What Have They Done to Your Daughters Blu-ray Review (originally published 2018)
A teenage girl is found hanging from the rafters of a privately rented attic, pregnant and violated. Hot-headed Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli) and rookie assistant district attorney Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli) are assigned to the case, the scope of which grows substantially when they discover that the dead girl was part of a ring of underage prostitutes whose abusers occupy the highest echelons of Italian society. Meanwhile, a cleaver-wielding, motorcycle-riding killer roars through the streets of Brescia, determined to ensure that those involved take their secret to the grave. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Famed in the Italian filmmaking industry for co-defining the look of spaghetti westerns as cinematographer on Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964; co-credited with cinematographer Federico G. Larraya) and For a Few Dollars More (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965), Massimo Dallamano’s career as lead director was short, sweet, and still underrated. His (non-documentary) debut was an understated (and somewhat generic) western called Banditos (aka: You Die...but I Live, 1967), followed shortly by his first giallo, A Black Veil for Lisa (Italian: La morte non ha sesso, 1968). Because it was made before Argento’s Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo,1970) changed the Italian thriller landscape, Black Veil for Lisa was more of a traditional detective story, rather than a psychosexual murder mystery. Neither film was much of a hit, leading Dallamano to eventually find success with flashy sexploitation exercises – namely Devil in the Flesh (Italian: Le malizie di Venere, 1969), Venus in Furs (Italian: Venere in pelliccia, 1969 – not to be confused with the 1969 Jess Franco movie of the same name), and Dorian Gray (German: Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray, 1970). Eventually, this led Dallamano to dive back into the newly re-minted giallo market with a mournful, thoughtful, and disturbing thriller called What Have You Done to Solange? (Italian: Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?).
Dallamano followed up What Have You Done to Solange? with a couple of acclaimed poliziotteschi (aka: Eurocrime) – Can Anyone be More of a Bastard than Inspector Cliff? (Italian: Si Può Essere più Bastardi dell'Ispettore Cliff?; aka: Super Bitch, 1973) and Colt 38 Special Squad ( Quelli della Calibro 38, 1976) – sexy melodramas, sexy comedies, and a decent straight horror flick called Night Child (aka: The Cursed Medallion, 1975), before settling on a pseudo-follow-up – What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (Italian: La Polizia Chiede Aiuto; aka: The Police Ask for Assistance, 1974). Daughters is not a direct sequel, but does feel like a thematic reaction to Solange, one that dials back on the evocative melodrama in favour of blending the outgoing giallo tradition with the rock ‘em/sock ‘em action of incoming poliziotteschi trends (for the record, there was a third movie in this loosely connected series called Rings of Fear [Italian: Enigma rosso] released in 1978 and directed by Alberto Negrin).
As a former full-time cinematographer, Dallamano’s greatest talents tended to be visual and technical. What Have You Done to Solange? is probably his most accomplished film overall, but he certainly developed his technical talents a bit between it and What Have They Done to Your Daughters?. Good gialli tend to be exercises in style over substance, but the best of them insert substance into the style. What’s interesting about Dallamano’s What? duology is that these movies are unbridled in their exploitative and often cruel content, yet not as notorious as some other particularly graphic gialli by virtue of their gorgeous photography and thoughtful production quality. And, unlike Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci’s similarly artistic body-count movies, the narrative structure is rarely halted for the sake of shock value. Instead, the most unsettling violence occurs between scenes, leaving the protagonists and audience to catch up with these events (in turn, almost all of the gore is post-mortem and sexual assaults are only heard via audio recording after the fact). In this respect, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? often feels less like a giallo/poliziotteschi mash-up and more like the off-screen scenes from a typical, post- Bird with the Crystal Plumage gialli. Following Argento’s film, most of these movies followed a novice detective or pair of detectives that conducted their own, often satirically unprofessional investigation, leaving the serious police work to our imaginations. Noting that the cops’ point-of-view isn’t as glamorous or amusing as that of a typical Argento protagonist is directly tied to be Dallamano’s major themes of corrupted youth, evil men, and the changing moral codes of the modern world (themes it shares with the more conservative and tragic What Have You Done to Solange?).
