Color, 1974, 91m.
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Starring Giovanna Ralli, Claudio Cassinelli, Mario Adorf, Franco Fabrizi, Farley Granger, Marina Berti, Paolo Turco
Camera Obscura (Blu-ray & DVD) (Austria RB/R2 HD/PAL), Koch (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL), Redemption, Shameless (DVD) (UK R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)
A textbook '70s Italian thriller, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (originally La polizia chiede aiuto, or The Police Cry for Help) operates primarily as a police investigation study crossed with the popular giallo formula. While this combination is hardly unique (e.g., the seedy Five Women for a Murderer), Dallamano's film succeeds thanks to the sheer nastiness and forcefulness of its vision.
Following the discovery of a nude fifteen-year-old girl hanged in an attic, the local police quickly uncover clues indicating she may have been murdered elsewhere and been framed as a suicide. The local Assistant D.A. (Ralli, a nice bit of unexpected casting) teams up with the officer in charge (Cassinelli) for a grimy trip into the underbelly of the Italian urban scene, including a covert prostitute ring of underage girls. Meanwhile a cleaver-wielding killer stalks the investigating parties in his chic black leather motorcycle gear, forcing the police to unravel the corruption surrounding them before it's too late.
Displaying the same unmistakable fixation with young students in (and out of) their uniforms as its fellow installments in the loosely-connected "schoolgirl trilogy" (What Have They Done to Solange? and the underrated Red Rings of Fear), Dallamano lowers the sleaze content somewhat while delivering more standard gory thrills. If Solange was an Italian take on Edgar Wallace and Red Rings was a contribution to the scuzzy sex maniac shocker cycle like Torso, this one is the closest to the poliziotteschi with its jaded view of a populace comprised of prey and predators. In between some nonsensical rounds of suspect hunting and interrogations, the high speed killer himself provides all of the highlights. Whether tearing at frightening speed down a corridor or veering through the city streets on his bike, this is one of the more memorable '70s psychos (even if his identity isn't really all that important). One sequence involving his cleaver and a light switch will have jaded gorehounds squealing with glee, while other sordid goodies include multiple stabbings and a nasty morgue inspection of a corpse ("cut up like a side of beef," as the European DVD packaging quote exclaimed). And be sure to look fast for Hitchcock vet Farley Granger (circa So Sweet, So Dead) as a grieving father in two scenes, dubbed by someone else in the English version. The occasionally slack pacing aside, Dallamano really knows how to arrange a set piece, such as Ralli's nocturnal pursuit through a parking deck and into an elevator. Daughters may not be the best place for Italo-sleaze neophytes to begin, but seasoned giallo vets will find it a very entertaining change of pace.
The first DVD from 2000 courtesy of British label Salvation presents the film at an extremely wide aspect ratio, listed as 2.35:1 on the box but more like 2.50:1 with some visible stretching. It's not a great presentation (it's also slightly trimmed courtesy of the BBFC) but at the time it was the best game in town. The rousing score by Stelvio Cipriani, one of his very best, sounds just fine here. Extras include the very long European English-language trailer and an assortment of stills, video sleeves, and poster art. Two subsequent releases turned up in 2008, a remastered UK reissue from Shameless and a nicely remastered version from Koch that remains the best SD option.
However, the best release out there in any format is easily the Camera Obscura edition, a Blu-ray housing the uncensored feature film with some extras and a second DVD with additional featurettes. The transfer looks superb, up there with the label's best and sporting a nicely rich, organic appearance from start to finish. It's worth pointing out that the transfer comes from the original Italian negative, which means the opening and closing credits have a different (and superior) font compared to the version most English-speaking viewers are used to seeing. Italian, English, and German audio options are presented in DTS-HD 2.0 mono with optional English or German subtitles; all of them were dubbed, with the English track matching lip movements more frequently than the others. Try them all out (even Adorf is dubbed in the German one) and see which one you prefer, but many viewers will probably want to stick with the English one they know and love.
Commentator Marcus Stiglegger returns here for another in his excellent line of Camera Obscura chat tracks, this time with a new companion in the form of filmmaker Dominik Graf. It's a thorough dissection of the film's merits and its influence on later titles (including Amer) and its unique hybrid nature between genres. The main video extra here is a real curiosity, a five-minute reel of unused sex footage involving a mostly faceless auburn-haired woman and a chubby old guy (sometimes wearing a freaky Japanese mask with a long nose) performing a variety of sex acts, with a few shots treading into hardcore oral sex territory. Also included on the Blu-ray are English, Italian, and German trailers and a photo gallery. The DVD enclosed kicks off with "Eternal Melody," a 47-minute(!) Freak-o-Rama interview with Cipriani sitting at a piano and covering pretty much his entire musical career ("thanks to soccer") with demonstrations on the keyboard of how he tackles different genres, with a nice focus on his (very prolific) giallo work. It's actually quite lively and enjoyable considering you're looking at one guy at a piano the entire time, albeit with some flashy switching between color and monochrome. Then you get a 21-minute "Dallamano's Touch" interview with editor Antonio Siciliano about his start in the business on spaghetti westerns and his work with the director of this film including such other collaborations as Solange, The Night Child, and Colt 38 Special Squad, citing Morricone and Ortolani as the common frame of reference composers who made it hard to get other composers brought on to his projects. He also disavows any knowledge of the hardcore discarded shots, which were never brought to the editing room, and then sits there watching it while he tries to unravel whether Dallamano directed it. (Apart from one telltale shot, the jury's still out.) The usual slipcase packaging includes a liner notes booklet in German and English featuring a very academic dissection of the film's social commentary by Kai Naumann. Another essential Italian gem from one of the most reliable labels out there.
Updated review on October 9, 2016