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Although the 'Giallo' genre officially began with Mario Bava's 'Ragazza
Sapeva Troppo' (aka 'Evil Eye', or 'The Girl Who Knew To Much') in 1963,
continuing with the same director's 'Sei Donne Per L'Assassino' ('Blood
Black Lace', 1964), it wasn't really until the commercial success of Dario
Argento's 1969 debut, 'L'Uccello dalle Piuma di Cristallo' ('The Bird With
the Crystal Plumage') that it really got underway to become a staple of
Italian cinema in the 1970's. The films essentially were bloody thrillers
which the primary thrill was in watching pretty young girls being stalked
and dispatched by anonymous, leather-gloved assassins. Stylistically these
films forced the audience to identify with the killer, featuring lengthily
protracted and elaborately staged sequences of women in terror strung
together by a convoluted whodunnit plot along the lines of those of early
twentieth century British crime-writer Edgar Wallace.
In fact, director Massimo Dallamano's previous film, 'Whatever Happened to Solange?' ('Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?' 1972) was based on an Edgar Wallace novel. The follow-up takes it's cue from the same film by also setting itself within a girl's school, giving us a whole host of young nubiles around which to build the plot. The film opens with a rousing score courtesy of Stelvio Cipriani, a big-band romp through 70's flower-power accompanied by shots of the young girls getting on and off of their boyfriends scooters outside the school gates. This is followed by the discovery by the police of a young girl swinging naked from the rafters of an attic in a nearby deserted house after an anonymous tip off.
As the Italian title 'La Polizia Chiede Aiuto' (The Police Ask For Help) suggests, and what sets this apart from its predecessor and most of the Giallo films of the period, is that a lot of time is devoted to the police's detective work and the milieu of the police themselves as opposed to those of the potential victims, bringing the film more in line with the policier drama than pure 'Giallo'. For the most part the film follows these investigations from suspect to suspect, with each plot point highlighted by a lengthy flashback. A motorcycle chase forms one of the action set-pieces alongside the usual suspense scenes, including a taut sequence in which the female detective (Giovanni Ralli) is stalked by the leather-clad, helmeted killer with a meat cleaver. The gorier pay-offs mainly occur towards the end, once the cleaver has made its initial appearance, but along the way we discover a mutilated body in the back of a car, and the blood spattered bath in which it was dismembered.
If all this sounds rather perfunctory so far, it is the sheer bleakness of the film that distinguishes it. The initial murder is linked to the discovery of a school girl prostitution ring, and this central concept pretty much summarises the whole tone of the film. With a potential political scandal hinted at, and a scene in which the Claudio Casinelli's police investigator lies to the press to buy more time, the general milieu invoked is a corrupt and sordid one, where corruption and vice are masked by the superficially angelic innocence of the girls involved. The deadpan and po-faced narrative includes lengthy scenes of the police listening intently and repeatedly to tapes made of the call-girls' meetings, and graphic post-mortem descriptions of the victims. Salacious tit-bits like these are so deeply engrained within the complex plot that forces one is forced into a particularly bizarre and twisted perspective of the world by the accumulation of such elements.
Director Dallamano was a cinematographer turned director who had worked on a number of spaghetti Westerns in the 60's including Sergio Leone's 'Per un pugno di dollari' ('Fistful of Dollars', 1964). Prior to this he had made a number of films including adaptations of Oscar Wilde's 'Dorian Gray' (1970) and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's 'Venus in Furs' ('Le Malizie de Venere', 1969)
'La Polizia Chiede Aiuto' also sports features an undistinguished supporting role from former Stranger on a Train, Farley Granger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951). It is competently made, fast moving and gripping in places. It's worth checking out, but a maybe a little too serious in both its sleazy theme and its approach to prove a major crowd pleaser.
Second in Dallamano's schoolgirls-getting-killed trilogy, it's not as good as Who's Next? (Solange) but not bad in its own right. The killer is someone who rides a motorino (hey, it is Italy!) and never takes off his/her riding helmet, ala Magnum Force, the 2nd Dirty Harry film. This one's more exciting than scary, as the police hunt down this maniac. He's one of the cooler villains in film history though, because unlike the traditional drag-ass killer, this guy never speaks and just RUNS at you with a machete. He really SPRINTS at top speed, which is actually very scary, especially to a jaded horror buff used to the Michael Myers/Jason/zombie method of ambling on over to their victims, who usually have to trip in order to be caught. And there's one scene involving a light switch that will make you jump out of your undies. Stelvio Cipriani's score is again top-notch (he later reused part of it for Tentacles), the dubbing tolerable.
