”Every day we read or hear about brutal things that happen which appear to have no logical explanation. Only a faithful reconstruction of such incidents can bring to light the dramatic and disturbing truth behind them.”
Review Date: February 8, 2006
Released by: Koch Media
Release date: 8/15/2005
Region 2, PAL
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
After receiving an anonymous phone tip, the police break into the attic of an apartment building in an unnamed Italian city. They discover the nude, lifeless body of a teenage girl hanging from a noose. Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf
) and assistant district attorney Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli
) are assigned to the case. An autopsy reveals she was pregnant had engaged in extensive sexual activity before her death. Though it initially appears to be a suicide, the police make a startling discovery while watching film footage from an unrelated political demonstration that turned violent. In the background of the riots the girl – identified as fifteen year-old Sylvia Polvesi – can be seen taking refuge in a building. The footage was shot the day she died, and because of the time and location of the incident it becomes apparent that she must have died somewhere else and her body was taken to the attic. Which means she was murdered. Homicide detective Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli
) is promptly assigned to the case.
Upon visiting the apartment to get his own look, Silvestri spots a man on a nearby rooftop taking photos through the attic windows. The peeping tom, a man named Bruno Paglia (Franco Fabrizi
), is taken into custody, but is soon released due to a lack of evidence. But the pictures from his camera – of Sylvia making love to an unidentified boy – give them the lead in the case that they need. They follow the trail of clues to a private detective hired by Sylvia’s parents who has gone missing. After a little bit of searching they find the man in the trunk of a car, hacked into pieces. Meanwhile, the man’s girlfriend, who has been hospitalized due to a car accident, is attacked by a sinister assailant dressed in black and wielding a meat cleaver, who has broken into her hospital room. She survives and gives the police an audio tape that her boyfriend had hidden in the air vent of her room.
As it turns out, in the course of trailing Sylvia the detective had uncovered evidence that he was using to blackmail someone else, hence resulting in his death. On the audio tape is the evidence – recordings of sexual encounters between teenage girls and adult men. But the most shocking thing the tape reveals is that the girls are operating as part of an organized prostitution ring that specializes in adolescents. Vittoria and Silvestri begin working feverishly to find out who is behind the racket, even as it becomes apparent that their own lives might be in danger from the meat cleaver murderer...
Produced in Italy in 1974, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
is often regarded as sort of a companion feature to 1972’s What Have You Done to Solange?
. Both feature a killer on the loose, both deal with the sexual exploits of adolescent girls and both were directed by the same man, the late Massimo Dallamano. However, while the 1972 film is looked at as one of the great classics of the Italian giallo wave, the 1974 production is less well known and held in lower regard, which is a little bit unfair. As it stands, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
is indeed the weaker of the two films, and in terms of quality it is a few notches below the first production. However, this should not be interpreted too negatively – What Have You Done to Solange?
is such a remarkably well done giallo that to create a thriller that’s even a few notches below it is still an impressive accomplishment.
One very common complaint lodged against What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
is that it does not follow the mode of a conventional giallo thriller, and there is some truth to this. The movie was made at a point in time when the giallo boom of the early 1970’s was starting to lose steam, and the formula set out by such pioneers as Sergio Martino is deviated from here. The meat cleaver wielding killer is not some sadistic psychopath who is slaughtering people for his own perverted reasons, he’s just a hired thug who enjoys his job. His identity isn’t important. In fact, midway through his name is actually revealed. The police are able to identify him fine, and they end up spending most of their time trying to chase him down like they would any other fugitive on the run. The real mystery – with all the usual red herrings included – is really about who is running the prostitution ring. The film therefore also spends a considerable amount of time focusing on the detective and legal work involved. But Dallamano is still able to keep the film flowing smoothly, even if this approach does mean the movie sometimes feels like an episode of Law and Order
, Euro-style. What’s more, the script doesn’t completely ignore traditional horror thrills. There are several sequences in this film that are genuinely frightening on the first viewing, especially an attempted assault on Vittoria in a dark parking garage. There’s also just enough blood and nastiness to remind you of its giallo basis.
The film – unlike What Have You Done to Solange?
