Release Date(s)1975 (December 15, 2015)
Studio(s)Italian International/Rialto Film/AIP (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) is simultaneously oddly restrained and disturbingly sensationalistic, a one of a kind Italian “giallo” film that contains the subgenre’s usual juxtaposition of sex and violence but avoids the more lurid visuals of a Dario Argento or Mario Bava. Nevertheless, in its own understated way it’s as stylish as any of the better known entries in the tradition, with elegant widescreen compositions and an effectively fluid sense of point of view. The story is the kind of blend of murder-mystery, police procedural, and slasher film typical of the giallo: a knife-wielding killer preys on a group of Catholic school girls one by one, and the students, teachers, and their parents – all of whom are suspects – try to figure out who is committing the murders and why. Among the central players are a teacher (Fabio Testi) having an illicit affair with one of his students, his initially combative but ultimately understanding wife (Karin Baal), and the title character, a late entry into the story who links the victims and killer.
That title character is played by Camille Keaton of I Spit on Your Grave fame, and What Have You Done to Solange? is remembered now mainly because of its status as her film debut. There’s a lot more to appreciate here, though, and Arrow Video’s new special edition Blu-ray does a nice job of contextualizing the movie within the history of Italian giallo cinema. The film has undergone an extensive restoration from the original camera negative, resulting in a transfer far superior to all previous DVD releases. Dallamano was a cinematographer before he began directing (his biggest claims to fame are Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More), and Solange is filled with lush, detailed imagery that is presented here with subtle gradations of color and contrast and sharp detail in the many nighttime exteriors and interiors. The disc also contains a restored mono soundtrack that beautifully showcases Ennio Morricone’s score, a series of haunting melodies that underline the tragic nature of the title character’s secret.
Arrow has done a bang-up job of putting together supplementary materials for the package, starting with an outstanding visual essay by Michael Mackenzie that expertly analyzes the themes and style of Solange as well as its two loose sequels. Additional insights are provided by a lively and informative audio commentary by film critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, in which they enthusiastically catalogue Solange’s achievements and occasional flaws and inconsistencies. The disc also contains three excellent interviews, with stars Fabio Testi and Karin Baal and producer Fulvio Lucisano. Taken together, these extra features comprise a crash course in not only this seminal film, but Italian genre movies of the 1970s as a whole.
- Jim Hemphill