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When this 1963 mystery by Italian horror master Mario Bava first hit the U.S. it had been worked over pretty heavily by American International Pictures, which retitled it The Evil Eye and readied it for the drive-in crowd by dubbing over all the marijuana references, adding some comic scenes, and replacing Roberto Nicolosi's eerie jazz score with a noisy one by Les Baxter. In its original form it's a briskly paced Hitchcock spoof about an American cutie touring Rome (Leticia Roman), whose mania for pulp fiction seems to get the better of her when she wanders into a public square in the dead of night and thinks she sees a woman being stabbed to death. She wakes up in a hospital (in a striking overhead shot, nuns surround her bed, their habits forming a flower), and no one will believe her story, not even the handsome doctor (John Saxon) who wants to jump her bones. Valentina Cortese gives a chilling performance as the heroine's false friend, and Roman is charming as the comic innocent. Bava, who'd once shot films for Roberto Rossellini and Raoul Walsh, used black and white for the last time on this project, and with its mastery of the noir vocabulary it helped establish the giallo—a dark strain of pulp fiction focusing on violence and sexual perversity—as an Italian movie genre. In Italian with subtitles. 86 min.

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