• La Polizia Chiede Aiuto (What Have They Done To Your Daughters?)



    Released by: Camera Obscura
    Released on: October 2016.
    Director: Massimo Dallamano
    Cast: Giovanna Ralli, Claudio Cassinelli, Mario Adorf, Franco Fabrizi, Farley Granger
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Massimo Dallamano directed this 1974 film as a pseudo follow-up to What Have You Done to Solange?, a picture he’d made two years prior but this film is far less a traditional giallo than the earlier picture. Rather, the film blends giallo elements with the type of action and high-intensity police procedural aspects that were common in the police films popular in Italy at the time. The results are impressive.

    Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf), a cop based out of Rome, gets a phone call from an unnamed informant and based on the information he receives, heads out to investigate. This leads him to an old abandoned attic where he finds the naked corpse of a teenaged girl named Silvia Polvesi (Sherry Buchanan) hung from the rafters. At first, Valentini and the rest of the cops figure this is a clear case of suicide (despite the fact that it was tipped off to the cops by an anonymous caller). Given that Valentini has a daughter about the same age as the victim he just found, he takes this case very seriously. Before long, Vittoria Stori (Giovanna Ralli), the Assistant District Attorney, starts to suspect foul play. She looks into Silvia’s past and finds that there are a few reasons to be suspicious.

    The case is handed over to Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli). As he starts snooping around and connecting the dots surrounding Silvia’s death, he unearths an underground teenage prostitution operation. It would seem that one of the clients serviced by this ring is willing to do whatever it takes to keep those involved from talking, even if that means murder. As the bodies pile up, the cops quickly realize, as they sift through suspect after suspect, that they’re running out of time.

    Despite a few logic gaps and plot devices best described as remarkably coincidental, What Have They Done To Your Daughters? Is a pretty slick thriller, the kind that easily holds your attention thanks to the right mix of style and substance. The film is well paced and the director’s background as a cinematographer ensures that it always looks great. The story does deal in some pretty dark subject matter, more sensitive viewers could very easily be put off by the subject matter and by how underage prostitution is not only dealt with, but displayed throughout certain segments of the film. However, you don’t get the impression that Dallamano is going for titillation here so much as he’s trying to hammer into the viewership the complete disdain that these criminals have for their ‘product.’ The girls were once innocent, but by the time those working things behind the scenes are done with them, that innocence is long gone. This is all played very straight and with a clearly serious intent.

    The story itself does a lot of finger pointing, taking pot shots at the government and its corrupt officials, at an Italian society willing to turn a blind eye to certain disreputable acts and at the police themselves. There’s a lot of social commentary here, it’s thinly veiled and occasionally heavy handed but no less poignant for it. Stelvio Cipriani’s score is excellent and the performances are quite strong across the board. Adorf in particular really shines here, showing some pretty serious range in the picture, particularly when it all becomes more than he’s able to really cope with. Likewise, Claudio Cassinelli steals a few scenes here too. Little details about her character make you wonder just how personally she’s taking this case and why.

    Ultimately if this isn’t quite as good as Solange, it comes damn close. A very worthy follow up made by a talented cast and crew, this is a film that deals in some very unpleasant subject matter – but it does so by providing plenty of food for thought alongside its expertly directed action set pieces and hard edged mystery tropes.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    What Have They Done To Your Daughters? debuts on Blu-ray from Camera Obscura on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded transfer that is framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and it looks fantastic. Taken from a scan of the original negative, the transfer on this disc really blows previous DVD releases out of the water. Detail is fantastic from start to finish and there’s none of that weird scanner noise that occasionally shows up on Italian titles released to Blu-ray. Detail is quite strong and there’s consistently impressive clarity here throughout. There are no problems with any obvious compression artifacts or edge enhancement. Film grain is here, looking nice and natural, but it’s never distracting and there’s very little actual print damage to note. On top of that we get great looking color reproduction, strong black levels and perfect skin tones.

    The audio for the film is presented in your choice of German, Italian and English language DTS-HD Mono options, with removable subtitles available in English and German. Individual preference will come into play in terms of which dub you like the most, but the English track does seem to match the lip movements of the actors more often than not. Regardless, clarity of all three tracks is quite good. Hiss and distortion are never a problem and the levels are properly balanced. The English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read and free of any obvious typographical errors.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring film historians Marcus Stiglegger and Dominik Graf that covers quite a bit of ground. Quite conversational in nature, the two men discuss how this is such an atypical film, blending both elements of giallo cinema and the cop films that were popular in Italy around the same time. They talk up the contributions of the different cast members and make some interesting observations about the performances but also offer some insight into Massimo Dallamano’s career and directing style. There’s also some interesting back and forth that points out how unusually influential the film would seem to have become over the years and Stelvio Cipriani’s fantastic score.

    Also included on the first disc in the set is about five minutes of unused sex footage revolving around a portly, older man (sometimes hiding his face with some sort of Kabuki theater style mask) being taken care of by a gaggle of dark haired ladies. This is fairly strong stuff and you can see why it wasn’t used in the final cut of the movie. English, Italian and German theatrical trailers along with a nice still gallery round out the supplements on disc one.

    Disc two, which is a DVD and not a Blu-ray disc, holds a few other supplements of note, the first of which is the forty-eight minute documentary Eternal Melody. Essentially this is a career spanning interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani who talks about how he sort of fell into the composing business and the film industry after learning music before then going on to share some interesting anecdotes from throughout his career. There’s also some talk about his work specifically for this picture, what he tries to bring to each film he works on and how he ties this into the film’s genre, how he goes about composing and more. Throughout the interview Cipriani plays various cues on his piano – it’s a pretty great piece and a must for anyone with an interesting in Italian genre film soundtracks.

    Also found on the second disc is a twenty-minute interview entitled Dallamano’s Touch. This is a lengthy talk with editor Antonio Siciliano who worked with Dallamano on a few different films including What Have They Done To Your Daughters?. Here he talks about the man’s directing style, what it was like collaborating with him on various projects, the importance of having the right composer onboard when making a film, and how he got into editing and the film business in the first place.

    Both discs fit nicely inside a cardboard fold out tray with plastic disc holders inside. This tray in turn fits inside a nice slip cover – which is how Camera Obscura packages most of their titles. Also included inside the slip is an insert booklet containing two essays in both German and English by Kai Naumann and Andrea Napoli respectively.

    The Final Word:

    What Have They Done To Your Daughters? remains a compelling watch, a tense and surprisingly action-intensive mix of genres that takes us into some decidedly dark territory. Camera Obscura’s Blu-ray release is up to the label’s typically high standards, presenting the film in excellent condition and with some fantastic supplements as well.
    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!