Arrow Video: What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) - Reviewed

Cinematographer Massimo Dallamano already made his presence known in Italian cinema as the director of photography for Sergio Leone’s celebrated Clint Eastwood starring spaghetti western classics A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More before reinventing himself as one of the premier purveyors of the giallo subgenre with What Have You Done to Solange?  Followed by two loosely connected “sequels” forming the Scared Schoolgirls giallo trilogy with Dallamano bestowing the directing reins to Alberto Negrin for the third installment, What Have You Done to Solange? remains at the forefront of the top five all time gialli.  Known among exploitation horror fans as the big screen debut of I Spit on Your Grave leading lady Camille Keaton as well as cementing L’important c’est d’aimer actor Fabio Testi as a charismatic leading man in Italian cinema, Dallamano’s sleazy, sadistic and grim psychosexual shock thriller still remains a spiked brass knuckle of a film that has lost none of its iron fist punch almost fifty years later. 

Near the campus grounds of St. Mary’s Catholic College is a serial murderer whose calling card involves leaving sharp butcher knives in the nether regions of his victims.  One day as college professor Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi) fools around with student Elizabeth Seccles (Christina Galbo), the young woman witnesses the culprit in the act of killing with their proximity to the murder throwing their mutual credibility into question.  Soon Elizabeth and Enrico find themselves on the mysterious killer’s hitlist as the proceeding police investigation turns up dead ends as more women are picked off one by one.  The film quickly becomes a race against time as the killer closes in on his next victim while amateur detectives Elizabeth and Enrico try to figure out why he is choosing these particular girls.  Moreover, how does any of this bloodshed relate to a young woman named Solange (Camille Keaton)?

A German-Italian co-production loosely based on Edgar Wallace’s The Clue of the New Pin with Dallamano’s own brand of sexploitation and sadistic extreme violence, What Have You Done to Solange? functions as both a police procedural and an old-fashioned women-in-peril thriller.  Sporting a variety of tense chase sequences, startling outbursts of bloodshed and a grisly form of murder which nearly tops the infamous sadism of Nikkatsu Violent Pink shock fest Assault! Jack the Ripper, Dallamano’s quintessential entry into the giallo subgenre is simultaneously a bumpy ride not for the faint hearted and an impeccably crafted thriller not to be missed by staunch cinephiles eager to check out one of Italian cinema’s high watermarks.

Photographed handsomely by future schlock/porno peddler Joe D’Amato (credited here as Aristide Massaccesi) and prominently featuring a tense and moody Jazzy score by legendary composer Ennio Morricone, this still wickedly savage and uncompromising giallo shocker represents an essential starting point for newcomers to the genre eager to find out just what the whole scene was all about.  Amid the proceedings are, of course, ample amounts of sex and nudity thrown in to tilt the piece towards a tightrope walk between classy genre thriller and unabashed grindhouse sleaze. 

Despite wearing its tawdriness with pride from the moment the opening credits play over a slow-motion montage of schoolgirls bicycling about, What Have You Done to Solange? is among the sharpest and most polished gialli out there and newcomers to the genre will not emerge disappointed.  Word has it in recent years, Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn has been mounting a remake of this genre classic.  While novel in theory and despite having affinity for Refn’s work as it is, my friendly advice would be for moviegoers to seek out and stick with the original which in the years since its inception and release has only grown in stature as one of the finest 1970s thrillers Italy has ever known.

- Andrew Kotwicki