22 September 2014

(1972)

Prior to directing What Have You Done to Solange? - Massimo Dallamano served as cinematographer on such gems as Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965). Dallamano had also helmed the thriller A Black Veil for Lisa in 1968.

But surely this outstanding giallo stands as one of his career highpoints.

Popular enough to spawn a sequel of sorts, What Have They Done to Our Daughters? in 1974, Solange ranks as one of the more poignantly dramatic and beautifully shot giallos of the 1970s.

An Italian-German co-production, Cosa avette fatto a Solange? was released in September 1972.

London. A late Sunday afternoon. Dusk is coming. A beautiful day for lovers...adulterous Professor Henry Rosseni (Fabio Testi) and his young pupil Elizabeth (Cristina Galbo) are kissing in a drifting rowboat. Along the shore, the gleam of a knife can be seen.

Distracted by the intermittent glare, Elizabeth tells Henry she believes they're being watched. Undeterred, Henry presses on with their lovemaking.

But when Elizabeth 'sees' the image of the shining knife stabbing between a woman's legs, she calls an abrupt end to the liaision. Frustrated by the interruption, a disbelieving Henry rows the girl to the shore.

"I saw the flash of a knife," Elizabeth exclaims "and it wasn't my imagination!" Indeed. As they head back to reality, Henry has unknowingly dropped his writing pen among the grasses by the river.

Their lovemaking session aborted, Henry drives Elizabeth back to her bicycle. Watching her mount the bike, Henry admires Elizabeth's beautiful legs. Playfully, he follows in his car alongside her as she rides home.

At home the next morning, Henry is listening to the radio as he readies himself for work. Unexpectedly, he hears the news: the police have discovered a body on the "bank of the Thames."

Henry's wife Herta (Karin Baal) changes the channel to a music station - but not before Henry's dread curiosity is ignited: perhaps Elizabeth's fears were right...

On his way to work, Henry stops and gets a newspaper. No revealing news yet on the murder. So he decides to stop off near the scene of he and Elizabeth's rendezvous the prior day.

Sure enough, Henry sees police investigators combing the area...looking for any clue to the unknown dead girl's assailant.

Observing the crime scene for a few moments, Henry then leaves and moves on to his place of employment: St Mary's Catholic College for Girls.

There, he is greeted at the entrance by the school's guardman, who tells Professor Rosseni that all the faculty are gathered in the office of Headmaster Leach (Rainer Penkert)..along with the police.

Henry heads there directly but is an hour late. He lies and says that his car broke down and he had to wait for a mechanic.

Inspector Barth (Joachim Fuchsberger) of Scotland Yard begins the meeting and is introduced to the faculty of St Mary's College.

Mr. Newton (Antony Vernon), teacher of geometry and history, is first up. Chemistry and natural science instructor Father Webber (Marco Mariani) is next...followed by Mr. Joseph Kane (John Gayford), teacher of history and philosophy.

Then it's on to Herta, Henry's wife - music and German teacher. Herta looks at the ghastly photos and reacts with surprise and shock; "It's a necessary formality," Barth assures her.

Professor Henry Rosseni is next. He examines the photos himself. Horrible photographs of a girl's corpse, with a large knife deeply embedded in her womb...the handle jutting out from between the girl's legs. "Oh my God," Henry whispers.

A last photo reveals the dead girl's face. Henry recognizes the victim as Hilda Erickson, one of the pupils at St Mary's. The inspector confirms Henry's assertion; Hilda's parents reported their daughter missing last evening.

Henry's "informal" relationship with the girls at the school is cited as the reason he's given the task of informing the students of Hilda's vicious murder. Upon relaying the news to a classful of students...one of the girls, Janet (Pilar Castel), breaks out in sobs.

Brenda (Claudia Butenuth) comforts Janet and lets Henry know that she "knew Hilda was killed." Brenda explains that Hilda's mother had called Brenda last evening looking for her daughter, worried because Hilda was not one to stay out late.

The girls ready for confession. But Elizabeth sneaks out and joins Henry outside in his car. He tells her that she had been right - a girl had indeed been found dead.

Now more interested in what Elizabeth thought she had seen, Henry presses her to remember. But Elizabeth cannot recall details, only that she knew it was man. It was no more than a moving shadow in her memory.

When Elizabeth gets nervous and suggests she should go to the police, Henry warns her against it. He needs more time to tell his wife Herta that their marriage is over, that he is in love with Elizabeth.

Henry adds that Elizabeth is in her last year at St Mary's and he himself teaches there. A public scandal could cause problems for both of them. Elizabeth agrees to keep quiet.

