BR: What Have You Done to Solange? / Cosa avete fatto a Solange? (1972)

March 17, 2016 | By

WhatHaveYpuDoneToSolange_BRFilm: Excellent

Transfer: Excellent

Extras: Near-Perfect

Label:  Arrow Video / MVD Visual

Region: A, B

Released:  December 15, 2015

Genre:  Giallo

Synopsis: You schoolgirls are being viciously killed by a madman, while a mysterious girl named Solange may hold the key to stopping the killer.

Special Features: Audio commentary by authors Alan Jones and Kim Newman / Interview Featurettes: 2015 “What Have You Done to Decency? A Conversation with Karin Baal (13:36) in German with English subtitles + 2006 “First Action Hero: Fabio Testi” (21:16) in Italian with English subtlties + 2006 “Old-School Producer: Fulvio Lucisano” (11:04) in Italian with English subtitles / Visual Essay by Michael Mackenzie: “Innocence Lost: Solange and the Schoolgirls-in-Peril trilogy” (29:00) / 28-page colour booklet with an Ennio Morricone appreciation by Howard Hughes + 2006 Camille Keaton interview by Art Ettinger / Theatrical Trailer / Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned art by Malleus / DVD copy.

 


 

Review:

Branded a schoolgirl-in-peril entry, the genre isn’t new nor unique to Italian cinema – one can find traces (emphasizing terror and implied / potential violation over murder) in the kidnapped teen thriller Union Station (1950) and the psycho-sexual blackmailer / bank robber / teen molester Experiment in Terror (1961) – but Massimo Dallamano’s What have You Done to Solange? (1972) pushes every aspect to new extremes which certainly made it a box office draw, but also ensured it remains a nasty little creation.

So much of Solange is wrong, but so much of it is also quite ridiculous; its grotesque shocks are somewhat tempered by absurd character behaviour and an abrupt finale owing more than a little to a certain 1940s Alfred Hitchcock thriller. Solange, however, is a unique giallo-poliziotteschi hybrid, intermeshing the former genre’s black gloved serial killer and sexually violent montages with the latter’s police procedural elements.

Dallamano’s career began as a camera operator and later cinematographer – his final films as a DOP include the spaghetti western classics A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965) for director Sergio Leone – but 1967 saw him switching gears to writing and directing, moving from western (Bandidos) to erotically charged literary adaptations (Venus in Furs, Dorian Gray). Solange seemed to offer the perfect mix of profane and vulgar acts inflicted upon sacred yet secretive Catholic schoolgirls.

Those layers of secrets also permeate the adult characters, making no one especially good nor likeable, and yet this highpoint in the sub-genre still attracts fans because it doesn’t move like a traditional giallo.

The Hitchcockian hero is indeed thrust into outrageous circumstances that have him propelling the investigation and struggling to scratch his own name from the police’s tally of suspects, ultimately with the aide of a supportive and sympathetic woman – his estranged wife Herta (Karin Baal) – but before their marriage undergoes a transformative upswing, gym teacher Rosseni (Fabio Testi) is mucking up his private life by having an affair with underage student Elizabeth (Cristina Galbo).

The film launches with Rosseni breast-groping Elizabeth in a secret river boat ride, and  the latter seeing a classmate running from a gloved killer by the riverbank before a knife is plunged into her vagina – a brutal violation that’s cruelly shown to the father in the form of an almost cartoon x-ray that literally reads ‘Killer put big knife HERE!’

Naturally the parents are emotionally destroyed, and Rosseni becomes a suspect when a published crime scene photo shows him standing in the background, but his innocence is soon cleared up, allowing him to become an important investigative link between the police and his fellow morally corrupt teachers.

From those opening flashes of violent, Dallamano soon switches to a prolonged murder montage, detailing the torment up to the stabbing, and then smash-cutting to a sweaty Christina waking up from a seemingly erotic nightmare. The killer’s routine is thoroughly despicable: he stabs his trussed up and silenced victims in one swoop, and leaves them to bleed and writhe in agony before his victims succumb to severe trauma by daybreak.

It’s a really disgusting methodology that certainly pricked 1972 audiences and built up the film’s reputation as one of the genre’s more mean-spirited thrillers (which did get it banned in a few countries for shots of bodies with knives and scythes protruding from nether region), and for some contemporary viewers the brutality may recall the very real gang rape and ultimate murder of Jyoti Singh, as dramatized in the emotionally wrenching documentary India’s Daughter (2014).

Both factors makes Solange a bit tough to enjoy as a highpoint in eurosleaze, but the disc’s commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman sort through the film’s own technical and creative layers of smut, art, blatant sexploitation, clever twists and turns, and sometimes goofy attempts to show a hip London as guestimated by Italian filmmakers.

Solange is one of several Italian thrillers set in London with a cast of mixed nationalities, although in this case, unlike Lucio Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) or Tinto Brass’ Deadly Sweet (1967), the actors are primarily Italian and German, matching the film’s mixed financing and production components. Both commentators have fun picking apart the quilt of supposedly linear British locations through which characters travel, not to mention the lunacy in which civilian Rosseni is able to stand alongside police during investigations, discrete conversations among colleagues and potential suspects, and act as an honorary detective.

