At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?

By • Mar 19th, 2016 •

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BluRay/DVD review by Roy Frumkes

There was an earlier release of this respected exploitation title. You can ditch it now. This one replaces any previous versions.

Alan Jones & Kim Newman are our jaunty commentary track hosts, and Jones rates SOLANGE pretty high on his all time top ten Giallo list, “after the Argento canon,” describing it as an anti-Giallo. Which it is. He emphasizes that the narrative is in no rush, that its clues come to us slowly, that the title is a bit of a red herring, etc. I would agree, but I would add to all that the shocking fact that the script is both intelligent and fairly logical, which is more than you can say for any of the Argentos.

Jones loves the opening, with its romantic tryst down the Thames in a rowboat, two lovers interrupted by the flash of a blade plunging into a vagina. I do not like the opening, though I agree with both Jones & Newman that Ennio Morricone’s lyrical music is extraordinary. This would not be the first time that the maestro’s score has elevated a scene, or even an entire film, from mediocrity to a false level of quality far beyond where it really belongs. (CAMPANEROS, anyone?)

Why am I not overly fond of the opening scene? Because it’s rather lack-lusterly shot…as is the entire film, really — competent, to be sure, but the look never augments the story, is boringly objective, and even in shots that have been interestingly designed, DP D’Amato fulfills their promise in a merely adequate manner. It’s my major gripe with the film, and it definitely isn’t the digital transfer. That’s actually real good. But take a gander at some of Argento’s commensurate visual stuff. It’s hallucinogenically beautiful.

Nonetheless, on a screenplay level the film is surprisingly coherent and human. (The extent to which it strives to be logical would give Argento agita.) Alan & Kim have a jolly good time analyzing the film, and their euphoria is contagious. Alan even interrupts one of Kim’s rants about Krimis-as-Giallos to give him a bottle of J & B Whiskey (which is simultaneously being served in the film). You can actually hear Kim tearing eagerly into the gift-wrapping. (Incidentally, Kim calls them “Giallos,” while Alan calls them “Yallis.”)

The casting for SOLANGE is uniformly good, as is the acting. Karen Baal wins Best of Cast in a severe role, with a satisfying arc. Fabio Testi is earnestly somber as a teacher cheating on his wife with a student, who finds himself inextricably involved in what appear to be a series of brutal sex murders. Baal is his women’s-prison-guard-looking spouse, completely distrusting of him, though wishing it wasn’t so. Joachim Fuchsberger is the police inspector dogging Testi about the case, and the fencing between the two is quite good and often goes differently then where we would expect it to. That’s all to the good. The girls of the school that is being targeted are shrewdly chosen, and they do nudity as well. As the commentators point out, the nudity was more powerful back in ’72, but it still serves to create sudden eddies in the methodical plot that keep our energy levels up.

There’s a terrific twist halfway through which, though used once or twice previously over the decades, really baffles viewers and disallows us the safety of thinking we’ve got the story under hand. All bets are off once this twist hits. And that’s a very good thing. If you’d like a half dozen good Giallo’s for your horror shelf, and you have a few Argento’s already, you should invest in this one. You’ll end up seeing it more than once.

Arrow has collected some impressive supplementals. And I must really insist (a first for me) that you watch the Fabio Testi interview first, which contains nice comments on the making of SOLANGE, then watch the recent interview with Karin Baal as she mercilessly rips the film to shreds. At first it feels like sour grapes on her part, but gradually her intelligence creeps in, accompanied by occasional winks of conspiratorial cynicism with the audience. She’s probably seen it recently, confirming the negative opinions she held forty years ago. And it’s not like she’s on the money and everyone else is wrong. Let’s just say that giallos, exploitative that they are, just aren’t her genre of choice, and she’s able to articulate why. It’s a great deconstruction of the film, and honorably impressive of Arrow to let her have her say, unimpeded by thoughts of how her celluloid assassination might affect BluRay sales. Whether you agree with her assessment or utterly not, you’ll love her interview.

The cover image is tasteful and artistic. For a more lurid poster/cover of the time, simply reverse the sleeve. Included is an informative booklet featuring an in-depth essay about Morricone by Howard Hughes (?), and a bio-piece on Camille (I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) Keaton by US exploitation maven Art Ettinger.

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