Top positive review
Smart, Funny Thriller with a Smart, Brave Heroine--Nice
on June 13, 2002
Many fans of director Mario Bava seem to underrate this film because it isn't as violent or cynical as his later film BLOOD AND BLACK LACE. Personally, I find that to be one of the things that reccomends the film to me; that the film isn't a bloodbath full of loathsome people where the only interest is in seeing how spectacularly unpleasant their demises will be. Although there are holes and improbablilites in the plot, this is generally a suspenseful, humorous film, solidly anchored by the appealing performance of Leticia Roman as the heroine, Nora Davis, an American tourist visiting an old family friend and falling into the middle of a terrifying mystery involving a serial killer who has been attacking women on or near Rome's famous Spanish Steps for almost a decade. Nora witnesses what may have been the latest murder shortly after being attacked by a mugger, so people suspect that she may have imagined the whole thing, but she knows otherwise, and with the help of a friendly doctor (played very nicely by John Saxon), she sets out to prove it.
The result is a stylish, entertaining thriller, full of moody atmosphere and eerie set-pieces, such as Nora's rondevous with someone who can help her solve the mystery in an empty but brightly-lit apartment and the harrowing sequence that begins with the death of the family friend, continues with the attack by the mugger on Nora, and ends with her coming to to witness the murder in the Plaza d'Espana, full of rain-slicked streets and moody shadows. Here, Bava proves himself as stylish as anything in Hitchcock, and maybe more so. There is another shot that Hitch would have loved, with a group of nuns in elaborate habits hovering over Nora in a hospital bed, moving away to reveal her face; from overhead, it resembles the blooming of a big, goofy flower. This one of several subtle touches of humor that lighten the proceedings without ever disturbing the forward movement of the plot or lessening the tension. Indeed the film is top-notch in pretty much every area; stylish art direction, excellent costumes by Tania Grani, and a great score by Roberto Nicolosi. One should also say an extra word for the leading ladia, Leticia Roman; she bears a faint resemblance to Natalie Wood, and like that actress, she brings a quiet intelligence and intensity to her performance. Hitchcock would probably have liked her blonde beauty and appreciated her talent as well. But Bava got there first and got a first-rate performance out of her.
It's nice to see a smart, sympathetic woman at the center of a thriller, a heroine as opposed to simply a victim . . .