From the director of the excellent what have you done to Solange, Massimo Dallamano, here is a strange Italian giallo, more a police procedural (an a really lurid tale, a ring of teens used as prostitutes by people in very high places - that was the time, in Italy, when several directors and scripwriters tried their hands on very hot subjects, like this one) than an Argentian thriller (but it is scary enough in a few places and also very gory). It starts with the false suicide of a very young girl, hanged nude under a roof and then proceeds with a lot of cars and bikes chases (the killer is always covered by a motorcycle helmet until the very end - it is possible that the director of Night School took from here the idea of the killer masked with an helmet), almost always running without pauses. Tense and scary enough, good almost till the end (a lot too Dillenger for my tastes).
'What Have They Done To Our Daughters?' is an above average giallo directed by Massimo Dallamano, who was the cinematographer for Leone's spaghetti western classic 'For A Few Dollars More'. It's a kinda sorta sequel to 'What Have They Done To Solange?', which I haven't seen. But I have seen Dallamano's swinging De Sade 'Venus In Furs' and both movies have made me very interested in his work. The story concerns a police investigation into the shocking murder of a teenage girl which uncovers a prostitution ring. It stars Giovanna Ralli who was in another pretty good giallo 'Cold Eyes Of Fear' and Claudio Cassinelli who co-starred in the nunsploitation classic 'Flavia The Heretic'. It's also quite a surprise to see Farley Granger (of Hitchcock's classics 'Rope' and 'Strangers On A Train') in the supporting cast, though his performance is forgettable. Giallo fans will enjoy this one, but if you are new to genre try some Dario Argento (especially 'Tenebre') or Fulci's 'Don't Torture A Duckling' to see some of the best examples of this style of thriller. Still, this is a pretty good movie with some gruesome and sensationalistic touches.
While the original Italian title – THE POLICE ASKS FOR HELP – clearly
pigeonholes this one in the then-popular (and incredibly prolific)
poliziottesco genre, the English title under which it is better known
around the world – WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? – implies a
giallo in the same vein as Dallamano’s best-known film, WHAT HAVE THEY
DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972). In any case, while both elements are
effectively present – a hatchet-wielding murderer is the subject of the
climactic manhunt – the police procedural themes are more prevalent.
The film deals with a teenage suicide which eventually uncovers a child prostitution ring which, as usual, includes not just the petty sleazy oddballs (here personified by Franco Fabrizi) but also high-profile professionals (a celebrated doctor) and high-ranking government officials (a Minister). The cast is surprisingly good for this type of genre effort: Claudio Cassinelli (as the investigating Police Chief), Giovanna Ralli (unusually cast as a female D.A.), Mario Adorf as the policeman who finds the first body and also discovers that his own teenage daughter was once a “victim” of these perverts, the afore-mentioned Fabrizi and Hollywood veteran Farley Granger in a smallish role as the first victim’s father.
As usual for Italian genre movies, the music score is an asset and here it is provided by Stelvio Cipriani whose motif, while simple and repetitive, is extremely effective given that it involves children singing gibberish (and thus commenting on the main theme of the movie itself even through its performers). Alarmingly, the end titles claim that every year in Italy, 8000 teenagers run away from home but only a small percentage returns to the fold – the majority are never found!
A young naked schoolgirl is found hanged in a room locked from the inside, the police suspect suicide, until that is the clues seem to point in the direction of murder. So when the police led by Inspector Silvestri(Claudio Cassinelli) with the assistance of the asst district attorney Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli) realise that they are investigating a teen prostitute ring with some highly influential people involved, they know they are going to have a tough time convicting anyone and sure enough their investigation is dogged with interference and dead ends. Dallamano director of What have they done to Solange? again returns to his schoolgirl in peril themed story and like its predecessor it's a highly controversial topic that is handled professionally and intelligently. Despite its topic, there's very little in the way of visual sleaziness here, the offences against the girls are confined to tape recordings the police have and its from these that they build their case. The film is in fact only half Giallo and plays more like a Poliziotteschi (Italian police procedure film), we only get brief glimpses of the leather clad killer as he tries to cover up his identity by killing those who might be able to give him away. Stelvio Cipriani again provides an excellent score, the film looks good visually, no more than you'd expect from a director who used to ply his trade as a cinematographer, there's also a very memorable chase scene that livens up the film immensely. Claudio Cassinelli and Cortese provide some fine acting in their respective roles, if there is such thing as a high brow Giallo this must surely be it.
If you're into Italian cars of the seventies, this might just be the right flick for you. Apart from that, it's not too bad, including a great opening sequence, a simple but gorgeous score by Stelvio Cipriani, a couple of decent chase scenes (for a real good one, see Fernando di Leo's "La Mala Ordina" or Michele Lupo's "Un Uomo di Rispettare"), plus a leather-clad killer with a butcher's cleaver. Much more poliziotto than giallo, "La polizia chiede aiuto" tries to mask its sensationalism as a "serious topic" which works better than you might think: It's gritty, slow-moving in a good way, pretty tame in terms of sleaze, well-cut and competently directed by former Leone cinematographer Dallamano, who's also responsible for the autumnal flow of the movie. Regrettably, the script works against the director, as in so many poliziotti and giallos of the time, spoiling the movie with a lame, mediocre and flawed ending. The British "Shameless" DVD edition might be uncut, but comes with an awful drone that might haunt you in your sleep. The movie won't.
