras and only the English dubbed version but the print is quite good and (a major bonus for peplum fans) the transfer is in the correct aspect ratio and it’s 16x9 enhanced.

Gold for the Caesars is in some ways too psychologically ambitious for its own good. Fans of this genre probably hoped for a bit more action but there’s some effective dramatic tension and those prepared to give this movie a chance will find it a surprisingly effective if unusual representative of its genre. Recommended.

Friday 9 May 2014

The Satan Bug (1965)

The Satan Bug is a 1965 thriller based on an Alistair MacLean novel. MacLean is listed in the credits as Ian Stuart - in order to prove a point, that his books were good enough to be bestsellers even without the selling point of his name on the cover, he had published the novel under this pseudonym. While the many film adaptations of his novels vary somewhat in quality this one works very well.

There is a break-in at Station 3, a top-secret US government chemical and bacteriological warfare laboratory. That would be bad news at any time but it’s particularly bad at this particular time since one of the scientists there has just perfected a new virus. It’s been dubbed the Satan Bug, for good reasons. It appears to be completely unstoppable. One flask of the virus could in theory wipe out all life on Earth. No-one really knows what would actually happen; the virus is still untested. The virus is potentially so dangerous that the scientists at Station 3 were seriously considering destroying it, considering it to be too lethal to be of any practical use. There is only one flask of the Satan Bug in existence, and it’s missing, along with half a dozen flasks of another virus that is almost as deadly.

Even though Station 3 has its own security personnel the decision is made that for such an urgent case a very special type of agent is needed. They need Lee Barrett (George Maharis). Barrett is a maverick who’s been fired from every job he’s ever had as a trouble-maker and all-round headache but he’s the best man for the job.

In overall charge of the operation to retrieve the Satan Bug is General Williams (Dana Andrews). Barrett tells the general that the theft was most likely the work of a fanatical lunatic and his suspicion is soon confirmed when a message arrives threatening the destruction of the world if Station 3 is not closed down. To convince the authorities of the seriousness of the threat one of the stolen flasks is used to wipe out the entire population of a small chunk of Florida.

Now it’s a race against time, with a 24-hour deadline.

Director John Sturges specialised in these sorts of action thrillers and he clearly knows what he is doing. He didn’t have a big budget to work with but he keeps the action moving at a break-neck pace and he knows how to maintain the tension. Considering the small budget he pulls off some fairly impressive action set-pieces.

The cast is comprised almost entirely of actors best known for television work, or (in the case of Dana Andrews) actors whose careers were on the downslide. The performances are generally quite competent. George Maharis is a little on the dull side but Andrews is solid and Richard Basehart is particularly good. Anne Francis (of Forbidden Planet fame) adds some glamour as Barrett’s girlfriend who also happens to be General Williams’ daughter.

The top-secret desert research facility with its elaborate security invites comparisons with The Andromeda Strain and in fact Robert Wise’s much better-known 1971 sci-fi thriller seems to have borrowed quite a few ideas from The Satan Bug.

The biggest plus is that we don’t get any tedious speechifying by the insane villain trying to justify his actions. Despite the subject matter this movie has no political axe to grind. It is an action thriller, pure and simple, for which we can be thankful.

The movie also doesn’t waste time on elaborate pseudoscientific explanations. All we need to know is that the villain has a super weapon and he must be stopped. We’re given just enough technobabble to make the threat terrifying.

Dispensing with speech-making and unnecessary scientific stuff helps to keep things moving along.

MGM have released this movie in their Limited Edition made-on-demand series. The transfer is anamorphic and is of acceptable quality although it’s clearly an unrestored print. There are no extras.

The Satan Bug can’t match the big-budget spectacular action of other Alistair MacLean adaptations (or of The Andromeda Strain) but judged as the modestly budgeted affair that it is it delivers plenty of excitement. Highly recommended. 

Monday 5 May 2014

The Invisible Man Returns (1940)

The Invisible Man Returns hit cinema screens in 1940 and was the first of Universal’s sequels to their 1933 hit The Invisible Man. Their horror films of the later 1940s soon became characterised by somewhat tedious and laboured attempts at humour but when the studio, now under new management, first began to revive the horror cycle their approach was rather more serious. And The Invisible Man Returns benefits from this fairly serious treatment.

Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe (Vincent Price) is about to be hanged for the murder of his brother, his motive presumably being to gain control of the family’s lucrative northern England colliery. He is innocent of the crime but the evidence against him was telling. On the morning scheduled for his execution Radcliffe mysteriously vanishes from his prison cell.

His escape was made possible by Dr Frank Griffin (John Sutton), the brother of the unfortunate scientist who had discovered the secret of the invisibility serum in the original film. The invisibility serum made Geoffrey’s escape easy but now he faces two awkward problems. Firstly, unless he can find his brother’s real murderer he will remain a hunted man. The second problem is even more distressing - the invisibility serum causes madness of the homicidal variety. Frank is working feverishly to find an antidote but time is against him.

Helen Manson (Nan Grey) loves Geoffrey and has always believed in his innocence. She shelters the invisible fugitive, now the subject of a large-scale manhunt under the direction of the determined Inspector Sampson of Scotland Yard (Cecil Kellaway). Geoffrey gets a break when he extracts some vital information from the colliery’s drunken and none-too-honest watchman Spears (Alan Napier). This information casts suspicion on Geoffrey’s suave cousin Richard Cobb (Sir Cedric Hardwicke).

While Geoffrey is making some progress towards clearing his name it is clear that the madness, the unfortunate side-effect of the invisibility drug, is starting to take hold. It is now a race against time to gain the evidence of his innocence before the madness takes over completely.

