For those less inclined, the term Giallo, in the cinematic sense, represents a genre of film that came to prominence in Italy in the 1960’s. Named after the yellow labelling of trashy mystery paperbacks, giallo fims are typified by their recurring themes. They are always murder mysteries, often shot in lurid, dreamlike fashion, and typically see morally-grey men and stunning women fall victim to black-gloved killers. The murders themselves are usually stylised as vulgar, but disturbingly attractive setpieces. The films usually contain convoluted sexual subtext and typically conclude with the unmasking of the perpetrator, usually by some amateur sleuth who has put the pieces together themselves.
What Have You Done to Solange? now available on Blu-Ray from Arrow Video, is a famous example of such a film. Released in 1972, it was part of the peak wave of gialli that swamped Italian cinema during the genre’s heyday. Solange? is the story of a series of brutal murders taking place at St. Mary’s girls school. One of the professors, Enrico Rosseni (Fabio Testi) dons his best sports jacket and postpones his adulterous relationship with a teenage girl (Yup, that’s your protagonist) to unmask the killer.
There is an argument that once you have seen a few giallo movies, you have seen them all, and there is certainly a case to be made for this, but Solange? is one of the better of the genre. Under the eyes of director Massimo Dallamano and genre stalwart Joe D’Amato, the film is luscious and warm, belying the horror within the sun-streaked forests and ornate interiors. Analytically, the film is symbolic of the absolute sadness that comes with the tragedy of lost innocence, and how the starry-eyed dreams of youth are so quickly crushed upon maturity into the adult world.
However, juxtaposed with all this wistful, sighing regretfulness are some horrendously cruel acts of physical abuse and mutilation. Visually, we are spared most of the details, but the psychological terror and implied horror of these moments cuts very deep.
It should also be noted that the film is scored by no less than the legendary Ennio Morricone. In keeping with Solange’s narrative themes, Morricone’s score is at once lovely and tragic, reflecting the ugly events that befall beautiful people.
Though Solange? as a legendary giallo, has seen many releases over the years, Arrow Video have put together a fantastic compilation for their Blu-Ray. The film’s transfer is absolutely stunning, with crystal clear imagery, bright colours and sharp lines. Considering the source material, it is one of Arrow’s finest transfers to date. As usual the disc is packed with features old and new, including a great commentary from critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, and a tidy selection of featurettes and extras.
What Have You Done to Solange? is like the most horrible poem you’ve ever read. It has aesthetically pleasing sights, intriguing characters, and soft, evocative music, but then gut-punches you with sleazy nudity and upsetting scenes of murder and sexual abuse. As such, it certainly isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but fans of the golden age of Italian cinema, and giallo films in general, should definitely pick this up.
Then again, you probably already have, haven’t you?
Film: 4/5 Package: 3/5
Dir: Massimo Dallamano
Scr: Bruno Di Geronimo, Massimo Dallamano
Cast: Fabio Testi, Camille Keaton, Cristina Galbo, Karin Baal
Prd: Fulvio Lucisano, Leo Pescarolo, Horst Wendlandt
DOP: Joe D’Amato
Music: Ennio Morricone
Run time: 103 min
What Have You Done to Solange? is now available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video