As is probably obvious by the lurid title, Massimo Dallamano returns to
the same teenagers in peril themes he explored two years earlier in his
giallo What Have You Done to Solange. Only this time around the focus
is more on the police procedure than the blood and sleaze that is
associated with the giallo. What remains the same though is the classy
visual style and the mystery aspect.
The discovery of a young girl hanged in a run-down attic leads the police to an underground prostitution ring. The story lacks the myriad red herrings of the giallo but it retained suspense and mystery well enough to keep me glued on the screen. Dallamano however throws a black-clad killer in the mix and punctuates this police proceedural with a couple of very well done gore scenes (hand decapitation, machete in the head, screwdriver in the belly; take your pick). As a testament to Dallamano's style, the killer is always shot close-up with wide-angle lenses that adds a reality distortion of sorts.
Add to that a sterling score by Cipriani that is equal parts suspenseful and subtle and some well handled action scenes and car chases in the poliziottescho mold (although it lacks the rampant energy of one, so I wouldn't classify it as such) and here you have a movie that is definitely worth the time of ANY fan of 70's Italian crime cinema. I shouldn't forget to mention that the copy I saw had surprisingly good dubbing too.
Rather than featuring an 'everyman' protagonist caught up in a bizarre
mystery, as is often the case with a standard giallo, the central
characters of Massimo Dallamano's 'What Have They Done To Your
Daughters?' are Police Inspector Silvestri and Assistant District
Attorney Vittoria Stori, who are called to the apparent suicide of a
teenage girl which, upon investigation, becomes a murder case. As they
delve further into the victim's life, Silvestri and Stori uncover her
secret life as a teenage prostitute, a shocking discovery that leads to
the discovery of more bodies and which makes them the next targets of
the vicious killer.
This merging of two extremely popular genres of '70s Italian cinemathe 'giallo' and the 'poliziotteschi'is very entertaining whenever it's adhering to the giallo formula or delivering the sleaze, with a decent killer (clad in motor cycle gear and brandishing a huge meat cleaver), teenage nudity, bloody violence, an uncomfortable moment featuring a tape recording of an underage hooker with her 'john', and a very gruesome scene where a victim's dismembered body is reassembled like a jigsaw; sadly, the film is nowhere near as much fun during the police procedural content, which, barring a cool car/motorcycle chase scene, is extremely hum-drum stuff. The finale is also disappointingly weak.
Overall, this flick offers enough good stuff to make it worth a go, but don't expect it to be anywhere near as good as Dallamano's similarly titled 'What Have You Done to Solange?'.
A school-girl is found hung naked in a loft. Initially thought suicide,
it soon becomes clear it was a murder. The discovery leads to a sordid
case involving an underage prostitute ring and bloody mutilation.
What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is pretty much a companion piece to director Massimo Dallamano's other similarly themed film What Have You Done to Solange? Both movies share stories about murder and abuse of school-girls. As a result they both are a little more downbeat than is usual in this category of film, they aren't as graphically violent as other similar movies either, as the bleak story lines are unpleasant enough as they are. Where Solange was a giallo, this film is a hybrid of the giallo and poliziotteschi; for while there is a murder-mystery plot, the emphasis is squarely on the police procedural side of things. To be fair though this is an excellent show-case for both Italian sub-genres. From the poliziotteschi side of things we have a brilliantly shot and pulse-pounding motorcycle chase scene where a leather clad killer is pursued through the streets by police in a high speed chase; alternatively from the giallo side of the coin there is an intensely suspenseful scene set in an underground car-park where the killer stalks the heroine. In other words what makes Dallamano's film so good is that he is so adept at delivering the goods in both sub-genres.
The two leads are very good. Giovanni Ralli (Cold Eyes of Fear) and Claudio Cassinelli (Flavia the Heretic) as both believable and strong in their respective roles as the police in pursuit of the killer. To accompany things nicely is a very good score from Stelvio Cipriani; it accentuates the suspense moments to a significant degree and surely must be one of his best soundtracks. As you may also expect, it's photographed very well too. So stylistically this is a strong feature but what elevates it more is the unexpectedly serious-minded tone and story which also comments on political corruption. Its cynicism and downbeat nature are mediated, however, with more typical gruesome touches such as a man having his hand hacked off and an autopsy scene involving a torso cut into many pieces.
I've got to recommend this one to my fellow Italian genre enthusiasts. It's the best combination of the giallo and poliziotteschi I am aware of. Its mystery is consistently compelling and it's directed with considerable skill. Well worth tracking down.
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