What Have They Done to Your Daughters? Review

Receiving a tip-off from an anonymous caller, Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf) arrives in an abandoned attic and is confronted by the naked corpse of a 15-year-old girl, Silvia Polvesi (Sherry Buchanan), hanged by the neck from a beam. Initially assuming it to be suicide, the case is quickly turned over to homicide when the Assistant District Attorney, Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli), unearths suspicious circumstances involving the deceased girl. The ongoing investigations, headed by Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli), soon draw attention to a ring of teenage prostitutes and their disreputable customers, one of whom, it would seem, is willing to go to great lengths to prevent any of those in the know from talking.

An unofficial follow-up of sorts to his superb What Have You Done to Solange?, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (or, in its original Italian, La Polizia Chiede Aiuto) sees writer/director Massimo Dallamano hopping across genres, trading the amateur sleuthing of the giallo for the procedural structure of the polizia. For a while almost as popular as the giallo in Italy, this curious offshoot of the thriller genre frequently delved into the seedy underbelly of metropolitan Rome. Dallamano's offering is among the most sordid of the lot, covering teenage prostitution, rape, political corruption the loss of innocence in the same unflinching manner as its predecessor, and while What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is ultimately inferior to What Have You Done to Solange?, it has enough qualities of its own to make it a worthwhile watch.


As in Solange, Dallamano's approach to the sordid subject matter is intriguing, and it is sometimes difficult to get an angle on exactly how he feels about it. At times he seems to almost revel in it: while there is nothing as brazenly exploitative as the extended schoolgirl shower sequences of Solange, there is a scene in which one teenage girl, who according to the police is only 15, strips down to her knickers while talking to her mother, which is difficult to reconcile (and Koch Media's decision to use this scene as the basis for the screen captures in the booklet accompanying their DVD is questionable), although I can certainly appreciate that the director's intention here was to highlight her loss of innocence. On another occasion, he adopts a more subtle approach, highlighting the full horror of the damage that has been done to one member of the prostitution ring via dialogue and lingering close-ups of her face, capturing the emotions going through her head as she recounts her ordeal. Likewise, other sequences, like the one immediately following the credits where a horrified Mario Adorf discovers the body of the first victim, lead me to believe that Dallamano was genuinely aware of the sensitivity of the subject matter he was dealing with and was not out to exploit it. The tone is serious throughout and although Dallamano could perhaps be accused of milking the situation, his intentions seem to have been worthy. However, the text-based "scene-setters" that appear at the start and end of the film, declaring in a rather heavy-handed manner the seriousness of the events being depicted, don't really do the film any favours.

That said, for all its nihilistic brutality, Daughters can actually be surprisingly sensitive at times. The fact that Valentini has a daughter of the same age as the murdered girl, about whom he constantly worries and obviously cares a great deal, provides some genuine emotion - the scene in which he breaks down in front of Silvestri is powerfully acted. Furthermore, although her character is not really delved into in any great depth, a handful of exchanges do imply that Vittoria Stori has had a tough life and that the specifics of this case are weighing heavily on her. It is in these low-key moments that Dallamano once again demonstrates the strengths that made Solange one of the best gialli ever made - namely, an ability to go beyond the spectacle and actually consider the effect that the violence has on its victims. A brief look at the body count also reveals that, although the films plot deals with the exploitation of teenage girls, all but one of the seven people that meet their demise are in fact older men.


Daughters may sacrifice the gradual build-up of tension and the lingering sense of dread that was present in Solange in favour of a more action-packed spectacle, but Dallamano shows that he is just as adept when it comes to staging a nail-biting chase sequence. The highlight is undoubtedly one involving the killer, decked out in the traditional black leather of the giallo, making a swift getaway on the back of a motorbike, pursued at dawn through the winding streets of Rome by the police. Another impressive sequence, which has more in common with the usual thrills and chills of the giallo, involves Vittoria being menaced by the killer in the indoor car park of her apartment block. Holding it all together is Stelvio Cipriani's brash and catchy score - surely this film deserves to have an official soundtrack release?

