Monday, August 8, 2016

Twist the Knife, Slowly: "What Have You Done to Solange?" (1972)

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AC/DC is famous for barking: "If you want blood, you got it." With What Have You Done to Solange?, the thing being offered is exploitation boiled down to the rawest essentials. This giallo masterpiece by director Massimo Dallamano has got everything to make a young boy's mouth water: gobs of fully naked teens, blood, violence, sex, the police, cool-ass professors, and sleek European cars. With a classy soundtrack courtesy of Ennio Morricone, What Have You Done to Solange? is high-and-low to perfection. 

While the film's screenplay is notoriously sloppy (a fault that many Italian films share), the overall plot is simple enough that most viewers can find something juicy to chew on. Loosely based on the Edgar Wallace novel The Clue of the New Pin, What Have You Done to Solange? chronicles a string of murders set against the backdrop of an all-girls Catholic school in London. The victims are all young and attractive. They are also wild, being full of post-60s ideas about free love and free-dumb. An especially "hip" coterie like to swing sex parties with older boys. They can be identified by their group's emblem--a small, green-tipped needle. 



While the women behave badly, the men are not much better. The main male, Italian professor and gymnastics teacher Enrico Rosseni (played by Fabio Testi), is neck-deep in a relationship with one of his students. The young girl, Elizabeth (played by Cristina Galbo), is slightly afraid of sex, but that doesn't stop Rosseni from pushing the envelope. In fact, early on in the film, Rosseni manages to get to at least second base before Elizabeth witnesses the film's first murder.

There are two major problems with this scenario. First of all, as a former teacher, I can tell you that boning students is a recipe for disaster. Second of all, Rosseni is a married man. His wife, a frosty German named Herta (played by Karin Baal), may be a little distant, but she's no villain. The ice blond ends up forgiving her husband after Elizabeth is murdered, then helps him to investigate the killings. 


As for the murderer, he's your classic giallo killer. He's: 1) a sex maniac of sorts, but equally obsessed with revenge, 2) a fan of black gloves and an all-black wardrobe, and 3) a relatively nondescript individual when he's not slicing and dicing. Like Lucio Fulci's own 1972 giallo, Don't Torture a Duckling, the villain in What Have You Done to Solange? masquerades as a priest in order to earn the trust and confidence of his victims. Similarly, Dallamano's killer is motivated by something that would've triggered most giallo killers: a forced abortion on a loved one. If you want sleaze, you got it, folks. 

What Have You Done to Solange? is a beautiful film pockmarked with horrendous dialogue. It is also a spellbinding mystery that fizzles out with an foreseeable reveal and resolution. While the acting never manages to rise above B-grade, Dallamano's film still manages to be worthwhile watching. Call it so bad that it's good, but the truth is that What Have You Done to Solange? is a reminder why '70s cinema is still so good. You couldn't make this film today (the sheer amount of bush alone would tank it in 2016), and that's okay. We'll always have Italy. 



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