Arrow Video answers the question WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? with their Blu-ray/DVD combo release of one of the top tier gialli not helmed by Argento, Fulci or Bava.
London Catholic school St. Mary's sixth-form school gymnastics teacher Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi, FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE) is estranged from his German teacher wife Herta (Karin Baal, THE DEAD EYES OF LONDON) and having a dalliance with eighteen year old student Elizabeth (Cristina Galbo, LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE) but they have yet to consummate their relationship. While making out on a boat floating along the Thames, Enrico thinks Elizabeth's Catholic guilt has her hallucinating or mistaking a scuffle between a girl and a dark figure as a murder until he later hears a radio report of about the body of a woman discovered along the river. Revisiting the crime scene, he is too late to discover much about the victim until he returns to the school where he discovers that it is second-year student Hilda Erickson and that she was murdered by a large knife buried between her legs. A newspaper photograph that reveals Enrico at the crime scene and the discovery of his missing pen a hundred yards from it casts him in a suspicious light with police inspector Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger, THE UNNATURALS) until he reluctantly reveals why he was there and Elizabeth corroborates his story. After another schoolmate Janet (Pilar Castel, BARON BLOOD) is murdered in the same manner, Elizabeth (Argento-style) subconsciously remembers more details of what she saw and identifies the killer's clothing as a priest's cassock. When Elizabeth is subsequently murdered in a PSYCHO-style twist, suspect Enrico and his wife start their own investigation and discover a conspiracy of silence among a clique of sexually-active schoolgirls about the disappearance of a French student named Solange (Camille Keaton, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE).
A production between West Germany's Rialto Film, Fulvio Lucisano's Italian International Film (PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES), and Leonardo Pescarolo's Clodio Cinematografica (Armando Crispino's AUTOPSY), WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? was marketed as a giallo in Italy and as one of the last in the Edgar Wallace krimi series under the title THE SECRET OF THE GREEN PIN (after Wallace's novel "The Clue of the New Pin" even though it had little to do with the source novel) thanks to the presences of series regulars Baal, Fuchsberger and Günther Stoll (THE CASTLE OF FU MANHCU) as a fellow teacher whose sympathetic assessment of Enrico's relationship with Elizabeth makes him as much a suspect as any of the seedier members of the faculty. Well-regarded among giallo fans, SOLANGE is strong stuff relatively early in the giallo cycle with underage sex, abortion, and some killings that are particularly nasty in their aftermath. Balancing out its more prurient aspects are its human elements, from the relationship between Elizabeth and Enrico (simultaneously questionable and sincere), Enrico and his wife, the victims' anguished parents confronted with post-mortem evidence of their underage daughters' sex lives, and the truly tragic figure of Solange who haunts the latter half of the film (culminating in a final shot at once devastating and hopeful).
Although the pacing seems spot-on for giallo fans as the film lingers over the school girls in the showers, running around in Catholic school uniforms, and the like, it may feel drawn out for mystery lovers (with the significance of a couple clues crammed into the third act). The film boasts gorgeous cinematography by Aristide Massaccesi (THE ANTICHRIST) who went onto a prolific career as producer and director (while still working as a cinematographer) as Joe D'Amato with the BLACK EMANUELLE series, the Filmirage productions of the 1980s, and hardcore pornography in the 1990s. Ennio Morricone (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) provides a lyrical main theme with vocals by Edda dell'Orso and accompanies the suspense with more atonal cues (including a bit with drums reminiscent of his score for COLD EYES OF FEAR). The cast also features Claudia Butenuth (CASTLE OF THE CREEPING FLESH) as the ringleader of the schoolgirls and CALIGULA's Giancarlo Badessi as the father of one of the victims. A former cinematographer, Dallamano experimented in a couple genres during his brief directorial career including the western (BANDIDOS), the proto-giallo (A BLACK VEIL FOR LISA), softcore erotica (DORIAN GRAY, ANNIE, VENUS IN FURS), the sex comedy (INNOCENCE AND DESIRE), and crime (SUPER BITCH, COLT 38 SPECIAL SQUAD). The film was the first in an unofficial "schoolgirls in peril" trilogy including Dallamano's WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS? from 1974 and the lesser ENIGMA ROSSO (released stateside direct to video as TRAUMA) from 1978 which was to have been helmed by Dallamano who died in a car crash two years before.
