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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (Blu-ray)
What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // Unrated // August 14, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 1, 2018 | E-mail the Author
The film opens with a gaggle of teenaged girls excitedly leaving their school behind for the afternoon. Still clutching their books, they're all smiles as they set out on mopeds and bicycles with their boyfriends, traversing this lovely stretch of Rome to a tune that I can't help but bob my head to. As this montage ends, so too does the joyous childhood innocence it portrays, replaced by a pair of legs in a dingy attic. A handful of police officers, led by Inspector Valenti (The Bird with the Crystal Plumage's Mario Adorf), break open the locked door to discover the corpse of this 14-year-old girl dangling from the rafters. What few effects surround her – schoolbooks, notebooks, a cardigan, a blouse, blue jeans, white nylon panties – offer little indication what could bring someone so young to take her own life.

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She didn't, as quickly becomes evident. Silvia Polvesi (Cheryl Lee Buchanan) – a child born of wealth and privilege, and, astonishingly, soon to have been a mother herself – was murdered. As Assistant D.A. Stori (Giovanna Ralli) and Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli) continue the investigation, they're lead down a trail of grisly murders and sexual exploitation. They're circling around secrets that cannot risk being exposed, and a masked killer with a meat cleaver is hellbent on ensuring that this investigation is cut short.

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What Have You Done to Solange?, the previous installment in Massimo Dallamano's 'Schoolgirls in Peril' trilogy, revolved around an amateur sleuth conducting his own investigation and steamrolling over the authorities at most every turn. What Have They Done to Your Daughters? dispenses with that familiar giallo trope altogether, instead placing an assistant district attorney and a seasoned inspector in the driver's seat. Given that its focus is primarily placed on the investigation, it follows then that the film owes more to poliziotteschi than gialli: complete with an epic car chase down the streets of Rome and the discovery of corruption in the highest reaches of power. Although the killer with the black leather gloves you've come to expect is indeed present, he doesn't make his first appearance until more than a half hour in. As many horrifying discoveries are made throughout the film, there isn't an onscreen kill until just past the hour mark – admittedly, leading to a lengthy stalk-and-slash sequence in a parking garage that proves to be well-worth the wait. As disturbing and thrilling as What Have They Done to Your Daughters? so often is, those expecting the frenzied pace and parade of visceral murders traditionally associated with gialli may do well to adjust their expectations accordingly.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? benefits from the propulsive camerawork and inventive eye that comes from having an experienced cinematographer in the director's chair. It's peppered with breathtaking shots, alternating between showcasing the beauty of Rome and exposing its seedy underbelly. The film's most gruesome imagery remains shocking these many decades later: the blood-drenched room in which Silvia was murdered, an ill-placed hand cleaved in two, and a victim butchered in the most literal sense:

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The corruption of the innocent as realized by Dallamano is more unsettling than any of his film's overtly graphic imagery: the A.D.A. and inspector listening to a tape of a middle-aged man grooming his young victim and indulging his dark desires...a flashback of a girl as her humanity is drained away, reducing her to an object of pleasure devoid of any autonomy. What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is all the more horrifying because it feels rather rooted in reality, shrugging off the surreal violence and bursts of fantasy that so often spring to mind when I think of gialli. The killer's swipes with the cleaver aren't meant to offer morbid excitement, nor is what little nudity is to be found titillating. It by design is repulsive, condemning the imbalances that allow those in a position of power to prey upon the vulnerable. These challenging, grueling elements are brought to life by a true artist in Dallamano, a skilled cast (including Strangers on a Train's Farley Granger in a small but memorable role), and a screenplay that prefers substance to empty thrills. Highly Recommended.


