Blu-Ray Review: ‘What Have They Done to Your Daughters?’ (1974)

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is a particularly sleazy mixture of giallo and poliziotteschi, which bends the accepted rules of both genres. The killer wears a motorcycle helmet and full-body leathers, but instead of a bumbling foreigner attempting to solve a series of murders, it’s a detective and a new assistant DA. In modern-day pop culture terms, it feels like an extended Law & Order episode with nudity, ripped from 1974’s headlines. Lennie Briscoe, where art thou?

Police discover the body of a naked fourteen-year-old girl hanging from the rafters in an abandoned loft. She had been sexually assaulted, murdered elsewhere, then strung up in a different location to make it look like hanging was the actual cause of death. The case falls into the lap of handsome Commissioner Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli) and Deputy Attorney Vittoria Stori (Giavanna Ralli). The case leads them into a gruesome labyrinthine underbelly of sex, lies, and audiotape. Terrible things are happening to the young girls of Rome, and some people will do anything to prevent the truth from being exposed.

What other clichés can we throw in here? Silvestri is a hard-nosed cop on the edge! Stori is beautiful but ruthless! Time is running out! There’s not much new in What Have They Done to Your Daughters? The bad guys, whether they wear business suits or black leather, are vile and smarmy. Our protagonists are stubbornly good, even in the face of police corruption. There’s not much grey area for the characters to play around in. Luckily, there’s enough here visually to keep things intriguing.

Two things set the film apart from the others: the direction of Massimo Dallamano and the musical score by Stelvio Cipriani. Daughters could be considered a quasi-sequel to Dallamano’s 1972 film, What Have You Done to Solange? because of its focus on the hazards that can befall sexually active teenage girls. While Solange was a straightforward giallo film, and Daughters leans more towards being a police procedural, Dallamano brings an unerring eye for quirky composition to every shot. Even when the story bogs down, which it does, Dallamano keeps the visuals interesting.

Cipriani’s music has a cool pop sensibility, as lush as a 70s AM radio single at times, dark and threatening at others. It is hummable, almost dancey in sections. Those who are interested can find an interview with Cipriani in the special features of the Blu-Ray.

As is often the case, Arrow Video has overdelivered with on What Have They Done to Your Daughters? The special features are interesting and scholarly, particularly the video essay, Slaves and Masters, by critic Kat Ellinger. An in-depth study of the power structure represented within Dallamano’s films, it offers great insight into the sexually charged atmosphere of the director’s work. There is also a commentary by gialli expert Troy Howarth, an interview with film editor Antonia Sicilano, and some hardcore pornographic footage Dallamano shot for Daughters, but decided not to use. The feature itself looks amazing, thanks to the 2K restoration from the original negative. That feels like a wise decision; 4K would be too clean for a movie like Daughters, which needs some grit and grain to the image to keep the mood sufficiently grimy.

Even with all the blood and sexual content, What Have They Done to Your Daughters? might feel somewhat tame by today’s standards. We see similar subjects dealt with on network television on a nightly basis. But there’s no denying Dallamano’s style, his heightened sense of luridness. The film itself may be of most interest to collectors and giallo connoisseurs, but anyone with an interest in Italian genre films should find some enjoyment in the whole presentation.

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? is available from Arrow Video USA.

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