Jones and Newman make superb use of the film’s fairly lengthy running time to contextualize, critique, and have fun with Dallamano’s sick little entry, and Arrow’s bevy of extras includes interviews which also provide some contrarian views of Dallamano as a skilled director within the crime, giallo, and western genres. Jones and Newman certainly regard Solange as one of his best works, while in a separate interview featurette co-star Baal recounts telling the director his script could easily be made into a porno with real actors handling the dramatic material (which Baal found stale and often ridiculous).

In his separate interview, co-producer Fulvio Lucisano acknowledges Dallamano’s technical skills while being well aware of Solange’s innate exploitation status, but he also provides some extra background on the casting of Camille Keaton as the titular victim in what was her film debut. The former model appeared in several Italian productions before achieving cult film infamy in the rape-revenge thriller I Spit on Your Grave (1978), playing a character’s who’s also brutally violated but metes out meticulously designed punishment for her tormentors.

Lucisano also reaffirms the film’s concocted relationship to author Edgar Wallace (the use of green pins stem from a published work), and it being sold as a Wallace-branded adaptation to capitalize on the krimi films in Germany, some of which co-starred Joachim Fuchsberger and Baal.

In spite of its nasty elements and yet typical of giallo entries, the production is packed with high-caliber talent which includes Testi in an early leading role, Galbo playing the sympathetic non-heroine, Keaton being quite mysterious and affecting in spite of having zero dialogue, Fuchsberger as the measured Inspector Barth, and small roles cast with capable character actors.

The London locations are genuine if not a bit modest, but the film’s eerie and erotic moods and neatly captured by cinematographer Aristide Massaccesi, who would soon direct his own brand of violent, porn-laced genre hybrids as Joe D’Amato. Ennio Morricone’s score is typical of his sacred (lullaby-based) / profane (experimental, musique concrete) writing style for gialli, and Dallamano does keep the film moving in spite of its relatively meaty 107 mins. running time with striking montages. The clothes and décor is seventies grotesque, yet the main stars are stunning and make some of their loud costumes rather chic.

Arrow’s transfer from the original negative is first rate and very uncut, and one does wonder if Dallamano took a nod from Hitchcock, and as was done with Psycho (1960), packed the film with so much taboo material that what would survive the censors would be close to the director’s ideal cut. Depending on the sensitivities of territories, some naughty bits were trimmed – a peeping tom gazing at teen girls full frontal was snipped in some countries – while images of the knife impalements were reportedly less offensive to British censors than a shot of a dead dog.

Morricone’s credited with scoring 29 feature films and TV series in 1972 alone (!) but this ranks as one of his finest works, which Howard Hughes dissects in his fine booklet essay that spans the composer’s contributions to the genre. That lengthy appreciation is followed by Art Ettinger’s interview with Camille Keaton which appeared in a 2006 issue of Ultra Violent Magazine, and favours her early career years, appearing in several Italian films before moving back to the U.S. and starring in Grave.

A 2006 interview with Fabio Testi shows the actor still looking suave and debonair, and the amiable Q&A offers a broad retrospective of his career. The former stuntman recognized he had a better chance if he alternated roles and genres, but he also concedes that by staying in films long after the popularity of several genres had waned, he missed out on a TV career. Most of his films were within the B realm – generic programmers with recycled elements – but as he admits with obvious pride, it’s the B films that have endured and continue to impress new generations of Italian exploitation connoisseurs.

Solange is a cornucopia of wrongness, but it’s also the kind of genre entry that pays homage to / steals from predecessors like Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace (1965) and Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1968) and adds some new weird DNA that makes fans respect a work that’s outlived both subsequent imitators, and Dallamano’s own sequels which declined in quality, coherence, and class. It’s also a film that may well have seeded the inspiration for Naosuke Kurosawa’s Roman Porno sickie Zoom In: Sex Apartments (1980), in which a black-gloved serial rapist sets the privates of his victims afire (among other things).

The commentators also make note of one peculiar truism that’s unique to the giallo genre: there’s so much crazy plotting, assaultive set-pieces, and preposterous twist endings (or non-endings) that one often forgets how a film wraps up. It’s a genetic makeup that often compels fans to revisit films because they fail to remember exactly what the heck goes on and was at the root of the killings.

Dallamano would co-write and direct the truly sleazy sequel What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974), whereas his co-scripted third and final entry Virgin Killer (1978) was directed by Alberto Negrin when Dallamano was killed in a car accident in 1976. The sequels are given more than a cursory nod in the featurette “Innocence Lost” where Michael Mackenzie provides an overview of Solange’s place within the schoolgirls-in-peril sub-genre, and why it remains far superior to the thematic sequels that comprise Dallamano’s lurid trilogy.

 

 

© 2016 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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