German-born writer Curt Siodmak, an important figure in 1940s Hollywood horror, co-wrote the screenplay with Lester Cole. The screenplay mixes subdued melodrama with (thankfully) restrained humour. Austrian-born director Joe May spoke little English, a potential problem that was somewhat eased by the lucky coincidence that Vincent Price spoke fluent German. May was however a painstaking director and this combined with the elaborate special effects the film required caused the production to fall behind schedule and run over budget. Despite this the movie was well received by critics and did well at the box office.

John P. Fulton’s Oscar-nominated special effects may have been costly but they proved to be money well spent and surpassed his work on the original 1933 The Invisible Man. They still look quite convincing today.

Cedric Hardwicke got top billing but has little to do. He is overshadowed by Vincent Price, despite the fact that we only see Price in the flesh for less than a minute. Price, swathed in bandages, did all the invisibility scenes himself and proves that even having only his voice to work with he could still dominate the screen. Price’s ease with comedy helps things along. Nan Grey makes an appealing female lead. Cecil Kellaway is less jovial than usual but provides solid support as Inspector Sampson.

Universal provided a fairly generous budget and the movie looks slick and polished. The coal-loader sequence required an expensive but very impressive set and provides an exciting and visually satisfying climax.

The special effects are the movie’s strongest asset and they are the major drawcard, along with the opportunity to see (or at least hear) a very young Vincent Price in one of his first horror roles.

The madness, and more importantly the fear of the descent into madness, induced by the invisibility serum probably should have been developed in greater depth. The desire to make Geoffrey Radcliffe a sympathetic hero was presumably the reason this element received relatively little attention.

Shock’s Region 4 DVD provides an excellent transfer without any extras.

The Invisible Man Returns lacks the stylistic flourishes of James Whale’s original but it’s a solid and entertaining sequel. Recommended.

Friday 2 May 2014

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (La ragazza che sapeva troppo) is something of an oddity in Mario Bava’s filmography. It’s a movie I’ve overlooked until now and I must confess it’s not at all what I’d expected.

I had the impression that this 1963 thriller marked the birth of the giallo genre. Perhaps it does in some ways anticipate the giallo but it’s a long way from being a fully-fledged representative of that genre. For one thing, despite having Bava as director, it’s actually a rather low-key movie notably lacking in the spectacular visual set-pieces for which Bava is known (and for which the giallo is known).

Nora Davis (Letícia Román) is a young American tourist in Rome. After an odd encounter with a dope peddler at the airport Nora witnesses a murder. Nora loses consciousness (which may be because she sampled some of the aforementioned dope peddler’s marijuana cigarettes although this is not made particularly clear) and when she awakes there is no sign of a murder having taken place. No-one believes Nora’s story.

Nora is intimately concerned with another sudden death, that of the aunt with whom she was to stay in Rome. At the funeral she meets a mysterious woman who claims to be an old friend of her aunt’s and she is persuaded to house-sit for this woman. 

Nora is convinced that she really did witness something sinister and her discovery of a file of newspaper clippings about a series of brutal murders of young women, known as the Alphabet Murders, seems to confirm her suspicions. She finally manages to persuade Dr Bassi (John Saxon), a young man who has befriended her and is clearly romantically interested in her, that something sinister really is happening.

A newspaper reporter named Landini (Dante DiPaolo) who had become obsessed with the Alphabet Murders provides further information but the mystery is still far from being solved and Nora has reason to believe she is in danger of becoming the Alphabet Murderer’s fourth victim.

This movie was apparently intended originally as a fairly breezy romantic comedy combined with a murder mystery, somewhat in the style of Hitchcock’s lighter offerings. Bava darkened the mood somewhat although the original romantic comedy elements are still obvious in places.

The title adds to the suggestion that Bava is moving into Hitchcock territory here and indeed this movie is the closest he came to making a Hitchcock-style suspense thriller.

There’s an obvious Psycho influence at work here although the violence is a lot milder than in Hitchcock’s film. In fact the violence really is downplayed quite considerably, to an extent that is enough to disqualify it as a genuine giallo. It’s certainly very mild compared to Blood and Black Lace which Bava would make not long afterwards.

The movie is, rather surprisingly, in black-and-white. While Bava had demonstrated with Black Sunday that he could do great things with black-and-white his reputation rests to a very large degree on his extraordinary mastery of colour. He may in fact be the greatest colourist cinema has produced. The use of black-and-white in this film does seem to cramp his style a little. That’s not to say that The Girl Who Knew Too Much is visually unimpressive (Bava could not have made a visually unimpressive movie if he’d tried) but colour was the means that Bava used to create the moods that he wanted and as a result this film lacks something when compared to his colour movies.

While this is a kind of Hitchcock pastiche there’s also in the climactic scene what appears to be (to me at least) a very definite nod to Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear. In fact there might also be a subtle reference to Lang’s The Woman in the Window.

Letícia Román makes a very appealing heroine while John Saxon is a perfectly adequate male lead.

Anchor Bay have come up with a very fine 16x9 enhanced transfer. The extras include a brief introduction to the film by Alan Jones and an interview with star John Saxon who has some amusing memories of his slightly strained working relationship with Bava.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much remains a slightly uneasy blending of a lightweight slightly comedic murder mystery and a proto-giallo. This is very much Bava Lite but it’s fairly stylish if undemanding entertainment and it definitely shows an unexpected side to Bava. Recommended, as much for is unexpectedness as anything else.