3 stars

directed by: Massimo Dallamano
starring: Giovanni Ralli, Claudio Cassinelli, Mario Adorf, Franco Fabrizi, Farley Granger, Marina Berti, Paolo Turco, Corrado Gaipa, Micaela Pignatelli, Ferdinando Murolo, Salvatore Puntillo

choice dialogue:

"I'll cut you up into little pieces like I cut up your friend!"

- the killer doesn't mince words

Slash with panache?:

       "Every day we read or hear about things that happen and 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…". That's the somewhat sensationalist quote which hangs over the screen as a group of smartly dressed teenage school girls pour onto a street and ride off on the backs of their boyfriend's scooters; serenaded by Stelvio Cipriani's insanely catchy early 70's "Pah… pah-pah …pah-pah"-ing score. Yep, it's time for some more schoolgirls in peril from the master of the medium- Massimo Dallamano.

      The pleasantries are soon dispensed with when the action abruptly cuts to a door being kicked in, leading to the discovery of the hanging body of a fifteen year old girl in a dingy room. Police Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf) and the newly appointed female assistant public prosecutor, Vittoria Stori (Giovanni Ralli), discuss the unidentified girl's probable suicide. However, after the autopsy, it is discovered that she had had extensive sexual relations on the day of her death and, with Dallamano pulling no punches, Valentini quotes the report detailing that she had "..traces of sperm in the vagina, the anus and the stomach."- she was also pregnant. The girl is identified, after a photograph of the naked body is splashed across the papers, as Silvia Polvesi, by her family's maid- she tells Valentini that she was an uncontrollable wild child whose parents are away in Africa.

      Valentini, who has a teenage daughter the same age as the late Silvia, hands over the case to the homicide department and Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli) when they come to the conclusion that the girl was in fact murdered. It turns out that she had been killed somewhere else and her body set up in the attic room to dupe them into believing it was suicide. Returning to where they found the body Silvestri glimpses a Peeping-Tom with a camera on the building opposite- he is arrested and his photos, which show Silvia in a variety of positions with a young lover, are seized; but he is eventually let go due to lack of evidence. Silvestri tracks down the young man in the photos, Marcello (Paolo Turco), but he has an alibi- so it soon becomes clear that she must have had another lover.

     The police discover where they think Silvia was killed- an apartment which, although the rent is always paid on time, is suspiciously paid by someone who's been dead for three years. Inside they find a mess of dirty sheets (causing Silvestri to bark, "Get these stains analysed!"), pornography and a mirrored ceiling. They also discover the bathroom is almost covered floor to ceiling in blood. Evidently there has been a second victim…

     It's difficult to imagine a mainstream film, like this indeed was, getting made today- even in Italy. Dallamano's salacious mixture of schoolgirls, vice and bloody murder is certain to sit uneasily amongst today's politically correct horrors. Indeed it is a little difficult to stomach sometimes, but in all honesty a little sleaze never hurt anyone- and if anyone could wrap sleaze up as attractively as this it was the Italians.

     Continuing with the themes he started with in 1971's WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? Dallamano fashions a thriller which, whilst gripping, veers somewhat away from the usual formula. By 1974, the crime/police thriller was eclipsing the traditional giallo at the Italian box office and its effects are clear in WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS?, which eschews some of the traditional thrills for, admittedly quite exciting if protracted car/bike chases, and in-depth investigations. That said Dallamano doesn't shy away from those elements that we all know and love. As the police delve deeper and deeper into both the private life of Silvia Polvesi and an emerging ring of school girl prostitution, Vittoria, especially, finds herself in real danger at the hands of a meat cleaver wielding, motorbike helmet wearing, black clad assassin. There is one especially taut scene where Vittoria finds herself stalked in an underground car-park, only to barely escape with her life- the killer's cleaver spinning through the air and imbedding itself in a lift's wall mere inches from her head.

     Dallamano doesn't shy away from the red stuff either- heads quite literally roll, hands are lopped off and noggins are split by a killer keen to keep secret what continues to remain undiscovered. Dallamano also displays a hard-nailed edge so typical of early 70's crime flicks, carrying it through to the horror elements, culminating in the scene where the wife of a cheating husband insists on seeing his corpse, whose indignation turns to screaming horror when the sheet is pulled back to reveal the man's dismembered body correctly arranged like a jigsaw puzzle on the morgue table.

     Somewhat jarring with the grim nature of the film is Stelvio Cipriani's uplifting score which, despite this fact, works pretty well, and I guarantee you'll be humming the central piece for days to come- I couldn't get it out of my head!

     Ultimately Dallamano's film succeeds despite its constant genre hopping and even manages to take a few political side sweeps along the way. The only thing that lets it down is a peculiarly weak ending, which sits at odds with a genuinely exciting build up.

     The director clearly didn't tire of the controversial subject matter and was back, co-providing the screenplay for Alberto Negrin's similarly themed schoolgirls in peril opus RINGS OF FEAR in 1978.

BODYCOUNT 7   bodycount!   female:1 / male:6

       1) Female found hanged
       2) Male dismembered (off-screen)
       3) Male has skull split with a meat cleaver
       4) Male stabbed repeatedly in stomach
       5) Male glimpsed dead in bath tub
       6) Male shot dead
       7) Male shot dead

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