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is ultimately not on the same level as What Have You Done to Solange?. It lacks the subtlety that allows you to return to discover something new each time you see it; it doesn't have anything as hard-hitting as the image of a young woman so completely destroyed by the horrors inflicted upon her that she has regressed to a childlike state; nor does it feature a performance that even comes close to matching what Camille Keaton achieved in Solange. Even so, though, it is a taut, well-paced thriller with excellent action sequences and a great sense of tension.

Note: a third entry in this unofficial "schoolgirls in peril" trilogy, Enigma Rosso/Red Rings of Fear, was completed in 1978 after Dallamano's untimely death in a car crash. Helmed by Alberto Negrin, and with Dallamano credited as one of the writers, it is sadly unavailable on DVD.


Above: R0 UK (Salvation).


Above: R2 Germany (Koch Media).

DVD Presentation

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? was previously released in the UK under the Salvation Films label, with a non-anamorphic transfer suffering from desaturated, almost monochromatic colours and very noticeable artefacting, especially during night scenes. Koch Media's new German release represents a massive improvement in every way, delivering a crisp 2.35:1 anamorphic picture with vivid colours and only a small amount of artefacting. A handful of shots seem a bit less detailed than the rest, but by and large the film is in great shape here and I would urge anyone who owns the Salvation disc to toss it on the rubbish heap and upgrade. For the purposes of comparison, I have included grabs of the same frame from both releases, above.

One thing I should point out is that the Italian opening credits seem to have been reset: there is some background print damage in the first couple of minutes, but the text itself seems to be overlaid on top of the various hairs that are visible. They look pretty authentic either way, and the embossed yellow lettering used is certainly more legible than the tacky-looking white English text on Salvation's release.

Audio-wise, we are served up with three mono tracks: German, Italian and English, the latter of which was the only one present on the Salvation disc. Subtitles are provided in German for the duration of the running time, whereas English subtitles are included only for two brief passages of on-screen text which appear at the beginning and end of the film, in addition to one moment, at around 49:15, where the English audio track drops into Italian for a couple of sentences. Interestingly, on the Redemption disc, this part of the film featured a noticeable splice, suggesting that elements from a different print were inserted. The lines in question were in English on the Redemption release, by the way, although the splice partially cuts into the first line and a few frames appear to have been lost.

Much of the English dub is actually of an excellent standard, with Mario Adorf and Giovanna Ralli's characters both receiving voices that are not only appropriate but also well-acted. Not everyone fares so well, of course, and as usual the younger the character, the worse the voice tends to be. There are also some noticeable lip sync issues, mostly connected with Claudio Cassinelli's character. Overall, though, it's a completely serviceable track, and based on my sampling of the Italian variant, I don't think that much would be gained by watching it in that language. Of course, it would have been nice if full English subtitles had been provided for the entire film, but given that this is a German release this was never likely to have been the case.

The packaging, by the way, is very nicely done, setting this release apart from those of second-rate distributors like X-Rated Kult DVD, who release the same type of films but to a much lower standard. Although the artwork used might not be to your tastes, it's difficult to deny that this is an extremely professionally produced piece of work - a digipack inside a cardboard sleeve, featuring German liner notes from reviewer Christian Kessler and some stills from the film itself.


Extras

Extras, unfortunately, are relatively limited. Trailers are included for German, Italian and British markets, of which the latter two are essentially the same thing with different voice overs. The quality varies, with the Italian version looking the best and the British one looking the worst.

A gallery is also included, featuring some good quality but overly small publicity photos.


Overall

If you previously enjoyed What Have They Done to Your Daughters? on Salvation's now out of print UK DVD, then treasure that release no more, and pick up a copy of this vastly superior new edition from Koch Media. And if you've never seen the film before, do your self a favour - bypass the crummy bootlegs that are doing the rounds on eBay and snatch a copy of Koch's DVD. The film has undoubtedly never looked and sounded better on home video.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
6 out of 10
Extras
2 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

Last updated: 19/04/2018 07:55:09

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