At home, Henry's loveless marriage comes to the fore. Herta asks Henry where he was in the morning, telling him that he lied about the car not running. Henry defends his fib.

But Herta tosses the newspaper at him, the front page emblazoned with a photo of Hilda's crime scene. Henry can clearly be seen in the photo, observing the investigation that morning. (Oops!)

Inspector Barth interrogates Henry regarding his appearance in the picture. Henry explains that morbid curiosity drove him to the scene of Hilda's murder.

Barth is suspicious of the professor now; how could Henry have known exactly where the crime had taken place, simply from the radio's breaking news? How could he have gotten there so quickly?

"You're hiding something," Barth tells Henry. When asked where he was yesterday late afternoon, Henry tells the Inspector he was driving around, alone, after having had a fight with his wife.

The discussion with Henry over, Inspector Barth meets with a forensics man on the case. Among the notable clues are a writing pen found at the scene, as well as a small green stick pin.

Barth then meets with Hilda's devastated parents. Mr. and Mrs. Erickson (Giancarlo Badessi and Maria Monti) let the Inspector know that the previous day had been fairly normal in all respects, with Hilda going out in the early evening. They are unsure with whom.

Excusing the dead girl's overwrought mother, Barth shows Hilda's father a terrible sight: the x-ray of his daughter's womb, with the knife still plunged deep inside.

At services for Hilda, all the faculty and students are present. Several girls take communion...among them Hilda's friend Brenda.

Henry calls Elizabeth at home. He has surprised her by taking an apartment for them, where they can meet and carry on their affair. "8 Evelyn Gardens," he tells her, "5th floor, the flat in front of the elevator."

Elizabeth rushes out to meet Henry at their new digs. En route on her bike, Elizabeth notices a black sedan following behind her. When she turns, the car turns with her. But once at the apartment, she loses sight of the vehicle and forgets her worry.

She's met by her lover inside. The phone rings. Someone is calling...wearing black gloves and trembling. The caller hangs up. Henry is nonplussed - it had to be a wrong number, he asserts...since no one yet knows of the lovers' new pad.

In bed with Henry, Elizabeth begins to see images of the knife that killed Hilda. She stops the lovemaking, telling Henry, "The knife, it seems to be meant for me!"

Back at home, Henry and his wife are paid a visit by Inspector Barth. The inspector wants more information from the professor. He plants the writing pen found at the scene of Hilda's murder on Henry's table.

When he can't "find" his own pen, Herta helps out by telling Henry, "There's yours...right there, Henry." Henry is taken aback. Somehow his missing pen has come back to him. Barth lets Henry know an identical pen was found at the murder scene.

Trapped, Henry comes clean to the Inspector. He tells Barth of his meeting on the Thames river that Sunday with a girl - and of the girl having seen flashes of the murder. Henry reveals that his companion was Elizabeth. Hurt and betrayed, Herta eavesdrops from behind the room's book shelves.

Meanwhile, Janet is at home when she receives a phone call. The man says he is Barnaby Edmonds, father of Janet's friend Helen. Helen has lost her Italian book and she has an exam tomorrow.

"May I come by and borrow your Italian book so that Helen may study? I'm near your house," Mr. Edmonds asks Janet. "If you could just come out and bring it to me..." Janet agrees.

She carries the book outside her house and walks towards the parked sedan. Suddenly, the driver door opens and someone reaches out, slaps tape on Janet's mouth and drags her inside the car. The black vehicle speeds off with Janet abducted...

Cut to a rather secluded country home. The black sedan arrives and Janet is pulled from the car and dragged across a field. Stopping, the man rips off her blouse and undergarments, stripping Janet nude. The man pulls out a long knife, similar to the one used to kill Hilda. He readies it to plunge between Janet's legs...

Elizabeth is unable to sleep. She calls Henry at home and asks him to come over. Herta tells her husband to simply go, silently and without explanation.

Henry arrives at Elizabeth's and comforts the girl. She explains she had a nightmare about Hilda's murder. But this time, the details were clearer. She was able to discern someone in a priest's habit.

The next day, the police discover Janet's body in the field. The land's owner, Ruth Holden (Emilia Wolkowich) laments that Janet's murder had to take place on her grounds. Mrs. Holden says she had heard the dog barking but it was not an uncommon occurrence.

At St Mary's, Elizabeth learns of Janet's death and decides it's time to tell what she knows. She finds Professor Bascombe (Gunther Stoll) and explains she may have information about Hilda's murder that may help the case. Soon, the headmaster has convened the faculty to listen to Elizabeth.

