FEBRUARY 3, 2015
The title character in What Have You Done To Solange? (this version was titled The School That Couldn't Scream, for the record) doesn't even get mentioned until about 70 minutes into the 100ish minute film, and then it's another 10 or so before you actually see her. Given her importance to the plot and the killer's motivation for offing a half dozen teenaged girls (and one maid, and a dog), you'd think they'd get around to introducing her sooner, but since this is a Giallo, if anything it's kind of generous to let us know what the hell is going on so relatively early. I've seen some where they'd save that sort of information for the final scene (if ever), so while it's still impossible to solve the mystery more than two or three seconds before the heroes, it makes this one of the more coherent and accessible ones I've seen.
And that's hilarious, because the hero is a teacher who is banging one of his students, a fact that almost no one seems particularly concerned or angry about. I can't recall the exact line, but his boss even suggests it's beneficial at one point, saying that he can get the girls to admit certain things to him that they'd hide from the other professors. His wife even knows about it, but while she's understandably angry about it, she gets over it pretty quickly and comforts him after his teenage lover is (rather surprisingly) killed at the halfway point. What a gal! The cop investigating the murders thinks he's a suspect at first, mostly going on the whole "you're sleeping with a teenager" angle since I assume that sort of thing usually ends badly, but before long he's on his side, basically telling others to mind their business when the hero's indiscretions are brought up.
Anyway, it's more procedural mystery than horror; there's a pretty great POV kill scene in there, and the hero's girlfriend (who is a knockout, and was 21 at the time of filming so I can say that all I want) has flashes of the murders, but otherwise it's mostly aftermath - the hero or the cop will figure out that they need to talk to this or that person, and arrive to find them already dead. I guess that's the trade off; director/co-writer Massimo Dallamano opted to tell a coherent story and flesh out his characters, so as a result he doesn't spend much time on nonsense or drawn out kill scenes. It's got the random misogyny and gratuitous nudity you'd expect (including a hilarious bit where the cop says "The girls are under surveillance" and then Dallamano cuts to a peeping tom watching the girls shower), but if you go in expecting Argento-y kill scenes you might leave disappointed.
Luckily it didn't take long for me to realize that wouldn't be the case, and I got into it. The night's first film was a snooze called Death Laid An Egg, which was the slow paced and obnoxiously scored account of a man being set up for murder by his secretary and her lover, and if Solange didn't do it for me I would have just left (that's the nice thing about not being on the HMAD "clock" anymore - I don't have to keep watching something I dislike just to make my daily quota), but even though I was tired I powered through, determined to know who took that gorgeous girl (Cristina Galbó, for the record - she was also in the early proto-slasher The House That Screamed) out of the movie. Of course, I did nod off for a bit of the 3rd act (missing Solange's introduction! She's played by Camille Keaton, by the way - it was her debut), but thankfully a pretty thorough IMDb synopsis and a non-subtitled Youtube clip of the film's 2nd half (if part 1 was there, I didn't see it) filled in the 10 minutes or so that I missed. With the kid and all, I could have very easily have slept through the entire movie, since it didn't start until 9:30 or so (the next night I went to bed at 10, in fact), so I was pretty proud of myself for seeing as much as I did.
And again I chalk that up to a rather straightforward story. I realized the last time I watched Suspiria, where I, as I always do, fell asleep 30 minutes in - the nuttiness and intensity of that first reel or so kind of exhausts me, so when the movie finally pauses to catch its breath I collapse (at the time I compared it to the fact that men tend to fall asleep right after they orgasm). Here, it's more like a good page-turner - our hero is a pretty good detective, and the clues, while occasionally a bit random, are doled out just often enough to keep you engaged. I don't know how likely some of them would be in real life (a major plot point involves the hero quickly discerning that the killer would have one dead girl's Italian book - and then just as quickly locating it in the killer's home near the climax), but in the context of the movie they work just fine.
Apparently Dallamano made a pseudo sequel called What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, which has a new cast of characters but (from what I understand) is set at the same school. I'd like to check it out someday, but first I must see the director's The Night Child, an evil child film that predated The Omen (worth nothing since the actor on the poster resembles Gregory Peck). Doesn't look like he made any other traditional Gialli other than this and Daughters, which is a shame because he seems to be pretty good at making them (unless this is just a fluke). It is one of my great regrets that I didn't see more Gialli during the regular part of the site's run, but that doesn't mean I can't make up for it when time allows - however it's easier when I have a strong reason to check a specific title out, i.e. because I liked something else from the director. Luckily, with the New Bev* drawing heavily from QT's own collection for their programming now, I assume such titles will play more often, and I'll do my best to make time to check them out.
What say you?
* Yes, I went to the Bev. From what I understand, things have been worked out, the source of many of the problems there has been tossed on his/her ass, and Michael Torgan is back working at the theater (though he wasn't there tonight). I still don't particularly care for the fact that they got rid of the digital projector (just today on Twitter, a filmmaker was informing them that a movie the theater was asking to play only exists digitally and thus can't be shown there probably ever), but if Michael's back then I guess things are OK. I still doubt that HMAD screenings will ever return since they have a new approach to midnight stuff now, but at least I can go back and sit in my favorite seat once again. I really missed it.