Sunday, 27 March 2011

Daughter Door Living

What Have They Done To Your Daughters?
(aka La polizia chiede aiuto) Italy 1974
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Shameless Screen Entertainment Region 0

Warning: Slight spoilers as to the final outcome reside in this review.

What Have They Done To Your Daughters? is a police-procedural/giallo cross polination and return to familiar territory by the director Massimo Dallamano who, like his earlier and better known giallo What Have They Done To Solange?, uses the milieu of “organised” schoolgirls to explore themes of sexuality, corruption and exploitation where they hit home the most.

The main protagonists are a likeable but tough policeman named Inspector Silvesttri played by Claudio Cassinelli, taking on a very similar character to the one he plays in Suspected Death of A Minor (reviewed here... indeed, for a little while I thought he was playing the same character but that proves not to be the case) and a new kid on the block, female District Attorney Vittoria Storri, played by Giovanna Ralli. Unlike Suspected Death of a Minor, however, any humour from this one is mostly of the unintentional kind... and fortunately this one doesn’t suffer too much from that.

Not too much to say about this one other than it’s a fairly solid giallo which has a lot better acting than most gialli of the period while also involving elements of the standard Italian cop movies like car chases, foot chases and suspect interrogations. It’s all very solidly handled and there’s even that old chestnut the “dark multi-level car park hide and chase scene” thrown in when the DA finds herself targeted and pursued by the knife weilding, motor-cycle helmeted villain and hiding stealthily behind cars in a sequence that was a lot fresher in its day than it might seem to be nowadays.

The film deals with a ring of schoolgirl prostitution and Silvestri’s investigation goes all guns blazing to try to find out the people in high places who have set up this tawdry entertainment for consenting adults and not always so consenting teenage girls. Things take a turn for the better in the clues department when one of Silvestri’s collegues daughters turns out to be involved but the nearer Silvestri and the DA get to the top, the more they find their investigation somewhat hobbled and by the end of the film they realise that the corruption goes right back to the police department and way beyond.

It’s a curious film in a way because the “giallo killer” of this movie is just a typical henchman for powerful masters who tell him who they want killed next. As such, and this is very much against the standard giallo formula, his identity is not important... he’s just another faceless drone doing his job. I can’t even remember now if the audience ever sees the guy without his helmet on but it really makes little difference if he is exposed... he’s no one worth knowing and there will be no shock revelation about the killer's identity in this movie... and as such, in some ways, the ending is a bit emotionless.

And the ending is another thing about this movie which is just not your typical giallo. For, while the motorcycle killer is killed by police fire at the end, Silvestri, the DA and the father of one of the victimised prostitutes are ordered off of pursuing the case any higher up the corrupt food chain and so in the final scene we have the three of them together and making it pretty clear to the audience that, even though it may lose them their jobs, they’ll pursue this thing to the end. So crime goes unpunished with the possibility of retribution coming sometime later on down the line... but that’s another story (I would guess). Still, this kind of downbeat ending makes for a nice change in pace from the norm and so this movie has to be applauded for taking this path.

There are, however, some sequences in this movie which provide the wrong kind of entertainment in that there is some unintentional humour, especially in what would normally be a very stark opening where a schoolgirl is discovered hanging naked in a flat. Anyone else, I’m sure, would have rigged up a special harness (even in the early seventies) and had a real person play the hanging corpse. But in this opening sequence, a mannequin is used and, unfortunately for the film-makers, it’s actually a really unconvincing one and the more the camera likes to wallow on the face and body of the dead girl, the more unconvincing and risible it becomes. This is unfortunately compounded by the fact that a newspaper article depicting a photograph of aorementioned naked, hanging schoolgirl shows up the terrible automoaton of a stand-in even more... but then again, you have to ask yourself what the press are doing putting a hanged, naked dead body on the front of their newspapers... is that even legal? And no, Mr. Writer, having one of the characters comment on just how shocking it is that the press are putting such stuff in their papers doesn’t really hold water. It wouldn’t happen... period.

I sound a bit like I’m detracting, however, from the really positive things about this movie, like the out of kilter ending I’ve already mentioned and having an editor who knows how to edit action sequences together and give the eye time enough to work out what’s going on (something that seems to be a dead art in action cinema right now).

And I’ve as yet failed to mention the one truly spectacular element of this movie, Stelvio Cipriani’s awesome score which kicks ass on almost every level and which, bafflingly, doesn’t seem to have had a full CD release as yet (at least as far as I can find). Some of the cuts from this movie have ended up on compilation albums over the years and this would explain why two of the pieces of music that make What Have They Done To Your Daughters? such a dynamic listening experience as much as it is a visual experience, wound up in Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s surreal giallo homage Amer (reviewed here).

All in all, this is another solid watch and a definite purchase for all giallo fans from the always excellent Shameless Screen Entertainment label. Watch this movie and take your ears for a spin.

No comments:

Post a Comment