Released by American International as TERROR IN THE WOODS and Hallmark as THE SCHOOL THAT COULDN'T SCREAM, the film first became available stateside on VHS through Sinister Cinema in a letterboxed but somewhat squeezed and cropped transfer bearing the latter title. The first official stateside release came via Shriek Show, boasting a somewhat grainy but improved anamorphic widescreen transfer that would be blown out of the water by Italy's 01 Distribution disc which came from a new HD master created by producer Fulvio Lucisano (along with new transfers of the Italian cuts of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, THE NIGHT CHILD, and what would later become with much re-editing DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE GIRL BOMBS). This disc also had English and Italian audio and subtitle tracks and seemed pretty definitive apart from the lack of extras and damaged end credits that cut off early.
While the Italian disc blew the previous releases out of the water, Arrow's new 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen encode from a new 2K scan of the original camera negative features slivers more picture information on all sides of the frame, better contrast (particularly in the grab-and-run London exteriors), improved textures in the costumes and production design, and superior detail in the close-ups while revealing some of the rough edges of Massacessi's otherwise beautiful photography. Audio options include clean and crisp English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono tracks while English subtitle tracks are available for both. As with Arrow's BLACK CATS release, seamless branching is also used so the viewer may watch the film with English or Italian opening and closing credits.
The film is accompanied by a new audio commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman who puzzle over the London geography of Italian films set there, point out the distinctions between the krimi and the giallo (with the former emphasizing the professional detection while the latter emphasizes the amateur, usually with the suspect cast as detective), the ubiquitous presence in giallo of J&B whiskey, cats, and creepy dolls, and their impressions of the film. They also provide some background information about the possible inspiration for the film in a British tabloid article from the 1950s about a group of sexually-active school girls and their stickpin insignia as well as the depictions of London in the Edgar Wallace series. Baal appears in a new interview (13:38) with little positive to say about the film's content or the Italian cast and crew; but, in outlining the more salacious aspects of the film, she does indirectly highlight the differences between SOLANGE and the Edgar Wallace series entries featuring schoolgirls in jeopardy like THE SINISTER MONK and THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS.
Ported over from the 2006 French Neo Publishing DVD release – which utilized the Italian HD master and packaged like the rest of its series in giallo yellow cases – are a pair of interviews with Testi (21:17) and Lucisano (11:03) with translation. Testi recalls his beginnings as a stuntman to pay for his studies before Demofilo Fidani cast him as the lead in the western AND NOW... MAKE YOUR PEACE WITH GOD (in which he would also perform stunts for several other characters). He discusses his subsequent works and his attempts to choose roles that offered some variety and from both respectable and upcoming filmmakers. His impression of the SOLANGE shoot is more positive than that of Baal's, although some of this may be self-flattery while it may also reflect the difference in German and Italian work ethics on film sets (in which long lunches with alcoholic aperitifs and mouthing dialogue for English post-synchronization might seem lazy). He also discusses his work with Lucio Fulci (FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE and CONTRABAND), Stelvio Massi (SPEED DRIVER and SPEED CROSS), and Enzo G. Castellari (THE BIG RACKET and THE HEROIN BUSTERS). Lucisano discusses how Pescarolo brought him the scenario for SOLANGE and secured West German funding, the London shoot, censorship issues, and the film's reception.
In the visual essay "Innocence Lost" (29:00), Michael Mackenzie discusses the rare deployment of children in gialli as victims in WHO SAW HER DIE? and DON’T TORTURE THE DUCKLING or as reflections of the adult characters' psyche (the killer or otherwise) in films like DEEP RED. He also discusses the trilogy's evolution with WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO OUR DAUGHTERS? as much a giallo as a poliziotteschi (and the differences in tone and style) and ENIGMA ROSSO as a last gasp effort in the ways it rehashes aspects of the prior two without achieving its own coherency. The disc also includes the film's English theatrical trailer (3:05). Not supplied for review are a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by MALLEUS or a booklet featuring brand new writing on the film, illustrated with original still, but the content of the disc itself makes for an immensely satisfying edition of the film. (Eric Cotenas)
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