Arrow Video continue to impress with their Blu-Ray releases of Italian Giallo films - this time with Massimo Dallamano's salacious and disturbing What Have You Done to Solange?. The film was released in 1972 (at the height of Giallo fever) and it positions itself as one of the more intriguing exponents of the genres. Dallamano (who had previously worked as a DOP on Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More) delivers a lush-looking, unsettling and suspense-rich work that is enriched by Ennio Morricone's hunting score.
What Have You Done To Solange? is the first entry in a what is commonly known as 'The Schoolgirl in Peril' trilogy - a series of film that focus on the sexual exploits of teenage girls, and on their complex, and often conflicted, relationship with the adult world. The film opens, as it's often the case with Giallo films, with the protagonists half-witnessing a murder: lothario sixth-form school teacher Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi) and the young pupil he is having an extra-marital affair with, Elizabeth, catch a glimpse of an horrific act whilst boating on the Thames. Whilst Elizabeth has a series of nightmares that allow her to clarify her initially hazy recollection of the event, her classmates continue to get killed by a mystery (black-gloved, of course) figure. Out of sheer curiosity, but also out of sheer necessity (he's become a suspect), Enrico takes up the role of amateur detective and ends up descending into a seedy and sexualised underworld underpinned by the tragic eponymous figure of Solange - who eventually becomes the key to the film's mystery.
As with many giallo films, gender politics are troubling: the film can never fully resolve the tension between the moralising attitudes it endorses (as viewers, we are asked to condemn the girls' libertarian attitudes, and we are effectively aligned with their horrified parents) and the lascivious way in which its female protagonists are portrayed. What Have They Done to Solanges? indulges voyeuristic pleasures whilst espousing moral outrage: whether Dallamano was holding up a dark mirror to its 1970s audience or simply trying to find his (commercially viable) way in the murky world of Italian genre cinema remains debatable.
The film is remarkable because it fully adopts many of the Giallo clichés whilst still managing to carve out something truly unique. This is particularly true of the last section of the film: once Solange appears on screen, we move from the classic workings of the thriller onto a something more disturbing, sadder, almost elegiac. In particular, the black and white flashback sequence that sees the group of girls visiting Tata, a farmer-turned-backstreet abortionist, is remarkable (and almost excruciating to watch).
Once again Arrow have delivered a crisp transfer that allows the lavish cinematography to shine through. The disc also contains an array of interesting extras - a video essay, and interviews with actors Fabio Testi and Karin Baal, as well as producer Fulvio Lucisano.
What Have you Done to Solange? is available now.