Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Have They Done to Your Daughters?

What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
Original Title: La polizia chiede aiuto
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Poliziotteschi / Giallo, 1974
Italy, 90min
Distributed by: Shameless Screen Entertainment.

Vittoria Stori, a district attorney and Police Inspector Silvestri team up to break a mysterious case concerning a young woman, who at first appeares to have taken her own life. But the autopsy shows foul play and pretty soon their leads bust open up a fiendish ring of teenage prostitution lead by men in high positions of society. And if that wasn’t bad enough, a homicidal maniac appears to be one step in front of them, doing his best to eradicate all the witnesses and sending death threats to Stori trying to force her away from the case…

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is a fine piece of genre cinema from Massimo Dallamano, perhaps best known for his classic Giallo What Have You Done To Solange? Dallamano was a fantastic director who unfortunately made only a dozen movies in his short career as a director, just less than twenty years, before dying in a car crash in 1976. Although in his short time as a director of fine movies, he really did give us some amazing ones and was no stranger to crossing and mixing genres be it Sexploitation flicks, Gialli, Gothic horrors, or his fantastic Poliziotteschi movies. But Dallamano was not only a director of great movies; he actually started his career as respected cinematographer who shot many of the great westerns including the two first Dollars installments for Sergio Leone.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is no exception to his splendid track record. It is a really great movie that has stood the test of time well. In many ways it is so much more satisfying than much of the contemporary movies that I waste valuable time watching.

The movie starts with police officials busting into an apartment only to find a young woman, an apparent suicide, hanged naked from the ceiling. From the start it looks like a routine case, a young woman who took her life after discovering that she was pregnant. (Here’s the reoccurring “illegal abortion” theme previously explored by Dallamano in Solange) But pretty soon the autopsy shows her neck and vertebrae are all bust up wrong for a suicide. She must have been murdered somewhere else and then placed in the attic apartment. Someone has had a hand in her death and the police soon start to piece the bits and pieces of evidence together leading them on a wild goose chase that eventually takes them to the top of the corridors of power. And where many have previously felt that this movie has a sudden lame anti-climactic ending, I feel that it’s quite a fitting ending, especially for being set in the seventies. Year ago there was much respect for the superiors and you never dare to raise a question to those sat with the power. In modern society today we see businessmen and politicians fall from grace each and every day, but back then it wasn’t as common and in some way the nihilistic ending is fitting for the movie. Despite all their hard work they still just can’t get to the real criminals.

What makes What Have They Done to Your Daughters? such an entertaining movie, apart from top notch acting and stunning photography by Franco Delli Colli, is the great combination of Poliziotteschi and Giallo that Dallamano uses throughout the movie. After setting up a conventional Poliziotteschi where clues are searched for, matched and then going after their suspects, gory deaths a fantastic mutilated corpses scene that is really good and definitely one of the best I have seen on screen in ages. No cheap effects here it’s all remarkable stuff. And this combo which started in his previous movie What Have They Done to Solange?, also inspired several other directors to blend the two genres such as Sergio Martino’s excellent The Suspicious Death of a Minor scripted by maestro Ernesto Gastaldi, and Alberto Negrin’s Red Rings of Fear that both play off the underage prostitution Giallo/Polizioteschi angle. Great movies indeed.

After setting up the crime and detective works scenarios, Dallamano throws in a masked, leather wearing killer stalking the district attorney Vittoria Stori [Giovanna Ralli]with a meat cleaver in traditional Giallo style. This gives some of that wonderful stalk and slash sequences that make the Giallo so loveable, and then there is a brilliant car chase sequence that goes on for ages, but feels like a few minutes because it’s so well composed. Inspector Silvestri [Claudio Casinelli] almost has his main suspect within his reach but the killer escapes and takes off on a motorcycle with Silvestri in hot pursuit blasting down small back streets (which is always a joy to see as it probably explains why they always have those damned small cars in Italian Poliziotteschi) before taking to the off road and speeding to safety through a train tunnel. Leaving Silvestri fuming as he once again just by inches misses his man. And this is the way the movie plays out all the way through, Silvestri hot on the heels and just by a fraction missing the suspects as the plot twists and turns towards the finale.

Apart from the great narrative, What have they done to your daughters also has a fantastic score by Stelvio Cipriani, the masterful composer that I feel is easily on par with Morricone's versatillity and tremendous amount of varied genre scores. Featured on several compilation albums the title track to La polizia chiede aiuto is also featured on the great compilation CD The Sound of LOVE + DEATH that can be found as part of the now out of print Luciano Ercoli 3disc box set released by NoSHAME films a few years back. A really fabulous CD that definitely showcases the great music of this equally fantastic composer, Stelvio Cipriani, and has been part of my Cinezilla playlist on my iPod for the last two years. (I have even got my kids singing along to Franco Micalizzi’s title tack to Umberto Lenzi’s Napoli Violenta this summer so the passing on of parental interests is going fine so far.)

What Have They Done to your Daughters? Is a fantastic little gem that engaged me profoundly, as district attorney Stori and Inspector Silvestri try to bust the ring of child molesters. It’s an impressive and solid tale that on several occasions even outshines some of the more known movies of the genre, and I actually feel that this one may even be better than the more know What Have They Done to Solage? Thanks to the guys at Shameless Screen Entertainment it’s finally available on DVD once again and you get the English dub, so no more falling behind trying to keep up with the Italian dialogue with out subtitles of the Mondo Home Entertainment release of 2005 and the early 2000 Redemption release. The only down side to this release is that I would have preferred to have the Italian dialogue with optional English subs, but you can’t get everything you ask for and just a English dub is fine because this is one of hundred of Italian movies that Nick Alexander worked on the dubbing with, which always signifies a decent well worked dialogue.

16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen

English Dialouge, 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo

Trailers for Tonino Valerii’s My Dear Killer, Aldo Lado’s Night Train Murders, Sergio Martino’s Torso, Corrado Farina’s Baba Yaga (which Shamless painstakingly restored to HIS vision of the movie, not the butchered version available previously), Ruggero Deodato’sPhantom of Death , Lucio Fulci’s Black Cat and the theatrical trailer for What Have They Done to Your Daughters?

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