Derek Warren

CULT CORNER: Discover giallo films and disturbing horror with ‘What Have You Done to Solange?’

CULT CORNER: Discover giallo films and disturbing horror with ‘What Have You Done to Solange?’
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The giallo is an interesting and unique sub-genre within Italian horror. At heart, they are more murder mystery in format but tend to feature far more blood and gore than an episode of “Murder, She Wrote.” The plots are also inclined to stretch far beyond a simple “whodunit” and instead trek into a wide array of seemingly bizarre areas.

However, for a film to be considered a giallo, there are a few standard occurrences that should take place during the film. The first involves an amateurish cop hunting down the murderer, and the second is a killer wearing black leather gloves. Really stretching beyond that, the rest of the storylines can be unto themselves, but also typically feature a heavy emphasis on sexual desires.

Enter “What Have You Done to Solange?” Originally released in 1972, this Italian giallo seemingly fell away and was lost in the mix of many others in the genre during that time. Over the years, it gained a cult following but was not released on DVD until 2002 and then again by Arrow Video in 2015 in a remastered Blu-ray version.

The film revolves around an Italian teacher, Enrico Rosseni, who is having an affair with an 18-year-old student at their London school. During one of their trysts, they find out that a student was murdered mere yards away. Soon, more female students turn up dead, with all eyes being cast on Rosseni as the possible murderer. They try to discover who the killer is and why are they targeting young women – and exactly what does this have to do with a girl named Solange?

There will, of course, be no spoilers here, but there is a hint towards the end. What was done to Solange is bizarre, disturbing, and something few could imagine as a plot for a film. While giallo movies certainly do not shy away from taboo subject matter, this is one that stands on its own.

Speaking of taboo subject matter, “What Have You Done to Solange?” also features someone who will be very familiar to those who love cult films. The lead character of Solange is played by Camille Keaton making her film debut. If the name is not familiar, her most notorious movie certainly will be to many – she went on to play Jennifer in the infamous 1978 rape revenge thriller “I Spit on Your Grave.”

This film is a true gem and a great gift from the people at Arrow Video. It is just a great time to be a cult movie lover with fully restored versions of these films put on Blu-ray. For those of us who grew up during the VHS era and were only able to see terribly dark and badly edited versions of these films, it is truly a horrific wonder to behold.

Is it worth seeing? Any fan of Italian giallos will surely appreciate “What Have You Done to Solange?” If you are casual horror fan and enjoy more standard slasher-type movies, this may be a bit tedious for you, as will nearly all giallo films. However, this truly is a classic within the sub-genre.

The twist ending is not what makes the film, but it does make a memorable ending. The movie itself is a well-done giallo that will have you guessing until the very end, with strong acting and solid storytelling.

Each week, Cult Corner shines a light on strange and obscure cult films you’ve never heard of but need to see for yourself… with the lights off and the doors and windows locked.