She tells them all about the Sunday that Hilda was killed and of seeing a figure dressed as a priest. Would Elizabeth be able to recognize the priest's face if she were to see it again? "Maybe, perhaps," Elizabeth says.

Outside, Henry thanks Elizabeth for not revealing his identity as her companion that day. Elizabeth says goodbye to him and that she'll see him later in the day before she goes down to police headquarters.

Inside the St Mary's showers, someone is watching the girls through a carved peephole. Is it the murderer - or only one of the school's faculty members?

At Elizabeth and Henry's apartment, an intruder wearing black gloves uses a key and enters. Speeding through the flat, the stranger abruptly takes off the melodic instrumental that is playing on the phonograph. Suddenly, a voice calls out, "Henry, love...I'm in here." It's Elizabeth, in the bathtub.

The unannounced guest makes a quick straightaway to the bathroom, where he finds Elizabeth bathing - her back to him. The black gloves seize Elizabeth's head, plunging it below the water's surface. She struggles fiercely, her legs kicking the waters wildly. But soon, she is still...drowned beneath the tub waters.

The killer exits the apartment. Startled by the building's caretaker, the murderer leaves the key in the door's lock and hastily flees the building.

When her body is discovered by Henry, police and reporters flood the scene. Henry is escorted from the building for questioning. Elizabeth's uncle, Colonel Seccles, is sure Henry is his niece's killer.

Down at the station, a lock of Henry's hair is cut in order for forensics to compare to hair found under Elizabeth's fingernails. Meanwhile, the police again investigate the faculty of St Mary's. Henry has told the police his key to Elizabeth's apartment was taken sometime on the afternoon of her murder - from somewhere on St Mary's campus.

Autopsy reports reveal Henry's hair does not match the ones found on Elizabeth. Also conclusive is that Elizabeth was not sexually molested or violated prior to her murder; surprisingly enough, she was still a virgin at the time of her death.

Night falls. The police bring the caretaker of her apartment building down to the station. Based on Elizabeth's remembrances of someone in priest's garments at Hilda's murder scene, a line up of priests is brought in for the caretaker to review.

Unfortunately, the man is distraught and provides little help. However, he recalls the person he saw rushing out of the building had a beard. The police then inquire of Father Webber whether he's seen a priest with a beard anywhere around the campus of St Mary's. The Father insists he has not.

Convinced now that Henry is not the killer, the police release him. He's picked up by Herta, the tension created from Henry's affair with Elizabeth now gone. The couple hesitantly move on.

Back at their flat, a letter from Headmaster Leach awaits Henry, as well as a bag filled with his belongings from St Mary's. Because of the scandals involving him, Henry's been let go from the school.

A quiet calm has descended on the once stormy marriage of Henry and Herta. Henry questions his wife on speaking with Elizabeth just prior to her murder - but Herta tells him she was not courageous enough to confront the girl about the affair. She had merely told the girl to keep up on her homework.

Henry solemnly tells Herta he must find Elizabeth's killer and Herta supports him. "I want to know too, Henry. I'll help you in every way I can," she comforts him.

Back at St Mary's the next day, the girls are nervous about the three recent murders. Inspector Barth asks the girls collectively if any of them have seen a priest with a beard around the school lately.

Yes, one of the girls says...she saw a bearded priest recently acting as the new confessor. She's certain it was not Father Webber, but a new 'priest' entirely.

Did any of the girls make confession to this new priest? Brenda says she has. She also remembers Janet had spoken to this priest as well, during the services for Hilda.

With a newfound confidence, Herta ingratiates herself with the girls, learning that there was a "secret society" of sorts among the girls that included Janet, Hilda and Brenda.

Herta also discovers that Hilda and Janet dated older, university boys on the sly. Herta learns one of the boy's names is Phil Sullivan...so Henry decides to pay the Casanova a visit to see if he can find out anything more about this group of girls.

Henry locates Phil on the waterfront, where the young man is photographing a nude girl. Phil admits he knew Hilda and Janet, that they were "two turned-on chicks, both of them." He also tells Henry he knows Brenda and Helen as well...also one other girl, Elizabeth - "the one who got it the other day."

But he reveals to Henry that Elizabeth didn't really hang out with the other girls. Phil tells Henry that although the girls fooled around sexually with each other, they didn't have sex with boys. "Not after what happened to Solange," Phil confides.

Who is Solange?, Henry asks. Phil can't provide much detail - other than that she was some "half French, turned on, swinging girl" who mysteriously disappeared of late.

Inspector Barth questions St Mary's Father Herbert about the bearded priest that figures so prominently now as a suspect. Is it possible this stranger has entered the confessional and acted as confessor? Father Herbert admits the possibility...but personally doesn't believe it.