Video
German boutique label Camera Obscura remastered What Have They Done to Your Daughters? from the original camera negative for their 2016 Blu-ray release, and Arrow Video is utilizing that same 2K master here. Stunning a presentation though this is, it doesn't come as a complete surprise that Arrow didn't oversee the remastering from start to finish. The grain structure of What Have They Done to Your Daughters? doesn't look what I've come to expect from the label:

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This is unusual but hardly ruinous. Unlike the LVR scanner noise debacles of years past, there's plenty of fine detail on display here, and the image is genuinely crisp and well-defined rather than a sheen of CRT noise offering the illusion thereof. As expected from an Arrow release, this texture is reproduced flawlessly, and the film and its extras seize full advantage of the capacity of this BD-50 disc. The scope presentation is immaculate; whatever damage or wear the negative had suffered over these past four decades, it's been expertly addressed. The colors of What Have They Done to Your Daughters? hit the marks I'd hoped for as well, reflecting its premise's bleak, grimy tone while still nicely saturated when the image has ample light to play with. I wouldn't rank this among the uppermost tier of recent Arrow releases, but it's still very nice indeed.


Audio
What Have They Done to Your Daughters? features a pair of monaural LPCM soundtracks: one in Italian and the other in English. As is invariably the case for an Italian production of this vintage, all of the dialogue you're hearing was recorded in post-production, so don't sweat which is the one true language; it all boils down to personal preference. The English track does get a bit of a leg up here, delivered in 24-bit mono while the Italian presentation is limited to 16-bit. I doubt that the Italian track is meaningfully compromised as a result, though.

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After watching the entirety of the film in Italian, I did some A/B comparisons with the English track. The difference in balance can be interesting. The levels aren't quite a match between languages, with the Italian track generally seeming a touch louder than the English recording. There are certainly exceptions, particularly Stelvio Cipriani's earworm of an opening theme, which is significantly higher in the mix on the English language track. I found the Italian audio to be a reasonably pleasant listen throughout, free of any overt flaws despite exhibiting a bit of strain. Bass response is also significantly more pronounced. Despite some persistent sibilance, the English audio sounds cleaner and clearer to my ears. It's also worth noting that the English dialogue remains lightly censored, such as the audio dropping out entirely for a "fuck" in the film's final moments. Why censors would be okay with full-frontal nudity of underage characters but draw the line at a four-letter word, I have no idea.

For anyone who's curious how one track sounds versus the other, I've recorded a quick comparison. These haven't been culled directly from the disc, so don't mistake this as being bit-for-bit identical to what you'll hear on your home theater:

EnglishItalian

No matter which language you opt for, I doubt you'll be disappointed. There are also three English subtitle streams on What Have They Done to Your Daughters?: a translation of the Italian dialogue, captions for the deaf and hard of hearing to accompany the English audio, and a third limited to translations of on-screen Italian text into English. A new audio commentary has also been included.


Extras
Arrow Video has carried over several of the extras from Camera Obscura's Blu-ray release from a couple years back, as well as producing a couple new features of their own:

  • Audio Commentary: Giallo historian Troy Howarth contributes yet another commentary that's equal parts scholarly and infectiously fun. This well-researched track delights in context, be it the filmographies of its cast and crew, the credentials of the actors contributing their voices to the English dub, or charting the history of poliziottesco cinema. Howarth's encyclopediac knowledge of all things Eurocult is matched by his keen, analytical eye, offering thoughtful discussion of the film's visual storytelling and dominant themes. Any commentary with a canonical list of motorcycle-helmet-clad serial killers or gialli's many all-girl schools certainly has my attention. Well worth a listen.

  • Masters and Slaves: Power, Corruption, and Decadence in the Cinema of Massimo Dallamano (20 min.; HD): This aptly-titled video essay by Diabolique Magazine's Kat Ellinger delves into the themes and elements that recur throughout Dallamano's all-too-brief filmography: power dynamics, sexual politics, corruption, decadence, and sadism. Its scope extends beyond the Schoolgirls in Peril trilogy, also encompassing Venus in Furs, Dorian Gray, A Black Veil for Lisa, The End of Innocence, Bandidos, and The Night Child. One central question that Ellinger poses is who, in a given film, are the masters and who are the slaves? She takes care to explore the transformation in Italian society that wrought Dallamano's obsession with corruption and exploitation. Of particular interest is Ellinger comparing and contrasting What Have You Done to Solange? with What Have They Done to Your Daughters?.

