What Have You Done To Solange? Review
Released in 1972 as a joint Italian-German production, Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange? sought to capitalise on the popularity on the one hand of the Italian Giallo sub-genre and on the other the German Krimi thrillers which traded heavily on (often tenuous) associations with Edgar Wallace whose crime fiction had undergone a revival in post-war West Germany. Nominally claiming Wallace’s The Clue of the New Pin as its source and set in London, Solange’s plot focuses on the lives of the teachers and pupils at a Catholic school for girls in the wake of the brutal murder of a student.
Conforming to the expectations of the giallo form, the riverbank murder is witnessed, initially unwittingly and obliquely as a half-seen act, by school gym teacher Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi) and Elizabeth (Christine Galbó), one of his teenage students, who are engaged in a romantic tryst whilst boating on the Thames. The circumstances of their involvement – Enrico is not only having an affair with a student but in doing so cheating on his wife and fellow teacher, Herta (Karin Baal) - and the close association of the murdered girl to Elizabeth and her clique of friends, mires the ensuing police investigation under Inspector Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger) in greater intrigue as the secrets and lies are gradually exposed as the body count stacks up.
Within this diabolical stew resides the usual slate of suspicious looking characters – in this case teachers who underneath the respectable veneer of authority figures prove weak and venal characters whose vices range from bitter subservience through duplicity to outright perversion. Indeed within the main story runs a perplexing and dubious subplot where the cold, chastened figure of Herta, bizarrely rediscovers her femininity, rekindles her relationship with Enrico and positively flowers as the schoolgirl deaths increase and the mystery deepens.
Set against the relatively slow pacing of Solange this might not necessarily represent as unlikely a diegetic device as it might otherwise, however Dallamano’s film tends to view women from an often aggressively subjective masculine perspective. This is arguably unsurprising due to the nature of the plot and given the genre expectations a certain amount of titillation is customary. However the handling of the matter of female nudity is often protracted and leering, the most graphic examples of which prove to be in the service of yet another red herring. In this regard it feels largely prurient and gratuitous, especially given a context where the camera’s lens effectively preys upon teenage girls (albeit played by actresses clearly older than the characters they portray).
Nonetheless, regardless of any moralistic handwringing on my part, Solange remains an effective genre outing. Given the leisurely pace, the shifts in audience/protagonist identification and the malign tensions that exist between the adults and their close-knit, conspiratorial adolescent wards, Solange is elevated above the run-of-the-mill. Allied to the fact that the significance of the film’s titular figure only becomes clear very late in proceedings, Solange endures and is more memorable than many other contemporary offerings – as Alan Jones suggests in commentary - as much for its efforts to confound genre expectations as to conform to them.
Presented in its OAR of 2.35:1, this new 2k restoration offers up a presentation of Solange that to my knowledge comfortably surpasses any previous offerings on home video. Regardless it stands well on its own merits and represents a very strong presentation.
Two audio options are available: DTS-HD Master Audio mono 1.0 in English and Italian. Both do a sound job of handling dialogue and Ennio Morricone’s score. English SDH subtitles and English subtitles on the Italian language version are also available.
Audio commentary with Alan Jones and Kim Newman
From the outset Newman sets himself up as the junior partner and then proceeds to more than punch his weight in a commentary that covers the film from every conceivable angle with literally no pauses or lulls. Consistently informative and frequently light-hearted, Jones and Newman bounce off each other amiably, offering up an endless supply of insights on all aspects of the film and the genre, and the odd ribald comment in response to the film’s more lurid moments. And as if to raise the commentary bar even higher Jones, spying a recurring piece of Giallo-specific product placement in one scene, interrupts proceedings to present fellow film memorabilia enthusiast Newman with a J&B whisky ice jug. Priceless.
What Have You Done to Decency? (13:38)
From this new interview with actress Karin Baal I’m guessing that what she appreciates about the whole production you could probably fit on the back of a postage stamp. Ripping into various aspects of the film which she at one point equates with pornography, Ms. Baal takes issue with Dallamano’s handling of some of the female cast especially around issues of nudity; provides less than fond memories of co-star Fabio Testi in relation to his supposed attitude towards her and a lack of professionalism regarding his preparation and learning his lines; and declaring the film ‘boring’ before highlighting a number of perceived mistakes and continuity errors. Throughout the interview Ms. Baal does admittedly seem to be enjoying herself to some extent and it is interesting to note that despite any misgivings she is still happy to sign publicity material relating to the film!
First Action Hero (21:17)
By contrast Fabio Testi’s archive interview from 2006 is a far blander affair as he talks about his work, starting from his days as a stuntman and a varied career working with numerous directors and cinematographers. The most interesting part of the interview, with Ms Baal’s comments still ringing in our ears, is Testi’s recollections about the need to film Solange in English with an international market in mind. At this point he describes the painstaking process of lip-synching in English and the extensive work that he did with the voice coach, in stark contrast to his co-star’s assertions.
Old School Producer (11:02)
Producer Fulvio Lucisano discusses his involvement on the film and the changing nature of producing now versus then. He gives his thoughts on cast and crew, dealing with agents and international casts, moral and censorship issues, and fondly recounts a meeting with film director and Solange fan, Quentin Tarantino.
Innocence Lost (29:00)
A visual essay by Michael McKenzie in which he considers the themes with Solange and its two ‘Schoolgirls in Peril’ semi-sequels, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? and Rings of Fear. In particular whilst McKenzie considers the ‘sleazier’ elements of Solange and finds a suitable counterbalance in the morality that underpins the story in a way that I do not, it was interesting to hear someone else’s take on how the more graphic nudity and sexual content of Solange sits within the overall context of the piece.
Lastly on the disc we have the theatrical trailer which in customary 1970s style gives away far too many plot points and is a better watch after the main feature rather than before.
The package also includes a booklet which was not available for review.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is hard to fault Arrow Video on either the main feature or additional content. Once again, another superb presentation is complemented by a collection of entertaining and informative special features offering plenty for both diehard fans of the Giallo and Krimi subgenres and relative novices wanting to know more.