At Elizabeth's funeral service, a young boy carries some sort of secret note to Helen, who then passes it on to Brenda. Henry questions Brenda and Helen about this elusive 'Solange,' but the girls say they can't recall anyone by that name.

Herta is more resourceful. She's tracked down three different girls with the first name 'Solange,' but only one fits the description of the girl Henry would like to talk to further: Solange Beauregard. On James Street.

Unbeknownst to the Rossenis, Brenda has ridden by on her bicycle below, stopping to place something in Henry's mailbox.

The next day, Henry decides to seek out this Solange...but a cursory examination of the address Herta had found for the girl reveals that the current tenants do not know of the Beauregards.

One of them tells Henry she can't help him but suggests the real estate agent would have known the previous owners. Returning home, Henry picks up his mail; a small note falls out of his mail bundle, unnoticed.

Upstairs at home, Henry receives an odd, threatening phone call. The caller tells Henry to take a vacation, soon, anywhere in Italy. Otherwise, he won't see 'her' again.

The building doorman finds Brenda's note and gives it to Henry. It says: "Ruth Holden knows everything. She lives at Gerasdorf."

Henry rushes there at once. No one answers when Henry calls out for "Mrs. Holden," so he decides to search around. On the grounds, Henry is shocked to find the body of a dog, the poor thing has been brutally clubbed with a pipe.

But it's the next sight which startles Henry even more...

A little farther along on the ground he discovers Mrs. Holden, dead with a large gash opening on her forehead and a scythe imbedded deeply in her womb. Murdered, just like Hilda and Janet.

Meanwhile, someone is again spying on the girls in the showers at St Mary's. Helen and Brenda are bathing. Clearly, Helen is upset. Perhaps they should go to the police, she thinks. Brenda is emphatic that they must not. They promised never to tell...

After showering, Herta asks Helen and Brenda if they know a 'Ruth Holden,' but Brenda and Helen say no. Inspector Barth presses Brenda on the question.

Wasn't this Ruth Holden once Brenda's childhood housekeeper? Oh yes, Brenda suddenly recalls...but she never knew her as Ruth Holden - merely as "Tata."

Having lunch at the park, Herta and Henry discuss what they've discovered so far. Henry is convinced that all the murders tie back to the dead Ruth Holden - but how? And what does a priest have to do with it?

Did Ruth possibly dress up as a priest, hear the girl's confessions, and then kill them? If so, why? Too many unanswered questions. Herta comforts him - they'll find Solange soon.

Resting at the park, and without warning, Henry feels a pair of eyes on him. He looks up. A young, beautiful girl (Camille Keaton) is peering down at him. Fragile-looking, thin, with large eyes. Child-like.

Suddenly, the girl runs off, giving chase to her nanny who follows behind her. "You want me to have a heart attack?" the nanny exclaims, "Oh, Solange..."

Brenda receives a call at home. The undisclosed caller tells Brenda to come to an amusement park the following afternoon. If she does not, the police will close in on her.

Brenda arrives at the park. Unexpectedly, she sees a recognizable face nearby, riding the carousel. "Don't you remember me...Brenda?" she asks. Seemingly mute, Solange simply stares blankly back at her. Brenda asks Solange to come with her.

Brenda asks Solange why she disappeared. Why hasn't Solange called her? Still no answer from the silent friend. The girls walk quickly through the park adjacent to the amusement center. Inspector Barth has planted plainclothes detectives all around in hopes of finding the 'caller.'

A plainclothes officer sees a black sedan at the far end of the park. At that moment, Helen is looking for Brenda and Solange. But the car is gone. And with it, presumably Brenda and Solange.

At police headquarters, a frustrated Inspector Barth tries to console Brenda's parents. The police are doing everything they can to find the girls. Professor Bascombe arrives to see Barth. His daughter Solange is missing.

The elusive Solange is Bascombe's daughter? Henry inquires. Yes, the Inspector confirms. "Solange is very mentally ill," Barth says, a sort of "infantile regression."

Henry and the inspector pay a visit to Bascombe's residence, where Bascombe points out the forced entry marks on the front door.

Henry and Inspector Barth find little of interest in Solange's room...except a tiny green stick pin. Similar to the one found at the scene of Hilda's murder. Henry peruses one of Solange's books. They leave Bascombe alone to his grief.

Cut to a dark room. Solange sits quietly. Nearby is Brenda, her hands tied down, her mouth taped shut. There is also someone else there. A voice - the same as the caller. He wants to know 'all of it.' A willful black-gloved hand rips the tape from Brenda's mouth.