  • Eternal Melody (50 min.; HD): Composer Stelvio Cipriani is perched in front of a piano for the entirety of this nearly hour-long interview, frequently adding musical context to his comments. Following a detailed discussion of his introduction to music and career prior to film, Cipriani speaks about composing for The Bounty Killer, The Execution Squad, The Great Kidnapping, The Anonymous Venetian, Killer Cop, and, yes, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?. He discusses his process as a composer, how differently he approaches each genre, how much collaboration is accomplished over the dinner table (where eating is incidental), and the challenges inherent to working with people who understandably lack his same musical frames of reference. As for What Have They Done to Your Daughters? specifically, Cipriani speaks to his initial discomfort, how affecting it was to join his musicians in hearing the score played back against Dallamano's imagery, and what led him towards a children's choir for its opening theme. (And unlike Troy Howarth in his commentary, Cipriani makes no mention of having recycled much of the film's score from The Great Kidnapping.) I greatly enjoyed this interview, especially how Cipriani discusses several of these films beyond his direct involvement.
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  • Dallamano's Touch (22 min.; HD): Prolific editor Antonio Siciliano worked alongside Massimo Dallamano for five of his films, and he speaks at length about their collaborations as well as Dallamano's skill as a director. Among the highlights are overhauling the first part of What Have You Done to Solange? when Dallamano was saddled with a different editor, the director's background as a cinematographer and camera operator informing his visual style, and the precision and lack of superfluous footage that made his films such a joy to edit. Siciliano speaks to What Have They Done to Your Daughters? in particular, such as extending one sequence to ratchet up the tension and why this marked his only time working with composer Stelvio Cipriani. The interview draws to a close with Siciliano reviewing several minutes of hardcore inserts: filmed on one of the same sets seen in What Have They Done to Your Daughters? and discovered alongside its negative. This footage never passed through his hands, but he examines it closely, looking for his friend and collaborator's titular touch.

  • Hardcore Footage (5 min.; HD): The hardcore inserts seen and discussed in Siciliano's interview are presented in full here. The cinematography is voyeuristic, as if a camera had been hidden on a shelf. The imagery ranges from the fairly vanilla – bared breasts, fellatio, sex that could conceivably be simulated – to a dildo-mask, a hand-cranked vibrator, and an old man diving headfirst into a crotchful of whipped cream.

  • English Titles (3 min.; SD): These English opening and closing titles are technically presented in 1080p but are from a washed-out, low resolution source. Their inclusion is certainly appreciated, but it's little wonder that they're presented as an extra rather than branching as part of the film proper.

  • Theatrical Trailer (4 min.; HD): Also included is a full-length Italian trailer.

  • Image Gallery (HD): There are some 35 high resolution images in all: largely poster art and lobby cards from across the globe. The gallery draws to a close with a couple shots of a 7 in. featuring some of Cipriani's music.

As ever, the presentation beyond the disc itself is first-rate as well. The reversible cover features vintage poster art, with the Italian title and white background carrying over to the spine and rear. That continuity is a small touch that makes a significant impression. The first run includes a booklet featuring an essay by giallo scholar Michael Mackenzie, who produced the disc as well. "What Have They Done to Society?" offers an outstanding analysis of the film, from placing it in contexts both sociopolitical and cinematic, how its lamentation of the loss of innocence sets it apart from more exploitative fare, and the sophistication of its storytelling and performances.


The Final Word
Equal parts artful and disturbing, this giallo/poliziottesco hybrid makes its way to Blu-ray in a marvelous special edition courtesy of Arrow Video, complete with several hours of compelling extras and an expectedly terrific presentation. Highly Recommended.
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