Day 09: Italian Horror!
The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)
Day 9 brings forth a wonderful prompt with ‘Italian Horror!’ and this genre of films is always an excellent one to dig into, with a large array of giallo films and hidden gems. Mario Bava is one of the pioneer’s of Italian horror, perhaps really starting off the movement of giallo films with The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) aka The Evil Eye. Using Alfred Hitchcock as a guide, The Girl Who Knew Too Much has similarities with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) but very much becomes its own film and creates some staples that would become a part of giallo cinema.
Nora (Letícia Román) is a young American woman who loves her mystery novels, she travels to Rome to see her mother’s friend Ethel (Chana Coubert) who is unwell. Not long after she arrives, Ethel passes suddenly and she then witnesses a woman being murdered and passes out. Befriending local Doctor Marcello Bassi (John Saxton) she starts to unravel clues to the murder she witnessed and some horrible serial killings that took place 10 years prior known as ‘the Alphabet Killings’. She fears she may be a target and hides out in the house near where she witnessed the murder while the occupant Laura (Valentina Cortese) goes to see her husband.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much is a wonderful film, shot beautifully and in black and white, the film weaves an intriguing mystery with a compelling cast of characters and some red herrings. Bava truly was a masterful director, his filmography speaks for itself, and this earlier work was a sure sign of things to come from him. The mystery is some what Hitchcockian, however Bava uses this as inspiration and even turns those tropes around and makes something fresh for the time and in fact still feels fresh. The twist ending works extremely well and the clues are definitely there hidden with some distractions, whether each person who sees the film will figure it out before the reveal can go either way.
The main performances are quite good with Letícia Román making for a fine lead as Nora, she gives off some real screen presence that is only matched by John Saxton, the pair share a genuine on screen chemistry that elevates the relationship between the two characters. There is not much to give criticism about with the film, it is well paced for the most part, however some scenes just end without any sense of conclusion and we are just popped into the next scene with no context. This is perhaps the only aspect that harms an otherwise excellent film, that is a delight to watch and see what gave rise to a whole generation of Italian filmmakers.
Day 10: Scott Adkins!
Ninja II: Shadow Of A Tear (2013)
Scott Adkins has made a huge name for himself over the past 15 years, starring in many films and showcasing not only his great action range but his skills as a martial artist. He is the prompt for Day 10 of Junesploitation, and with such a huge catalogue of films there is much for fans to discover. Films that really put his name out there were Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006) and Ninja (2009) from director Isaac Florentine, both films got sequels with Adkins and Florentine and we are looking at the sequel to the latter with Ninja II: Shadow Of A Tear (2013).
The film picks up several years after the events of Ninja, with Casey (Scott Adkins) and Namiko (Mika Hijii) now married and continuing to teach in their school. Life is good for the pair, they are expecting their first child and planning for a bright future, that all changes in an instant when Namiko is brutally murdered. Vowing revenge Casey stops at nothing to find who was behind the murder, with the help of friend and former student Nakabara (Kane Kosugi), he embarks on a journey that will see everything change and wonder who he can truly trust.
Ninja II is very different to Ninja, while being a direct follow up, it can also be seen without any prior knowledge as enough is explained to tell this story and introduce the main character to a new audience. Ninja had more of an 80’s martial arts/action film vibe, not entirely taking itself too seriously, with insane action and some delightfully over the top characters. Here the film takes a more serious and grounded approach, with action that felt more brutally intense, from the feel of the film, to the way it was shot, it is extremely different and it works. The pair of films feel like two sides of the same coin, both highly enjoyable and making for an entertaining double feature.
Scott Adkins is great as Casey, a character that he deeply understands, someone who is highly sympathetic and also a major badass, especially here. It is a role that suits Adkins, it plays to his strengths and he shows a lot of charisma. Kane Kosugi was a welcome addition to the cast, the pair played off of each other well and shared a natural chemistry. Isaac Florentine is a fun filmmaker, he knows martial arts, he knows action and how to tell a story, Ninja II is a great part of his filmography and if he is someone whose films you haven’t yet seen, give him a try.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea
Please check out FThisMovie.net, with many thanks to the crew for the concept of Junesploitation and some excellent prompts for 2021!