Massimo Dallamano's 1975 giallo, What Have They Done to Solange, takes its influence from the German crime genre known as krimi. German film producers had been adapting the novels of British author Edgar Wallace since the 20's but it was the Danish company, Rialto Film, who acquired exclusive rights to most of Wallace's novels in the early 60's. The original krimis were black and white but Rialto introduced color to the genre and and opted for stylish over substantial reimaginings of the Wallace novels. Rialto ignored the actual narrative of his stories and decided to hone in on the motives behind the murder mysteries. This explains the reason why Dallamano's film doesn't quite connect with Wallace's novel, The Secret of the Green Pin, also known as The Clue of the New Pin or Das Geheimnis der grünen Stecknadel. Solange was released under this title as well in the US and West Germany but the book and film have little in common aside from a few details, most notably the mention of a green stick pin. As the quality of the Rialto films took a nose dive in the late 60's, the company reached out to Italian producers to form four co-production companies to keep their costs low. Thus began one of the initial influences for giallo, aside from the yellow paperbacks where the genre gets its name. Similarly, the krimi films were also an influence on the Italian tough-cop genre know as polizotteschi. Shared traits between the three include uber violence, corruption and the investigation/investigator as a main focal point.
And it's an investigation that is at the center of Solange, centering around the brutal murder of a young girl from a Catholic girls school in London. Enrico Rossini (Fabio Testi) is a married, sleazy-suave teacher at St. Hilda's--having a secret affair with one of his pupils, Elizabeth (Christine Galbo). He becomes the prime suspect in an investigation where the body count is rising and in order to clear his name, he starts his own investigation--uncovering a seedy world of drugs and sex clubs. Rossini becomes obsessed with finding a young girl named Solange (Camille Keaton) who he believes has the answers. Other mysterious players include: an elusive priest, the pervy peeping Tom Mr. Newton (Antonio Casale), a nosey school guard, popular girl Brenda (Claudia Butenuth) and Rossini's jealous wife Herta (Karin Ball).

The story unfolds at a leisurely pace, though sometimes too leisurely for me, and there are big gaps between the blood. If you're looking for nonstop violence, look elsewhere. However, the violence that does occur is well executed and disturbing by nature of its method. The film clearly exploits sex and nudity but also tackles it in a self-critical manner with real sincerity. This gender/sexual dichotomy runs throughout the film aside from its murder sequences; For example, in one scene Inspector Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger) discusses a murder with Rossini and before they talk Herta leaves the room saying something akin to 'This is man talk.' Solange also explores an interesting sociocultural (sexual revolution) angle; Themes of restraint, morality, secrecy and conflict expose the hypocritical nature of the film's key adult players whose lives seem no less lurid than the young women they judge and investigate.

Dallamano started out as a cinematographer on several popular Italian features before starting his career as a Director in the late 60's. Solange remains his most successful work to date. Props to Dallamano for great cinematography courtesy of Joe D'Amato (Aristide Massaccesi) who also has a bit part as a CID officer. Also noteworthy is one of Ennio Morricone's best giallo scores, which combines jazz and complex experimental sounds to create a haunting and sometimes romantic feel. Once again, one of my only major points of contention is with the bad dubbing. I am used to this with gialli, but it warrants mentioning for first time viewers.You hear a mix of British accents from some clearly German actors which is comical but distracting. I will always prefer subtitles over dubbing any day. Overall, Solange is a beautifully realized film with a thoughtful story that attempts to reach further than the black gloved hand often does. Though you may be exasperated by some of the usual trappings, the story is a solid one and can hold its own against the stylish backdrop. Solange is definitely on the list of must see gialli.

categories Features, Reviews, Horror