Tuesday, 20 July 2010

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974)

Massimo Dallamano’s What Have They Done to Your Daughters? was a sequel of sorts to his earlier What Have You Done to Solange? although the Italian title, La polizia chiede aiuto , suggests it was not really intended as such.

It does deal with similarly sleazy and controversial subject matter. In this case the discovery of the apparent suicide of a 15-year-old girl leads Inspector Silvestri and Assistant District Attorney Vittoria Stori to a teenage prostitution racket. Their investigation will uncover the involvement of some very powerful people, and this will raise serious doubts as to whether the case will ever reach the courts.

The first pointer that there is something more sinister than meets the eye is the discovery that the girl, Sylvia Polvesi, was in fact murdered. An audio tape contains some vital clues but while the police pursue suspects a meat cleaver-wielding motorcyclists is pursuing the witnesses. And Assistant District Attorney Vittoria Stori finds herself being pursued as well.

It’s an exceptionally well made film. Dallamano had been a cinematographer, working with people like Sergio Leone. As you’d expect from this pedigree his films look superb and his skill in shot composition is never in doubt. And he knows how to shoot an action sequence. I’m not a fan of car chases but the car chase in this movie is imaginative and exciting. The scene in the undercover car park is just as gripping.

The acting is very good. Giovanna Ralli as Vittoria Stori and Claudio Cassinelli as Inspector Silvestri are good and there’s an all-too-brief cameo by the underrated Farley Granger.

Dallamano maintains the dramatic tension very effectively. There’s quite a bit of gore but it’s at least done with style, while there’s less sleaze than you might expect.

So why was I not completely sold on this film? For me the main problem was that we don’t get to know any of the characters well enough to really care what happens to them, and as a mystery thriller it’s a bit too predictable. We’re told that it’s unusual in 1974 for a woman to hold a position as an Assistant DA so we’d like to know more about Vittoria Stori. We’d also like to know more about why Inspector Silvestri is so driven.

I don’t think it qualifies as a giallo even though it deals with sex-related murders. It’s really more of a police procedural. And judged in those terms it’s very competent. It’s entertaining and well-paced, so really its flaws don’t detract in any significant way from the enjoyment of the film. My problem may have been that other Dallamano films I’ve seen such as Venus in Furs and The Secret of Dorian Gray are just so good, so original and so character-driven that my expectations were very very high. Perhaps too high.

The Shameless DVD is what you expect from this company - the movie looks sensational. There’s virtually nothing in the ay of extras, but Shameless’s releases are so ridiculously cheap there’s no reason to complain.

Based on the four Dallamano movies I’ve now seen my conclusion is that he was incapable of making a bad film. My quibbles about this one are fairly minor. Mostly I think he was simply too good a director to be making fairly routine police procedurals, but as police procedurals go this one is stylish and entertaining.


Ninja Dixon said...

Ah, I have to buy it now. I watched a long time ago and I remember I was impressed by it, but after this review I must give it a go again! Next stop Play.com!

venoms5 said...

Nice one, D! This was a good movie. I wrote a review for it, myself, but never got around to posting it. There's a third part to this series entitled ENIGMA ROSSO, but from a different director after Dallamano was killed in a car accident in '76. I haven't seen it.