It certainly wasn’t in the hope of getting a suntan but during the groovy early 70’s quite a few Italian giallo directors decided to pop over to London and use it as the backdrop to their murder mystery stories. Examples include Lucio Fulci’s Lizard In A Woman’s Skin (1971) Sergio Martino’s All The Colors Of The Dark (1972) Enzo G. Castellari’S Cold Eyes Of Fear (1971) and the film under the spotlight here Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done To Solange? (1972). Dallamano was born way back in 1917 and made his first feature film Western Bandito in 67. He only directed 12 films before dying in a car accident in 1976 at just 59. No doubt if he had lived longer he would have gone on to be much more established as a director following on from being a cinematographer on many movies such as A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) . Of the movies I have seen there is a fair amount of versatility genre wise with a version of De Sade’s Venus In Furs aka Devil In The Flesh (1969), gritty poliziottesco Super Bitch (1973) semi tenuous sequel to Solange, What Have They Done to Your Daughters (1974) and supernatural horror film The Cursed Medallion aka The Night Child (1975). All are very enjoyable and it is good to see most of these becoming available here. What Have You Done To Solange was at first banned in the UK cinema due to sexualised violence, appearing later subjected to compulsory cuts via Redemption video and now it gets its hi-def blu-ray debut completely uncut both in the UK and USA via Arrow. It’s not the first time it has been seen uncut in this country though as EC Entertainment brought it out on DVD here back in 98. It’s definitely a good time to upgrade this classic film though now.
Fabio Testi plays ladies’ man Enrico. He is physical education teacher at an exclusive, posh girl’s school and having a bad time of things with teacher wife Herta played by Karlin Baal. This is partly due to the fact that he is having an affair with one of the schoolgirls Elizabeth (Cristina Galbó). Whilst making out on a rowing boat drifting idly down the river Elizabeth thinks she sees something out the corner of her eye and is startled leaving Enrico with a case of blue balls and rather annoyed, thinking it is another excuse not to go further in their relationship. Of course as seasoned giallo fans will be aware the ‘did we or did we not see something’ plot device means that there has been a grisly murder committed. Enrico hears about it on the radio the next day and rather daftly rushes back to the scene of the crime where he had also carelessly dropped a pen, putting himself in the frame. It turns out that it was actually another of his pupils murdered leading Inspector Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger) to the school to try and unravel the plot along with Enrico who is trying to clear his name and not expose his affair. Naturally the murders continue and the suspects line up. Never have such a motley crew of suspicious looking people littered the screen either, there are many red herrings along the way as things develop here.
Naturally saying too much more would ruin the film but well over an hour into things you will be more than a little puzzled by the title and wondering why the film was not actually called ‘Just who the hell is this Solange anyway?’ well-acted although somewhat badly paced over an hour and ¾ running time Solange can be a bit of a frustrating watch even for the veteran giallo enthusiast. You may even still be scratching your head right at the very end, perhaps for this very reason necessitating our erstwhile inspector to present a summing up of events. That aside it is a undisputed classic of the genre and has many great things going for it including an Ennio Morricone score a debut performance from I Spit On Your Grave actress Camille Keaton and cinematography by Aristide Massaccesi aka Joe D’Amato. There is a surprising amount of nudity but I guess you cannot have a film set in a Catholic girl’s school without obligatory shower scenes, cleanliness is next to godliness after all and the murder scenes are particularly vicious perhaps even spurring on Fulci to the excesses of his New York Ripper later on.
There are three interviews on the extras here, a brand new one with actress Karin Baal and newly edited 2006 ones with Fabio Testi and producer Fulvio Lucisano. Baal takes the moral high ground and was worried that the film could be looked upon as near pornographic making sure that it was agreed she would not be seen nude in it. She describes the movie as squalid which I guess is fair enough, obviously something that the censors considered too when giving it an original ban here. Fraulein Baal hasn’t got anything nice to say about anyone really with the exception of Keaton who she considers was abused by the director and felt sorry for. She is extremely humorous with it though, calling Testi a child in his abilities and saying the film was a dreadfully long movie which she fell asleep half way through. She was fierce enough in the film and you can totally imagine her taking absolutely no shit in the making of it; all quite amusing really. I do like Fabio Testi as an actor in films as diverse as Fulci’s Four Of The Apocalypse (1975) and The Heroin Busters (1977) and in conversation here he is as suave as ever reminiscing on getting into the movie world as a stuntman. He remembers Solange fondly as a professional co-production made efficiently with a varied international cast and crew. He has a fair bit to say about himself but little on the film in question giving the overall impression that it is the more action orientated roles he starred in that were of more interest to him such as Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket (1976), a film he professes he would love to remake. Lucisano gives a brief insight into the making of the film in England helped along with money from the co-German producer as well as following it through and marketing it. He describes the director as strict on set but somewhat misunderstood and chats about Testi, Massaccesi, the films censorship and success on release.
Following these interviews is a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie looking at the loosely related trio of “schoolgirls in peril” films; Solange, Daughters and Alberto Negrin’s Rings Of Fear (1978). This is an engrossing and authoritative half an hour well spent with plenty of information setting the scene for these giallos and tying them in with others. There are stacks of stills and clips to illustrate things and lots of spoilers too which may make it worth missing until you have seen all the featured movies included. I am going to comfortably try and forget them and then watch Daughters again (available on DVD via Shameless) and track down Rings although it sounds like a pale imitation compared to Dallamano’s works. Backed up with an audio commentary with Alan Jones and Kim Newman, trailer, reverse sleeve artwork and booklet this 2K restoration is available to watch in either Italian or English and proves another triumph from Arrow who are undoubtedly responsible for giving a new lease of life to a wide range of classic films.