Heya, Moonies. As you may have noticed I made a few changes to my weekly lineup. Gone are the Sunday Funnies and in it’s place you’ll now find The Grab Bag. I’ve started this segment because I felt that I had given myself precious little wiggle room on what to cover, and some of what I was losing is my original focus on horror. So with The Grab Bag on Sundays, It Came From Video Tape on Mondays, and Terrifying Tuesdays, it will give me more of a chance to cover Horror flicks, but don’t be surprised to find a comedy, musical, or who knows what on Sundays. I just review what The Bag tells me to, and can you blame me that Bag looks crazy. Without further ado, I give you….
What Have You Done To Solange? (1972) starring Fabio Testi, Karin Baal, Cristina Galbo, Joachim Fuschsberger, and Camille Keaton. Directed by Massimo Dallamano.
Enrico Rosseni (Testi), a gym teacher at a Catholic high school in London, is having an affair with Elizabeth (Galbo) right under the nose of his stoic wife Herta (Baal). One afternoon while they are out together, Elizabeth claims to see a murder happen, but Enrico does not believe her until the next day when it is reported on the news. He rushes to the scene and sees it was where they were yesterday. Enrico comes under suspicion when a picture of him at the crime scene turns up in the newspaper. Soon the police and his wife learn of his dalliances.
As other girls begin to turn up dead, the heat is turned up on the teacher, but when Elizabeth becomes a victim and a priest is seen leaving the scene, Enrico is finally cleared. Soon the gym teacher is on the case as well, and clues lead him to learn of a mysterious girl named Solange(Keaton). If he can find out what happened to her, he may learn the identity of the killer. How many more times will the murderer strike before the deadly plot is revealed.
–Camille Keaton is well known to genre fans as Jennifer Hills from I Spit on Your Grave.
–As with most Italian films of the era, the film was shot without sound and all the dialog was dubbed in later. Unlike most of these films this one was shot with the actors speaking English. The looped lines are so well done many people did not know it was dubbed.
–Director Massimo Dallamano was also a successful cinematographer and worked on A Fist Full of Dollars as well as it’s sequel For a Few Dollars More.
The Bug Speaks
As you may have noticed the synopsis of this film gives precious little of the pot of the film. Trust me that is very much by design. The mystery of this film is very well woven and leaves you guessing right up until the very end. The red herrings which seem to be so easily dismissed in other giallo have staying power here. I probably changed my mind on who the killer was at least 5 or 6 times during the film, and I even managed to still end up wrong. (Although my lovely wife did figure it out.)
The performances are good with some little exceptions. Testi is believable as a school teacher that teenage girls might have a crush on, but as he is hurtled headlong into some crazy situations, his reactions are very moderated and not at all what I would expect from a man in his position. When he is cleared of charges and begins to investigate on his own it seems easier to accept his passivity, but when the law is after him and his students are being killed, it seems unlikely that he would not be more tense.
Karin Baal is very good as his wife, but her change from suspicious wife to supportive spouse is also hard to accept. She plays Herta as a very hard German lady until she learns that her husband only made out with his girlfriend, but never sealed the deal. Now, I don’t know about you fellows out there, but even if I got caught hugging a teenage girl, my wife would hang me out to dry and probably keep my cajones in a jar by her bedside. So to watch the sea change that comes over Herta from ice queen to soft (and softly lit) princess is incredible.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, they all seem to do a very good job although they have precious little to do really. I especially liked the performance of Antonio Aneili who played a Jim Kelly Jr. looking photographer, and I almost missed director Joe D’amato (Anthropophagus et al.) in a blink and you miss him cameo.
The real stars of the film are the director and the composer of the score. Dallamano flexes his cinematographer muscle and the movie is better off for it. While he does not have the mastery that might be evident in a Bava film, it is still readily apparent that the flick is being guided in a visual manner. Some the shots are plain stunning, and one particular cut had me running the film back and forward to see how it was accomplished. However it is to be noted that the director did not carry all the weight on his own as Joe D’amato performed as the cinematographer under the name Aristide Massaccesi. As far as the music, it is stunning.
The arrangements by famed composer Ennio Morricone frame the movie very well. There are many very experimental sounding pieces in the film which fit well with both the jarring violence and emotional subtext of the film.
So while the acting could have possibly been improved, the mystery, look, and feel of the film more than make up for it’s faults. I think there will be a certain amount of the modern western audience (probably the Godless heathens among us like myself) who will be surprised at the moral lesson the movie seems to be imparting. However this seems to be more of a product of the times (and possibly religion) than the main thrust of the movie. In the end, even if the moral lesson seems less than worthy, the film is so well constructed and thrilling that it showcases all the best things that giallo can offer. This is one I would highly recommend to anyone seeking to get into these types of films for that very reason.