Not to be confused with the Mario Bava film of the same name (at least as it was released in English, and the film does make a few nods towards Bava's earlier effort), Francis D. Lyon's 1969 film The Girl Who Knew Too Much features a freshly post Batman Adam West as a man named Johnny Cain. Want to know a bit more about this dashing, handsome tough guy? Of course you do. Cain lives in California and runs a nightclub, not at all unlike Bogart's Rick in Casablanca, a movie that seems to have had a bit of influence on Lyon's picture. At any rate, Cain's got a past, the kind that comes back to haunt him, what with all of the tough guy adventuring he did way back when. These days though, he's content to run his bar and when the opportunity presents itself, make it with the ladies.
Elsewhere in California, some bad guys kidnap a garbage man and once he's unconscious, intentionally or not drive the guy's truck through Cain's watering hole. Except it's completely intentional, in fact it's a pretty brilliant hit because by driving into the club they kill a mobster named Tony Grinaldi (Steve Peck) who was just sort of chilling in there minding his own business. Soon enough, the cops come around and Lieutenant Miles Crawford (Nehemiah Persoff), an old friend of Cain's, tries to convince his buddy that this was no accident at all, somebody wanted Grinaldi dead, this is the type of things that happens in the mobster business. Crawford has nothing to go on but his gut, however, and his gut isn't likely to hold up in court.
With Crawford running around doing his cop thing, Cain soon finds himself in the unlucky situation of being blackmailed by Grinaldi's men into helping them find out who did this and why. As it turns out, Cain's past as an adventurer has given him some highly specialized knowledge of foreign art, and as Grinaldi was hunting down some sort of crazy statue, they know Cain is the right guy for the job. If he doesn't come up with the answers they want in three days, they'll kill him. So Cain, without much of a choice, starts investigating but quickly gets kidnapped by some CIA agents who lost one of their undercover agents in the same accident that killed Grinaldi! They want Cain to place nice with the crooks so that they can close their case. All of this while Tricia Grinaldi (Patricia Smith), Tony's grieving widow, gets hammered and recites lines from plays and a thug named Kenneth Allandice (Robert Alda) keeps tabs on poor Johnny, who can't quite seem to shake his foxy ex, Revel Drue (Nancy Kwan).
As preposterous as it is flat out silly, there's not much that is â€˜good' about The Girl Who Knew Too Much, at least not in the traditional sense of the term. Oh, it's fast paced and frequently hysterically funny but it's supposed to be played completely straight, a traditional hardboiled thriller/mystery/action movie with cops and bad guys aplenty. The problem is, if you take it too seriously it explodes into nonsense, with massive logic gaps and characters who do ridiculous things for no apparent reason. On top of that, the way it all comes together towards the end is so circumstantial that really, it's hard to imagine anyone except those involved in making the movie at the time taking any of this as a legitimate attempt at a serious film.
Exhibit A? Adam West. Yes, Batman. He's the male lead and while he was great in the TV series that made him a star a few year prior to this picture, here that deadpan and completely wooden acting style that worked in the context of portraying the campy version of the caped crusader only serves to make him lookâ€¦ goofy. He shows so little range, so little emotion that you never once get the impression that he really cares about anything happening around him. On top of that, he takes frequent dramatic pauses in the middle of lines and quite often disappears in the middle of the fight scenes only to be replaced by a stunt double who doesn't look anything like him.
The rest of the cast don't fare a whole lot better than West. Nancy Kwan is, at the very least, beautiful to look at, Patricia Smith too, but neither of them have much to do outside of just that. They just sort of stand around and look good. There is a well done chase scene here and the action is plentiful, but not even the great Robert Alda can save this one as he's saddled with bad dialogue riddled with one clichÃ© after the next. Why bother with this one at all then? Well, the use of color is nice and the cinematography decent enough to make good use of some interesting looking locations. The real reason though is for one scene and one scene in particular that takes place at the fifty-two minute mark in the movie where West's character tracks down a man who had done him wrong. Not just any man, but an elderly man, out of shape and balding and quite a frail looking one at that, not threatening in the least. When he finds him he not only roughs him up, he beats the living snot out of himâ€¦ and then tosses him through a giant glass window. It's so bizarre and so unexpected that it really should just be seen.
The Girl Who Knew Too Much arrives on Blu-ray in a nice looking AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen transfer from Olive Films. The picture looks as a bit grainy, as it should be, but not much in the way of actual print damage shows up except for some specks here and there. Generally speaking the image is clean enough and quite stable. There aren't any edge enhancement issues and there are only the most mild of compression artifacts visible in a few of the darker scenes. Depth is okay, if never mind blowing, and texture is decent as well but again, not reference quality. Generally though, the picture is quite good, stable and film-like with nice colors and acceptable if not quite perfect black levels.
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. For the most part the track sounds fine for what it is. Dialogue is clean and clear and well balanced and while you might pick up on a little bit of hiss here and there, if you're not listening for it you probably won't notice it. The score sounds okay if not as full as you might want, sound effects are mixed in well and don't overpower the performers all come through clearly enough. This is nothing to write home about but perfectly fine for what it is.
Outside of a static menu and chapter selection, the disc is completely barebones, there isn't even a trailer here.
There's plenty of unintentional comedic value to snicker at in The Girl Who Knew Too Much but not much in the way of legitimate thrills, suspense or solid acting. West is horrible in the lead, but kind of charming in his seemingly oblivious way, while the supporting cast isn't a whole lot better. Some late sixties charm seeps into the visuals but wow, is this one ever bad. Worth seeing if you dig on terrible films (in which case, consider it recommended) and want to see TV's Batman beat up a really old guy. And really, who doesn't want to see that? Worth a rental, just watch it with a group of friends and a lot of beer on hand.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.