What Have You Done to Solange? Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Written by Bruno Di Geronimo and Massimo Dallamano
1972, 103 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on December 15th, 2015
Fabio Testi as Enrico Rosseni
Christine Galbo as Elizabeth Seccles
Karin Baal as Herta Rosseni
Joachim Fuchsberger as Inspector Barth
Claudia Butenuth as Brenda Pilchard
Pilar Castel as Janet Bryant
Giovanna Di Bernardo as Helen Edmonds
Camille Keaton as Solange Beauregard
Fifty years ago, Italian filmmakers introduced horror fans to an exhilarating new subgenre called the giallo. Taking the traditional police procedural in a fresh direction, these movies stood apart from their contemporaries by delivering an edginess that kept unsuspecting audiences on their toes. Themes of murder, madness and revenge were enhanced with previously unseen levels of sex and violence. Many of these pictures shared familiar elements, typically an anonymous, black-gloved killer stalking from within the shadows, or a non-traditional protagonist forced to remember an elusive clue in order to solve a mystery.
Perfected by such masters as Mario Bava (Blood and Black Lace) and his protégé Dario Argento (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), the films share an emphatically stylistic approach and usually feature gorgeous cinematography filled with vibrant colors and elaborate camerawork. Music cues are equally important, as many of these titles include soundtracks by such powerhouses as Ennio Moricone (Black Belly of the Tarantula) or the progressive rock band Goblin (Deep Red). Once the format caught on with the public, there was no shortage of content, as countless variations filled cinemas for years before gradually evolving into the slasher film. Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) arrived early in the wave of these releases and remains one of the better entries in the genre.
The film is set at St. Mary’s Catholic School for Girls where a series of brutal murders have left police baffled. Inspector Barth suspects Enrico Rosseni, one of the teachers, who is acting strangely not because he is a killer, but because he is having an affair with one of his students. When the teenage body count rises, Rosseni must team with his estranged wife, Herta, to clear his name and solve the crimes. At the time of the first death, he was on a date with young Elizabeth, who insists she witnessed the crime. He initially dismissed her claim as an excuse to quit the date, but now he must help her remember exactly what she saw and identify the villain. During the course of his investigation, Rosseni uncovers rumors of experimental sex and drugs, suggesting that the girls at his school are not as innocent as he would like to believe. As the murders grow more frequent and the evidence more salacious, we get our first mention of a mysterious girl named Solange who may hold the key to the entire mystery. Who is she, where is she and what has happened to her?
What Have You Done to Solange? (aka The School That Couldn’t Scream) is a disturbing murder mystery from director Massimo Dallamano (A Black Veil for Lisa) that eschews the graphic violence typically found in giallo films of the 1970s, while maintaining many of the other elements that dominated the subgenre. Working from a script he co-wrote with Bruno Di Geronimo (Dead Men Ride), Dallamano weaves a tapestry of secrets, madness and voyeurism that simultaneously fetishizes the young female characters, while keeping the adults at arm’s length. Prolific cinematographer and future pornographer Joe D’Amato (Emanuelle in Bangkok) gives the picture a distinct style, but places an emphasis on the more provocative and lurid moments.
Our protagonist is a louse who takes advantage of teenagers and runs to his wife for protection from the consequences. Somehow, actor Fabio Testi (Four of the Apocalypse) manages to keep Rosseni likeable enough for audiences to stay on his side. The beautiful and charming Christine Galbo (Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) does a wonderful job as Elizabeth Seccles, the object of Rosseni’s desire. Karin Baal (The Young Sinner) is initially a stand-offish ice queen as Herta, the estranged wife, but in the second half of the film becomes a likeable protagonist in her own right. Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave) is the titular Solange, and her performance is haunting despite a limited amount of screen time.
What Have You Done to Solange? was followed by two pseudo-sequels, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974) and Rings of Fire (1976), forming an unofficial “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy. The original remains the strongest of the series and genre enthusiasts that may have missed this title will definitely want to take this opportunity to remedy the oversight with this wonderful new release from Arrow Video.
Video and Audio:
Arrow Films continues to impress with yet another gorgeous 2K transfer, restored from the original camera negative. This new special edition of What Have You Done to Solange? is, quite simply, stunning. The picture is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and features strong colors and plenty of small-object detail. All previous versions I have seen over the years pale in comparison to the work done here and longtime fans are in for a real treat.
A pair of DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono tracks offer both the original Italian and English language presentations of the film. Music cues are particularly impressive and dialogue remains clean and free from distortion.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Film critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman provide a highly entertaining and informative audio commentary that fans will not want to miss. These two guys love this movie and are clearly having a blast as they share their favorite stories about this picture and the giallo subgenre as a whole.
Actress Karin Baal hates this movie and makes sure viewers know it in the amusing featurette What Have You Done to Decency? (14 minutes). Her memories of the time making this picture are anything but fond and she does not hesitate to share her thoughts on the finished piece.
The ever-charismatic Fabio Testi reflects on his lengthy career in the segment First Action Hero (21 minutes). His memories of working on Solange are much more pleasant than Baal’s and it is interesting to hear how widely their experiences vary.
Fulvio Lucsano explains how films get made in the entertaining piece Old School Producer (11 minutes). Raising money, working with international partners and dealing with the censorship board are just some of the topics covered.
Filmmaker Michael Mackenzie studies the “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy in Innocence Lost (29 minutes), an incredibly informative piece that traces the themes of What Have You Done to Solange?, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? and Rings of Fire. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-made this piece is and wish it could be twice as long.
The original trailer (3 minutes) offers a glimpse at much of the titillating content and presents a lot of spoilers out of context. This ad offers some of the best title readings since Don’t Go in the Woods.
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