WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?

PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

Possibly the best-known giallo that wasn’t made by either Dario Argento or Mario Bava, What Have You Done to Solange? is a deceptively simple but gruesome little horror story that delivers its shocks with the precision of a Swiss watch and culminates in what is still – more than forty years after its release – a much-copied but never bettered gut punch of a resolution.

The set-up is simple. We’re in 1970s London, a schoolgirl has been viciously murdered. The way she was murdered is especially nasty – stabbed through her genitals, with the blade of the knife still protruding between her legs. Soon, other students at the girl’s boarding school fall victim to the same murderer, and are slain in exactly the same way. When the murder took place, one of the girl’s classmates thought she saw it happen. But she can’t tell the police about it. Why? Because she wasn’t alone, she is having an affair with her Italian teacher Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi), and to confess what she’s seen will destroy his career and ruin his already badly strained marriage.

The problem is, Rosseni puts himself in the frame when he is noticed hanging around the crime scene. The only way to prove his innocence is to find the killer himself. And what is the significance of the green pins worn by each of the victims?

To give more of the story away would be to spoil the surprise. What Have You Done to Solange? is all about pacing and atmosphere, and director and co-writer Massimo Dallamano (who based the film on an Edgar Wallace mystery novel) takes his time unravelling the tale and spotlighting an interesting cast of likely suspects along the way. He doesn’t even introduce the titular Solange until very late in the game but it’s a twist that’s worth waiting for (with a terrific performance from Camille Keaton) which eventually drops all the puzzle pieces neatly into place.

All the familiar elements of the giallo are here: the black-gloved assassin, the dodgiest assortment of teachers and priests you’ve ever seen, including a sweaty pervert who has ‘red herring’ stamped all over him, the element of forbidden sex and an abundance of unnecessary nudity (there are a couple of schoolgirl shower scenes that leave nothing to the imagination) and (if you watch the English language version – both the Italian and English versions are on this disc) a preponderance of bad dubbing. Personally speaking, the Italian language version seems to be more effective, although it’s difficult to get past actors speaking Italian whose characters have almost cartoonishly English names (Brenda Pilchard easily being the best).

This is a classic for a reason, and Arrow’s new Blu-ray presentation is so clean it could almost convince us the film was made yesterday – if it wasn’t for the unfortunate 1970s clothing and hairstyles. The special features include a commentary from Alan Jones and Kim Newman, a fascinating interview with Karin Baal which is notable (and admirable) because she definitely has mixed feelings about the finished product, and a terrific feature about Dallamano’s career and the ‘Schoolgirls in Peril’ sequels that tenuously attempted to capitalise on Solange's success. Absolutely fantastic.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: MASSIMO DALLAMANO / SCREENPLAY: BRUNO DI GERONIMO, MASSIMO DALLAMANO / STARRING: FABIO TESTI, CRISTINA GALBÓ, KARIN BAAL, CAMILLE KEATON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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