In the horror sub-genre known as the giallo, there were many, many films, and naturally a few that, over time, became the standouts, examples of the best the genre had to offer. Some of those include Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Don't Torture a Duckling, Tenbre, and What Have They Done to Solange?
London... Gym teacher Enrico Rossini (Fabio Testi) is having an affair with Elizabeth, one of his students. One day while the two are floating down the river on a romantic boat ride, Elizabeth swears she glimpses a girl being murdered in the woods along the riverbank. It is a sight that proves to be true when, in the woods the following day, a fellow students body is found viciously murdered. Fearing that it will lose him his job and destroy his marriage, Enrico discourages Elizebeth from saying anything, but the police investigation begins to lead to him anyway as circumstantial evidence and his nervousness casts suspicion on him. Soon, Enrico is involved in the investigation, not only to clear his name but for personal reasons. The savage murders continue and the clues begin to point to a group a wild, indulgent schoolgirls, and one mysterious girl, named Solange (Camille Keaton), may be the key to the mystery.
Loosley adapted from an Edgar Wallace novel (so I hear, never read it), What Have They Done to Solange? (1972) perpetuates some of the giallo conventions and clichés while adding a few twists, enough fine direction, and (for its time) controversial violence to make it become one of the genres classics. Forgive me if I tiptoe around the specifics. I'm sure other reviews may not, but I'll preserve some key details. The controversy of Solange came not really because of gore in the violence, but the violence itself, the means by which the killer dispatches the girls. Likewise, while it exploits the same old business seen all too often in gialli and suspense films, a man out to clear his own name, killer on the loose, other things pop up in Solange, unexpected deaths and tricks that somewhat bend the formula. Overall, Solange works because it is well paced, memorable, with decent characterizations and performances, qualified direction, all wrapped in a nice Ennio Morricone score. Sure, it is just a pulp film, but its a good pulp film.
Director Massimo Dallamano's (aka Max Dillman) first real claim to fame was as Sergio Leone's cinematographer on A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, and as a director is best known for Solange, Dorian Gray(the Helmut Berger version), and his giallo follow-up What Have They Done to Our Daughters?. I guess Fabio Testi's breakthrough role was in Vittoio De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi Continis (1971), but 70's Italian exploitation fans will know him best from Sollima's Revolver, Castellari's The Heroin Busters, and Fulci's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of the problems in giallos was wooden male leads. Occasionally there would be an engaging performance like James Franciscus and Karl Malden in Cat O' Nine Tails. Testi, who looks like Sean Connery playing Jesus, falls prey to the being the giallo cypher- just a guy there to hunt the killer and be somewhat suspect. Camille Keaton, though, is who people are likely to remember. Despite her brief and silent (oddly, genetically congruous since her granddad was the one and only Buster Keaton) appearance in Solange, Keaton has real presence. Of course, a few years later, she would become best known as the protagonist in the equally maligned and applauded I Spit on Your Grave.
Pretty much, all gialli have alternate titles a-plenty. Solange is no exception. According to the imdb, they are, Solange, Who Killed Solange?, Who's Next?, The School That Couldn't Scream, The Secret of the Green Pins, and Terror in the Woods.
The DVD: Media Blasters, part of their Shriek Show division.
Picture: Letterboxed. Anamorphic. First, its always nice when such a sub-genre cult film gets a affectionate DVD release. Much like Anchor Bays Giallo collection, I'm Sure MB/Shriek Show did the best they could. Solange shows some evidence of wear and tear, the occasional spot or line, waviness, and scenes that are a bit too grainy, worn. So, it does show its age, but it is more than satisfactory. There is the shimmer of some edge enhancement on background details, like rippling water or tree bark, but it is not too bad or frequent. Maybe someday someone will sit down with one of these prints and restore and remaster it completely. Thats a big- maybe. Until that day, this transfer will more than suffice and fans should be very pleased they can throw out those bootleg vhs.
Sound: English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. Actually its not to bad of a dub. The crew who did it get bonus points for Enrico's Italian accent, keeping his character a believable foreigner among the British. Technically the source audio does have the same old pops and fuzz that one grows accustomed to when they are a fan of the genre. It a fair enough job, one assumes they did the best with what was provided.
Extras: A great little booklet containing a nice rundown of the stars, director, synopsis, and photos --- 16 Chapters--- Trailers for Sweet House of Horrors, Spasmo, House at the Edge of the Park and House of Clocks.--- Art Gallery (5:30). A nice montage of various posters and lobby cards with Morricone's Solange theme accompanying it.
Conclusion: Well, if you are a giallo fan- pick it up. If you are curious- pick it up. All in all, they did a decent job with source material that is usually less than perfect. it is still less than perfect, but more than adequate for the cult film fan.