Sunday, August 19, 2018


Although more commonly associated with the so-called “Schoolgirls in Peril” giallo trilogy, which also included Massimo Dallamano’s WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE (1971) and Alberto Negrin’s The RED RINGS OF FEAR (a.k.a. TRAUMA, 1976), which Dallamano co-wrote, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? was also the third film in Roberto Infascelli’s loosely-related “Polizia” trilogy for Primex Italiana, which was preceded by both Steno (a.k.a. Stefano Vanzina)’s FROM THE POLICE… WITH THANKS (a.k.a. EXECUTION SQUAD, 1971) and Infascelli’s RANSOM! THE POLICE ARE WATCHING (1973), a pair of trailblazing polizieschi, which helped redefine and popularize Italocrime films during the ’70s.  Thanks to Arrow Video's Blu-ray,  this polizia/giallo hybrid finally receives its long-awaited home video release in North America.

A 15-year-old girl named Silvia Polvesi (Sherry Buchanan) is found hanging in the attic of a dodgy sublet, the victim of an apparent suicide, as is deduced by Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf). However, Assistant District Attorney Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli) thinks otherwise, and her suspicions are further substantiated by the autopsy results. This precipitates the arrival of seasoned homicide detective Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli), who, quite conveniently, just happens to catch a man snapping photos from across the street during his initial investigation of the crime scene.  However, it turns out that this (quote) “damn peeping tom”, one Bruno Paglia (Franco Fabrizi), also happened to snap some revealing photos of the recently late Silvia in the company of a young man, whom the police quickly track down, only the lead goes nowhere, as their sneaky suspect proves to have a rock-solid alibi.  The slimy Paglia is eventually released thanks to his resourceful lawyer, but the police receive another tip-off, which leads them to a secret (if deserted) high-end brothel which proves to have possibly been the scene of still another murder when they discover its bathroom awash in blood.  A few days later, an abandoned car is found containing the mutilated corpse of Tallenti (“Now we know who was cut-up in the bathroom”), a private investigator who had earlier been hired by Silvia’s parents (Farley Granger and Marina Berti) to provide them with surveillance of her clandestine activities. Then Tallenti’s girlfriend Rosa is stalked by a killer clad in black motorcycle leathers and a matching dark-visored helmet (the German title translates as “Death Wears Black Leather”), who is searching for missing audio tapes which expose an underage prostitution ring that could quite possibly implicate some very powerful people…

Released by NMD Films in 1980 as The CO-ED MURDERS stateside where, by that time it was clearly trying to grab a share of the slasher-movie craze, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? has always tried to capitalize on the more lurid or ‘horrific’ elements within its basic framework including a couple of vicious murders and a prototypical stalking sequence recalling any number of gialli, but, upon closer scrutiny, it displays many more characteristics to that of a poliziesco.  As the increasingly frustrated commissario (“It’s your methods I disagree with!”), Claudio Cassinelli is determined to solve the case, but is saddled with issues which are emblematic of virtually all other Italocrime efforts as he receives “pressure from the ministry” or even from the press, the latter of which he at one point uses to his advantage. Considering the bleak subject matter, the cynical conclusion is also indicative of the genre, which involves “names that can’t be touched”, an aspect which draws still more attention to, not only the corrupt bureaucrats of the time (or pretty much any other time, too), but of an entire country poised on the brink of implosion.  Featuring all the usual genre tropes – including an extended car-and-motorcycle chase – the film is at its most-effective (and chillingly disturbing, even to this day) whilst Silvestri and Stori listen to graphic reel-to-reel audio tapes of the girls consorting with their so-called “johns”.  Depicted utilizing deep-focus in a single long static shot showing the tape reels spinning in the foreground while Cassinelli and Ralli are seen standing in the background, Dallamano lets this scene play-out quietly as their characters react with gradually mounting disgust, exchanging not a single word; all amounting to an extremely powerful and utterly devastating sequence. As is described in “Eternal Melody”, one of the disc’s many extras, Stelvio Cipriani composed the main theme of the film as a sort of “lullaby” – intended to accentuate the “vulnerability” of the female victims – a piece which, after viewing this powerful scene, adds further resonance to Cipriani’s incredible and unforgettable score.  

Elsewhere, the film makes direct references to the gialli with its cleaver-wielding, bike-riding killer, who is presented as an almost unstoppable force, and succeeds on numerous occasions in completely eluding the police.  It’s an interesting character: a faceless fusion of the classic giallo-inspired black-clad killer with a purse-snatching delinquent zipping around on a motorcycle. Yet he too is revealed to not be of any great significance within the plot; merely small-fry among a much larger and far more powerful group of ‘untouchable’ bigger fish.  Although The RED RINGS OF FEAR is a loosely-connected follow-up of sorts (indeed, almost a partial remake, in some respects), the popularity of WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? also spawned an unofficial rip-off a year later; Mario Caiano’s WITHOUT TRACE (a.k.a. CALLING ALL SQUAD CARS, 1975), which not only nicks the underage prostitution ring idea, but also casts Luciana Paluzzi opposite tough-guy commissario Antonio Sabàto. 

