Color, 1972, 107m.
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Starring Fabio Testi, Christine Galbo, Karin Baal, Joachim Fuchsberger, Günther Stoll, Claudia Butenuth, Camille Keaton
Arrow (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/RB HD/NTSC), Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC), 01 Distribution (Italy R2 PAL), Universum (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), EC Entertainment (Holland R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1)
An assured outing from the golden age of the giallo, this twisty murder mystery was the first of two Italian adaptations (along with Seven Bloodstained Orchids) commissioned from the novels of Edgar Wallace, whose krimi had inspired a line of successful German mysteries. Naturally the Italians jazzed up the brew with heady helpings of sex, perversion, and mean-spirited violence, barely lifting anything at all from the source novel (1923's The Curse of the New Pin, aka The Secret of the Green Pins), but somehow it all still seems like a first class affair in this expertly rendered whodunit.
While enjoying the lakeside company of her married gym teacher Enrico (Testi), young student Elizabeth (Galbo) spies a flashing knife in the woods, much to the disbelief of her lover. The next day a girl's body is discovered nearby, and Rossini finds himself in hot water when the murder investigation might bring his dalliances with his students to public attention. Meanwhile the schoolgirls are also harboring a very dark secret that may provide a motive for additional murders, and soon the boorish hero must put aside his own self-interest and work with the police (led by Edgar Wallace staple Joachim Fuchsberger) to expose the maniac whose vicious tactics begin to cut very close to home.
From the ethereal Ennio Morricone theme drifting over slow-motion opening credits depicting young girls on bicycles, Massimo Dallamano and his cinematographer, Aristide Massachessi (a.k.a. the infamous Joe D'Amato), prove they know how to satisfy their audience while delivering some unexpected subtext and artistry in the mix. Best known at the time for his sexy potboilers like Dorian Gray and Venus in Furs, Dallamano switched gears here to inaugurate a "schoolgirl trilogy" of shockers which continued with the police procedural, What Have They Done to Your Daughters?, and concluded with the disturbing Red Rings of Fear (Trauma) (which had Alberto Negrin picked up directorial duties). Already established as a western actor, Testi finally proved his acting chops here and became a genre regular throughout the 1970s as he branched further out to become one of the country's most accomplished thespians and matinee idols. There's also enough to enjoy in the cheap thrills department with showering schoolgirls and a depraved climactic resolution, featuring a near-catatonic appearance by Camille Keaton in her debut performance several years before I Spit on Your Grave. Props also to the underused but always enjoyable Galbo, one of Eurocult's most striking and engaging actresses, who had already appeared in the masterful The House That Screamed and went on to glory in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. Though comparatively low on sex and splatter when held up to its successors like, say, Torso, this remains one of the high points of the giallo genre.
For a film still relatively obscure compared to the likes of Dario Argento, Solange has enjoyed a wide number of incarnations under a dizzying array of titles like The School that Couldn't Scream (its U.S. theatrical title), Who's Next, and Terror in the Woods, all of which not surprisingly correspond as well to substandard video releases over the years. The first DVD release from EC, transferred from the same master used for Redemption's VHS edition in the UK, is a lackluster affair with weak contrasts. Even worse, the nicely utilized scope framing is hacked down to 1.85:1, lopping characters' faces from the sides of the screen. The anamorphically enhanced Shriek Show disc from 2002 is a big improvement with better saturated colors, stable black levels, and improved detail which manages to sustain a film-like appearance throughout. That disc features a gallery of posters and stills, the trailer, a press kit, and bonus Italian horror trailers. Three years later, that transfer was outclassed by an Italian DVD featuring more vivid colors, sharper detail, and a welcome option of both the English and Italian audio tracks with optional English or Italian subtitles. The English track is preferable since that's what the actors were speaking on set (and Testi's Italian accent is a big naturalistic plus), but the Italian one is quite well done as well.
Easily the strangest video rendition of the film came from Germany in 2005 as part of the Edgar Wallace Edition 8 boxed set, the only version out there preserving the film in its krimi-friendly edition for that country. Most significantly, the opening scene is drastically shortened and turned into a pre-credits sequence leading into the familiar gunshots and "Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking" voiceover. Many of the sleazier elements are toned down, with Fuchsberger's role obviously left intact to give it more focus. The disc features no English-friendly options, but if you're familiar with the film, it's a fascinating variant.
In 2015, Arrow Video picked up the film for release in both the US and UK as a dual-format edition containing a Blu-ray and DVD with identical extras. As anyone who has followed the course of this film may already know, the color timing tends to shift wildly from one video version to the next and even from one print to another depending on the country of origin. Taking a cue from Black Sabbath and Sergio Leone's westerns, the Italian prints have a more gold and amber cast than the English-language ones, something carried over to the new 2K transfer here from the original negative. (Weirdly, the Italian DVD has been retimed to look more cool with a higher emphasis on red and blue than any other version out there.) In any case, this is a massive improvement across the board in terms of element condition and detail with a beautifully textured transfer that should make fans very happy. The two DTS-HS MA mono audio options are the usual English and Italian tracks (both sounding excellent) with optional English subtitles, and the disc allows you to play the film with either its English or Italian-language credit sequences. A third audio option is a new audio commentary with British pros Alan Jones and Kim Newman, both excellent writers with a knack for finding new angles to appreciate almost any genre fare. They're informative and personable as always as they dissect the ways the film both adheres to and rips apart the giallo conventions established up to that point and examine some of the Wallace elements, in particular how weird it is seeing classy German showbiz vet Fuchsberger in his sleaziest project.
In addition to the English trailer you get four additional video extras, starting off with "What Have You Done to Decency?," a 13-minute interview with actress Karin Baal (who plays Testi's put-upon wife in the film). Speaking in German with English subtitles, she recalls being hired while in Switzerland ("This script could easily be turned into a porno movie!") and feeling a bit queasy about the whole endeavor ("It was so squalid!"). Be sure you watch all the way to the end, too. A pair of interviews conducted in 2006 have been newly edited by Freak-o-Rama here as well: "First Action Hero" spends 21 minutes with Testi (who's considerably more positive about the whole experience and talks about the challenges of shooting a multinational cast all in English, not to mention the strange fortunes and downfalls of the Italian film industry), while the 11-minute "Old School Producer" features producer Fulcio Lucisano running through his collaborations with Dallamano, whom he describes as funny but strict on the set. Finally the 28-minute "visual essay" by Michael Mackenzie entitled "Innocence Lost" takes an overall look at the schoolgirl giallo trilogy, taking some time at the beginning to set up the roles of children in the genre in films like Who Saw Her Die? and Don't Torture a Duckling before examining the potent mixture of burgeoning sexuality, political unease, and religious and governmental oppression that fuels the three films. Apart from the weirdly listless synopsis on the back sleeve, the package is also an attractive one complete with an insert booklet containing an essay by Howard Hughes about the variety of giallo scores by Morricone over the years (including several titles that push the category's definition to its limits) and an excellent, very thorough appraisal of Keaton's life and career by Art Ettinger, featuring highlights from his extensive Ultraviolent interview with her. Essential viewing for giallo veterans and newcomers alike.