In the end, the film’s greatest thematic strength – its ambitious attempts to combine the giallo and poliziotteschi genres – can also feel like its greatest weakness. The Eurohorror-approved masked killer set-pieces and Eurocrime-approved motorcycle stunts are well-executed, but they’re wedged between more complementary sequences that are driven by extensive, almost exhausting exposition. The pieces simply don’t fit. That said, Dallamano had already proven his penchant for police-driven gialli way back when he made Black Veil for Lisa (which he co-wrote with Vittoriano Petrilli and Giuseppe Belli), so, if anyone was appropriately groomed for the task, it was him. He and Sanzò also deserve considerable credit for attempting to establish a feminine perspective in the hyper-masculine, often proudly misogynistic realms of the Italian cop movie. Casting Giovanna Ralli as a capable A.D.A., acknowledging the challenges her femininity would pose in a police environment, and not limiting her character as a victim or sexual object are all extremely progressive steps for a poliziotteschi. It doesn’t quite work out (she’s still forced to run and hide from the killer), but it is an interesting footnote, as is the fact that the most violent on-screen murders are almost exclusively committed against men.
Arrow’s Blu-ray marks the first (official) stateside home video availability of the film and the second HD availability in the world, following Camera Obscura’s very expensive German disc. The 2K restoration of the original negative used for this new 2.35:1, 1080p transfer is credited to Camera Obscura, so it’s easy enough to assume that the two discs compliment each other (though I do not have access to both for a direct comparison). Overall, this is a strong transfer with tight details and subtle dynamics. Some viewers may want to grade it a hair below similar Arrow releases, due to the frequency and occasional irregularity of the film grain. While there are a couple of snowy wide-angle shots and minor digital artifacts within these images (i.e. slight noise), I still think everything is mostly in-keeping with the soft, yet ‘contrasty’ look that Dallamano and cinematographer Franco Delli Colli designed. In addition, cases of what appears to be edge enhancement is probably just lens effects. The colors are limited by the plush, gloomy photography, but are consistent, depending on the lighting schemes used. Daylight sequences are warmer and infused with more reds and greens, while indoor and nighttime scenes are cooled by greys, blues, and pinker skin tones.
This disc is fitted with the original mono Italian and English dubs, both in uncompressed LPCM 1.0 sound. As per usual, this, like most other Italian films from the era, was recorded without synced, on-set sound. The international casts were often performing in different languages and all dialogue & effects were added after the fact. Also as per usual, each track has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this case, the English dub is ever so slightly louder than its Italian counterpart, even though the tonal qualities of each track match more closely than expected. Sound effects are the same from track to track and the layering of effects, dialogue, and music is quite close. The Italian track’s advantages lie in its dub performances, which match the on-screen tone better than the often miscast English dub, despite the majority of the cast clearly speaking English on set (note that there are a few moments that are only available in Italian). What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is one of composer Stelvio Cipriani’s better scores, one that blends aspects of his giallo and poliziotteschi compositions and hinges on a fantastic title track earworm that you’ll be humming for weeks after watching the film. The music benefits from the stereo mix heard on soundtrack releases, but isn’t overly compressed in mono, either. The biggest issue in this regard is warbling bass notes.
Commentary with Troy Howarth – Extras begin with this new, Arrow exclusive track from the author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (pub: 2015). Howarth is in typically good form as he delves into its themes, Dallamano’s other films, the careers of the cast & crew, the larger history of the giallo and poliziotteschi genres, and late ‘60s/early ‘70s Italian politics. This track is fact-filled, but far from stuffy, and even occasionally critical of the film itself.
Masters and Slaves: Power, Corruption & Decadence in the Cinema of Massimo Dallamano (19:44, HD) – Kat Ellinger, author/editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine, covers Dallamano’s short career with emphasis on the What? duology (though she dives into every single one of his movies as director, save Colt 38 Special Squad , including clips), the ongoing themes of power and corruption in these movies, and the Italian political and cinematic landscapes that helped to inspire these themes.
English language opening & end titles (3:09, HD)
Camera Obscura produced extras:
Eternal Melody (49:39, HD) – In this extensive, career-spanning interview, composer Stelvio Cipriani discusses everything from his childhood training to pre-film work and method, before eventually talking about his various movie compositions/orchestrations. He also (briefly) demonstrates some of his music on piano.
Dallamano's Touch (22:22, HD) – Editor Antonio Siciliano chats movie by movie about his many collaborations with Dallamano, complete with clips.
Unused hardcore sequences (5:05, HD, no sound) – This sexually explicit footage was shot by Dallamano, but never inserted into any known version of the film, according to Arrow’s notes.
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