The Yellow Room: Short Night of the Glass Dolls/What Have You Done To Solange

Most of us are quite familiar with the many memorable giallo tropes, Black gloved killer’s, razor blades, J&B, convoluted plots, beautiful models getting offed one by one, intense visual aesthetics, Morricone/Nicolai/Ortolani soundtracks, Edwige Fenech, and massive amounts of blood—the deepest of reds. I usually scatter several gialli into my weekly viewing, I love the genre way to much to ever step away for too long, and this weeks accidental pairing features two flicks that leave being many of these tropes in favor of deeper subject matter and storylines that (almost) delve into more reasonable territory while upping the gripping mystery aspect.

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Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971)

A mysterious disappearance, Black Magic, and political unrest via expertly conjured symbolism. Aldo Lado’s feature debut, Short Night of the Glass Dolls, is a slow burn exercise in dread that doesn’t rely on the usual giallo tropes. No black gloves or razor blades, no lurking psychopath drenched in black, just pure mystery with one hell of a framing device.

The corpse of reporter Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) is found and brought to the local morgue, but, Moore is actually alive, trapped inside his dead body and desperately trying to somehow alert the morgue technicians of his aliveness whilst trying to piece together how the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend (Barbara Bach) soon reveals a terrifying conspiracy of Eyes Wide Shut style madness. The film is divided in two parts, Gregory’s remembrance of events such as his investigation into the disappearance with the police showing more hostility towards him with each clue or unwilling to help witnesses he digs up. Once these witnesses start to ‘disappear’ Gregory begins to realize he’s unraveling something much deeper. The other half of the story is the attempts of the hospital staff to revive Gregory after one doctor finds it quite odd that his body temperature has gone down as it normally does in a corpse,

He of course has a deadline to try and figure out just what led him to this mindfuck of a position, culminating in an ending that pulls no punches and isn’t afraid in anyway whatsoever to fuck with you. The final freeze frame image is my exact reaction anytime I revisit this gem. Currently available on DVD, reasonably priced, from Blue Underground.

 

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What Have You Done To Solange? (1972)

Hedonistic coed sex gangs, Fabio Testi’s beard, and back-alley abortions are front and center in this sleazy, disturbing, and quite frankly essential giallo that takes a right hand turn down perversion street.

What Have You Done to Solange features Fabio Testi as the “hero” phys-ed teacher, Enrico, who's romantically involved with a student, who attends the school he’s employed at. As the film begins we see Enrico and said student, Elizabeth, being very effectionste to each while boating on a lake, when all of the sudden she spots someone clad in black with a knife hunting down a woman. He brushes it off and the following morning He soon learns that s murder did in fact take place, as a coed from the school turns up dead with a knife inserted viciously in her vagina. He soon becomes a suspect, and The school board asks him to see if he can find out any info from other students since he “has a better relationship with them” than other teachers who may also be suspects. Think about that for a second...

Anyway, when more students turn up dead, gym teacher sex maniac sleuth Enrico and his estranged wife (who is aware of his “extra curricular activities” but continues to keep up appearances even though they both despise each other) decide to put all the cheating with 17 and 18 year olds behind them after she finds out his young girlfriend was still a Virgin... and help him solve the case... of his dead girlfriend… Giallo logic is insane.

Together they work with the police and it leads to a girl named Solange and one shocking conclusion. Unlike many gialli, Solange doesn't put the focus on overly gory deaths—instead it’s main emphasis is the unraveling mystery, but don’t get me wrong... the murders in this are sexually graphic, making them all the more disturbing and messed up to watch. Mix all of that with an extremely haunting Morricone score (one of his best gialli scores), soon to be I Spit on your Grave star Camille Keaton as the titular Solange, excellent direction and camera work from Massimo Dallamano (DP on the first two Dollars films), and an utterly tragic ending makes for a film that sticks with you long after the credits roll.

On the surface, Solange is a grippingly suspenseful Italian mystery thriller with all the key elements in place—but at its core it low key subverts familiar genre elements, lamenting on innocence lost and the accelerated carelessness of growing up just a bit too fast—leaving us, the audience, real human beings who hopefully didn’t sleep with our teachers, to ponder uncomfortably about what the future holds. All of this elevates Solange immensely for me, thrusting it to the top of the sub genre where it bumps elbows with Argento and Martino. A few years back Arrow released a blu ray of Solange, and it’s well worth the purchase.

Ciao!

Ian West