Friday, 27 March 2009

What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

What Have You Done to Solange? (Cosa avete fatto a Solange?) was written and directed by Massimo Dallamano, who was resoponsible for the surprisingly excellent 1970 movie The Secret of Dorian Gray which I reviewed here a while ago. What Have You Done to Solange? though is a giallo, and giallos are not my favourite genre of cult movie at all. There’s all too often an undercurrent of unpleasantness and an unwholesome relishing of sexual violence against women in this particular genre, and that’s present to some extent in this movie.

On the other hand it has to be said that this is an extremely well-made film, a stylish and tense thriller. It lacks the baroque visual genius of Argento’s better films, but it also lacks the very distasteful quality of Argento at his worst.

Several students at an exclusive Catholic school for girls in London are brutally murdered, and one of the teachers, Enrico Rosseni, finds himself under suspicion due to his somewhat dubious relationship with one of the girls. The explanation of the murders, as in any giallo worth its salt, turns out to be outrageously but ingeniously complicated. It all hinges on the fate of another girl who at first seems entirely unconnected with these violent events.

Joachim Fuchsberger, a veteran German actor who appeared in some of the best of the Edgar Wallace krimis, once again finds himself playing Scotland Yard inspector, although in this case a not noticeably efficient one. It’s left to the teacher Rosseni (played by Fabio Testi) and his wife Herta (Karin Baal) to play amateur detective, a fairly common device in giallos. As always in a giallo the killer could turn out to be just about anybody.

There are mysterious disappearing priests, strange and possibly sinister little cliques among the girls, and all sorts of sexual undercurrents.

The original story idea comes from an Edgar Wallace novel, so although it’s an Italian movie it can in some ways be seen as one of the last of the long and fascinating (and highly entertaining) series of Edgar Wallace “krimis” cranked out by the German film industry from 1959 onwards. These movies were in any case the ancestor of the giallo.

If you enjoy giallos then this is a well-executed example of the genre and certainly worth a look.

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