The Evil Eye (1963)

The Evil Eye (La ragazza che sapeva troppo)
Directed by Mario Bava
Written by Sergio Corbucci, Ennio De Concini, Eliana De Sabata, Mario Bava, et al
1963/Italy
Galatea Film/Coronet s.r.l.
First viewing/FilmStruck

Nora Davis: [into the phone] Oh mother, murders don’t just happen like that here.

The beautiful telling of an OK murder mystery story.

American tourist Nora Davis is looking forward to a fun holiday in Italy.  But the trip seems doomed from the start.  Her first stop is to visit a relative in Rome.  What she doesn’t know is that the old lady is practically on death’s door.  It is then that Nora meets charming young doctor Marcello Bassi (John Saxon).  She is left alone with the patient and it turns into a dark and stormy night.  The invalid promptly dies.  The phone line is dead so Nora goes out into the night headed for the hospital where Bassi works, which is close to the Spanish steps.

While walking down the steps, Nora is assaulted for her purse and pushed to the ground where she hits her head.  When she briefly regains consciousness, she observes the murder of a young woman by stabbing.  By the time she is rescued by a policeman, all evidence of the crime has disappeared and Nora is not believed – not least because she is an avid murder mystery reader with a vivid imagination.  But Nora will not give up and eventually Dr. Bassi joins her on the hunt for the killer.  With Valentina Cortese as a kindly, but suspicious, Roman who takes Nora in.

The poster stresses the “supernatural” elements of the film but this is basically a murder mystery with a few jump cut thrills thrown in.  It is partially told through the mind-reading technique where Nora gives a voice over of her thoughts.  I kept expecting it to turn into a spoof but it did not.  Director Bava, who was also the film’s DP, made it beautifully atmospheric.

The Insect Woman (1963)

The Insect Woman (Nippon konchuki)
Directed by Shohei Imamura
Written by Keiji Hasebe and Shohei Imamura
1963/Japan
Nikkatsu
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

“The shared secret and the shared denial are the most horrible aspects of incest.” ― John Bradshaw, Bradshaw on the Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem

Shohei Imamura gives us a good-looking film but, for me, it was two hours of seeing people I didn’t like doing stuff I would rather forget. Yuck.

Tome (Sachiko Hidari) is born into extreme poverty to tenant farmers in a remote village.  Seemingly, for these people anything goes.  Young Tome is sleeping with her father (or is he her step-father?) from an early age.  Eventually the extended family forces Tome to go to a rich landowner as a maid.  She is promptly raped and gives birth to her only child Nobuko.  During the war years, Tome escapes to do war work in the city.  She enjoys some happy moments as the mistress of a mill foreman and some independence when she becomes involved with union organizing. Nobuko and Tome’s father are left destitute when the extended family appropriates the money Tome sends home.

Tome remains in the city and eventually is more or less tricked into prostitution.  When she wins a wealthy “regular” she betrays the house madam to the police.  This allows her to go into business for herself.  She treats her girls as badly as the former madam.  Finally, Nobuko comes to town seeking a 200,000 loan for her share in a communal farm.  Nobuko catches the eye of Tome’s man and it looks like things might go full circle.

I think we were meant to feel sorry for Tome but by the end of the movie I was hoping that she would die so she couldn’t destroy any more people.  Imamura is 0 for 2 with me.  I must say that I could at least understand the plot with this one, which is more than I can say about Pigs and Battleships.