Slowly, fearfully, Brenda talks. Flashback. She begins by revealing that she herself had known that 'Tata' knew 'all about those things.' She recounts how 'all of us' went to Ruth Holden's house on their bicycles. When they got there, not all the girls were in favor of this 'plan.'

Elizabeth and Hilda, in particular, decided then that it was not a good idea. The two dissenters tried to talk Solange out of it, to let nature take its course. The rest of the girls were firm. Solange had to go through with it. There was no other way out. "What did you do to Solange?" the menacing inquisitor booms....

Brenda continues. The girls took Solange inside Ruth Holden's house, where they placed the girl lying down on Holden's kitchen table. Solange's bare legs are spread apart and Mrs. Holden produces a long, thin needle.

She inserted the needle between Solange's legs and inside her. Solange screamed in deep pain. It's clear now. She had an abortion. A hideous, rough abortion. The truth is out, over.

The faceless killer then confides a little secret of his own. Hilda never revealed anything, he says. She didn't mention any of the other girls. But she had already betrayed herself in the confessional.

On the other hand, Janet spilled nearly everything in the confessional...and also "just before I killed her," the killer states.

On a hunch, Henry and Herta pay a visit to Janet's parents. They are looking for an Italian book. The one Janet was taking to Helen's father the night she was murdered. They can't find it anywhere in Janet's bedroom. "Let's find Inspector Barth," Henry says.

In the meantime, Brenda has been stripped nude by her abductor, her mouth again taped shut. "Now you're the last," the killer tells her...

Henry, Herta and the Inspector arrive at the Bascombe's residence, where Henry breaks the front door open. No one is seemingly inside. Henry rushes over to the book he had been looking at earlier that day, when they visited Solange's distraught father. It's a 2nd form Italian book. "Solange never got to the 2nd form, so why is it here?" Henry asks. It's Janet's book.

Suddenly, a form appears in the doorway. It's Solange. Herta approaches her, asking the girl where her father may be. She doesn't get an answer.

Mr. Bascombe enters. Seeing Solange, he embraces her, relieved at her reappearance. The Inspector wants to speak with Mr. Bascombe privately now, to ask him a few questions. They exit to an adjoining room.

Left alone, Solange motions to Herta to follow her. The first active sign Solange has yet made to anyone since her illness. Herta follows her.

Up the stairs, through a doorway, down an unkempt corridor. Herta's eyes fall upon discarded dark clothing...a priest's clothes. A fake beard and black gloves lie atop the pile.

Herta screams for Inspector Barth, running back down the hallway and leading him to the final clue. Following further down the corridor, Herta and the Inspector find another door. Behind this one is a naked Brenda, still alive.

Downstairs in the Bascombe flat, Henry waits with Solange's father. Disconsolate, Bascombe opens a door, revealing a handgun. Henry sees Bascombe pull the gun out. "No!" Henry cries. And then a gunshot.

Hearing the shot, Inspector Barth and Herta retrace their steps and run back to Bascombe's. There, they find Bascombe has shot himself in the head. Dead.

Why? The clues are all in place now, the Inspector explains. The murdered girls all belonged to a club, each one wearing one of the odd, green stick pins. Solange had also been a member of this secret society...where the girls went to sex parties - orgies.

Unfortunately, Solange had gotten pregnant and, feeling responsible for her, the group of girls decided to take care of the matter themselves. They put Solange through an abortion at the hands of Mrs. Holden, a procedure that left Solange "incurably mad."

Once Solange's father discovered his daughter's horrible odyssey, his path of revenge was clear. One by one, he planned to avenge his daughter by killing her 'friends,' his method of exacting vengeance 'symbolically obvious.'

'Solange was destroyed by a knife...so he would use one himself. The same way.'

What Have You Done to Solange? is easily one of the cleanest, most poignant giallos. It functions both as a drama and a mystery, thanks in no small part to the well-drawn characters and thoughtful plotting. A rare thing for a competent giallo to pull off. It is a wonderful thriller...beautifully realized.

Special mention should go to Ennio Morricone's exceptionally lovely score, which is haunting, lyrical - and complements the action nicely.

Fine performances from all around, most especially Fabio Testi and Karin Baal as the fractuous couple...unwillingly on the same path to find the killer.

The final and sad freeze frame on Camille Keaton's face as the tragic Solange, while she stands over the body of her dead father and the sad music plays...these are sounds and images that will stay with you long after you've seen the film.

Solange is a giallo that makes you *think* and which doesn't leave you scratching your head at its conclusion. It all makes perfect sense. It might even put a lump in your throat.

Also known as The School that Couldn't Scream, as well as Who Killed Solange?

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