In 2016, those ever-reliable perfectionists at Camera Obscura were the first to debut the film on Blu-ray. Labeled number 20 in  their long-running, and indispensable, Italian Genre Collection, this is yet again another high quality release that puts all former versions to shame.  Previous VHS and DVD versions were either incomplete or not presented in their proper aspect ratios, and always appeared rather drab and lifeless, so CO’s Region B disc is a real sight for sore eyes.  Taken from the original Italian camera negative, the film’s presentation is absolutely first-rate without resorting to any unnecessary digital manipulation whatsoever, resulting in a perfectly natural picture.  The DTS-HD Mono 2.0 soundtrack is also available in either Italian, German or English, and all sound very good, but the English one is, in this editor’s humble opinion, the best, and it also preserves much of the English voice-talent like Susan Spafford, Michael Forest, Pat Starke and Tony La Penna, to name a few.  

This 2-disc set – which is spread over one Blu-ray for the main feature and one DVD for additional extras – also includes a number of revealing supplements, which begins with an audio commentary (subtitled in English) from Dr. Marcus Stiglegger, and is this time joined by German filmmaker Dominik Graf, who go on to discuss most of the principal actors in the film, it’s strong connection to the poliziesco genre, plus many other interesting facts.  One of the more bizarre – and certainly eye-opening! – extras on the first disc includes some heretofore-unseen and unused sex footage, including some non-simulated activity; which, in all honesty, wouldn’t really add anything to the film at all, but it’s an interesting extra nonetheless. However, the most significant extra (on disc two), is the aforementioned “Eternal Melody”, a 47-minute interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani, who discusses the bulk of his career, including his humble beginnings as an accomplished pianist (he actually sits in front of his piano and occasionally plays some of his more memorable work herein); his initial meeting with Tomas Milian, which led to his very first score, for the fine spaghetti western The BOUNTY KILLER (a.k.a. The UGLY ONES, 1966); and how he’s inspired and interprets the classical works of Mozart, Debussy or Bach into many of his scores.  Produced by Freak-O-Rama, it’s an amazing overview of the maestro’s career, and makes for a stellar featurette.  Next up, editor Antonio Siciliano discusses his work in “Dallamano’s Touch”, another Freak-O-Rama production, which focuses on his long working relationship with Dallamano following the success of WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO SOLANGE? and his surprise over the additional sex footage, which he is shown during the interview.  As usual, an informative booklet of liner notes with writing from Kai Naumann is also included, while German, English and Italian trailers, as well as a thorough poster/still gallery finish off the extras.  

Following their impressive 2015 Blu-ray of  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?, Arrow Video brings Dallamano’s sequel-of-sorts to Blu-ray in what is the film’s first-ever legitimate home video release in the U.S.A. and Canada. Utilizing the same 2K restoration courtesy of Camera Obscura, the transfer looks identical in terms of PQ, and as revealed above, it's a revelation for anyone that has had to suffer through innumerable bootlegs and so-so releases over the years. In terms of audio, Arrow provides both English and Italian tracks in LPCM mono, and both sound excellent, without any issues whatsoever. Respectively, English SDH subtitles and properly-translated English subtitles are also provided. 

Locandina courtesy of Peter Jilmstad and Steve Fenton.
Thankfully, for anyone without Region B capabilities, Arrow’s Region A Blu-ray carries-over the essential Freak-O-Rama productions “Eternal Melody” and “Dallamano’s Touch,” and it also includes the “Unused Hardcore Footage”, but all-new to this edition is an audio commentary from film historian and author Troy Howarth, who goes on to discuss many of the film’s merits and how it straddles the line between the giallo film and the then-burgeoning poliziotteschi, which at the time were beginning to gain in popularity at the Italian box office. He goes on to discuss many of the film’s excellent performances, which are given (quote) “more depth” than usual and how Cassinelli (quotes) “anchors” the film, and just what a (quote) “remarkably well-made movie” it is, which makes some of the film’s more exploitable moments that much more (quote) “unsettling”. Of course, he also goes on to discuss the film’s (quote) “dynamic sounding music”, which remains one of Cipriani’s best scores, even though much of it is nicked from earlier films, such as RANSOM! THE POLICE ARE WATCHING; it’s a great, easy listen full of interesting details, and well worth your time. Also new to this edition is Master & Slave – Power, Corruption and Decadence in the Cinema of Massimo Dallamano (19m44s), an audio essay from author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique magazine, Kat Ellinger. In it, she discusses Dallamano’s career at length and how he was (quote) “a director who was driven as an auteur and a pusher of boundaries”, which includes numerous clips, trailers and stills from just about his entire career with an emphasis on both SOLANGE and DAUGHTERS and the (quote) “tumultuous cultural climate” they were made in. It’s another wonderful supplement that will make you want to explore Dallamano’s career with a far keener eye; he was far from merely a work-for-hire director. Rounding-out the extras is the film’s English-language credit sequence, a poster/still gallery and the film’s Italian-language trailer (with English subtitles). In the first pressing, a 23-page booklet includes a well-researched – and nicely-illustrated – essay from Michael Mackenzie, and, of course, Arrow Video also provide a reversible sleeve, including original eye-popping art from Adam Rabalais. Both the Camera Obscura and Arrow Video editions are available to order from DiabolikDVD, while Canadian readers can order the Arrow Video Blu-ray domestically from Suspect Video. Whichever edition you choose, both are absolutely stellar, and a must-own!

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