– is in fact rather political in nature. Yes, it’s a detective movie and a thriller, but it’s also a bitterly hostile condemnation of the corruption that was prevalent in Italian society at the time (not that things have completely changed - Silvio Berlusconi, the current prime minister of the country, recently made history as the first sitting Italian head of state to be prosecuted in a criminal court). The police and prosecutors know how to do their job and do it well, but in the end their efforts are rendered futile by government officials more concerned with protecting their own skins. The highest government officials are only interested in justice as long as it doesn’t extend too far up the socio-economic ladder. This may be partly why it’s not so well regarded by giallo fans. It does not spend a lot of time concocting elaborate murder set pieces, introducing a confusing number of red herrings or dwelling upon gratuitous nudity and sex. It is a bit too preachy for its own good, taking potshots at not only the Italian government but also at the media and the courts, and criticizing parents for not spending enough time with their teenager daughters, allowing them to get into situations like that of the film.
The filmmaking approach – professional over personal, investigation over intrigue – does not sit well with all fans. The movie tries to have it both ways, in fact. The investigation is still the focal point of the story, but the police and prosecutors are given a personal stake in the outcome. When Vittoria is almost killed by the assassin, it becomes obvious that those responsible for the prostitution ring are not content to simply be hunted down. At the same time, one of the detectives learns that his own daughter has gotten caught up in the sleazy events. Inspector Silvestri risks his career in a daring move to corner the men responsible for the crimes, and when his efforts, though successful, appear to be for naught, it is a personal insult to the risk and hard work of him and everyone else. This mixing of elements works – mostly. But the balance that is struck between the two is an uneasy one.
If you’re a giallo fan, you’ve probably already seen all the classics from the early 70’s – Torso
, Bird With the Crystal Plumage
, All the Colors of the Dark
, etc. – but if you haven’t seen What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
yet then you’re missing out on an entertaining thriller that, while not up to the standards of the best giallos, remains an engrossing one nonetheless.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, this transfer of What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
looks simply gorgeous. The 16x9 enhanced image is beautifully stunning and detailed with excellent, well-balanced colors. Shadow detail is by and large excellent, and, aside from some vertical lines and specks during the opening credits, is almost completely free of any sort of print damage whatsoever. It’s a rare day when you see a transfer of a film this old looking so damn good.
English, Italian and German soundtrack options are available, all in Dolby 2.0 Mono. There are optional German subtitles which translate the entire film, and optional English subtitles which only translate things like newspaper headlines that are written in Italian. Normally I’m not the type of viewer who gets all worked up demanding that Italian horror films be available in Italian with subtitles, if only because so many of them are populated with Angloid cast members who were delivering their lines in English anyways (really, when was the last time you
saw a Dario Argento movie that didn’t have an American or British performer in the lead?). However, in this particular case I would have been thrilled to have full subtitles. There are some foreigners in the cast (most notably American actor Farley Granger as the murdered girl’s father), but by and large the movie is dominated by native Italian actors.
The English audio track itself is a bit above average. The fidelity is somewhat limited and there’s some very slight background noise audible, but it’s not a problem.
Supplements are very light on this release. We get German, Italian and British theatrical trailers, a short still gallery containing nothing but screenshots from the film, and a short booklet of liner notes in German. To tell you the truth, it’s a little bit disappointing.
What Have They Done to Your Daughters?
deserves more fans than it has found so far. It is a good giallo, just not a first rate one like its companion feature. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile viewing experience. With seemingly every giallo under the sun coming out on American DVD, it’s hard to understand why the film hasn’t found a Region 1 release, unless there are copyright complications holding it up. The transfer is gorgeous and the myriad of audio options ensures that this release will be accessible to a wide group of viewers. Though a domestic release is sure to happen eventually, for our readers in Europe purchasing this disc should be a no-brainer.
Movie – B
Image Quality – A-
Sound – B-
Supplements – C
- Running Time – 1 hour 27 minutes
- Rated 18 (German ratings system)
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- German 2.0 Mono
- Italian 2.0 Mono
- English 2.0 Mono
- German subtitles
- Partial English subtitles
- German, Italian and British trailers
- Still gallery
- Liner notes (in German)