My education in Eurofilm continues with my first poliziotteschi, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (1974). The term describes a subgenre of Italian crime and action film that began in the late 1960s and reached the height of popularity in the mid-1970s. Why write about this particular movie on a site devoted to classic horror? Because it’s a hybrid that is part poliziotteschi, part giallo.
As Troy Howarth ("Human Beasts: The Films of Paul Naschy") says during his commentary on the new Arrow Video Blu-ray release, fans of one or the other genre would probably classify What Have They Done to Your Daughters? based on their preference. I love gialli, but I believe the poliziotteschi tropes in this movie far outweigh the giallo tropes, as I understand them to be.
That means that while the movie does have a killer in black leather running around town with a butcher knife, it more prominently features the investigation of the police, the corruption of the government, and the chases of cars (and motorcycles). A strict giallo would more prominently feature the ineffectiveness of the police and the graphic nature of the murders.
However you categorize it, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is a gritty and entertaining murder mystery, with a couple great set pieces, that clips along at a brisk pace for the entirety of its 96 minutes. Through the course of their investigation, Inspector Silvestry (Claudio Cassinelli) and Assistant District Attorney Stori (Giovanna Ralli) uncover an underage prostitution ring.
It’s an uncomfortable subject and one that the movie treats matter-of-factly. Writer-director Massimo Dallamano emphasized the giallo aspects of a similar plot in his 1972 movie, What Have You Done to Solange? It’s a more intimate story, told at a more leisurely pace. In a way, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is an action-packed version of the same movie, with a slightly different point of view.
Silvestri and Stori are likable and fully realized by Cassinelli and Ralli. Throughout the story, we come to care about them, which, as Howarth reminds us, makes the events happening to them more effective for the audience. In one scene, they talk about why they do what they do, and Stori mentions how strong she must be as a woman to investigate such a brutal case.
The camerawork is terrific. For example, it follows the killer as he runs, creating the illusion that we’re running with him and really pulling us into the action. Sometimes it creeps along with him, a sort-of point of view angle where we see only his arm carrying the butcher knife. When that arm swings and cuts off a policeman’s hand, it’s more sudden and shocking due to this technique.
My favorite scene is when the killer pursues Stori in a parking garage. It’s truly suspenseful as she hides among the cars and tries to avoid the butcher knife. The music during this scene is a highlight from an overall score that I really like, the main theme haunting, although repetitive. Again, this scene is more impactful because we’re invested in Stori’s safety.
Subsequent to this traumatic event, television news shows report on an “unprecedented manhunt.” Silvestri concocts a plan to trap the killer, about which the District Attorney (Corrado Gaipa) says, “You’re gambling with your career.” Silvestri’s reply tells us everything we need to know about the character, “It’s worth it, don’t you think?”
This sets up a climax during which police surround the killer. Don’t assume it’s necessarily a happy ending, though. Stopping the killer is merely a consolation prize for not being allowed to destroy the actual prostitution ring. The names of those involved represent people who are “untouchable.” Silvestri and Stori have the last word, though, and it conveys an appropriate sentiment.
Of the bonus features on the Arrow Video Blu-ray, some are new and some were recorded in 2016; I’m not sure if the latter have appeared on previous releases. In her 20-minute essay, critic Kat Ellinger explores the “themes of power, corruption and decadence” in the films of Dallamano. Although he died having directed only 12 films, she says he was a driven man who enjoyed pushing boundaries.
A bizarre bonus feature is a five-minute collection of explicit footage that Dallamano supposedly shot, but (thankfully) never incorporated into the film. Witnessing the graphic sexual acts performed in this footage would have made What Have They Done to Your Daughters? unbearable to watch. Thinking about underage prostitution is difficult enough; we shouldn’t have to watch it.
Dallamano would reportedly have directed a third film with similar themes had he not been the victim of a fatal car accident in 1976. In his stead, Alberto Negrin helmed Enigma rosso (Virgin Killer) in 1978. (Dallamano is still credited for the screenplay… among six others.) I haven’t seen it, but it would really be something if it had the same impact as Dallamano’s first two movies in the trilogy.
2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless Italian and English mono soundtracks
English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
Masters and Slaves: Power, Corruption & Decadence in the Cinema of Massimo Dallamano, a new video essay by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine
Eternal Melody, an interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani
Dallamano's Touch, an interview with editor Antonio Siciliano
Unused hardcore footage shot for the film by Massimo Dallamano
Italian theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Adam Rabalais
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Mackenzie