(A.k.a. LA POLIZIA CHIEDE AIUTO; CO-ED MURDERS; THE POLICE WANT HELP)
Police break into an attic apartment and discover a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl hanging from a noose. They assume it's a suicide and set about trying to uncover the girl's identity. It seems like a fairly open-and-closed case for new Assistant District Attorney Vittoria (Giovanna Ralli, COLD EYES OF FEAR).
Vittoria's right-hand-man Inspector Valentini (Mario Adorf, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) attends the girl's autopsy, which reveals that she had fresh semen in her stomach, vagina and anus. Furthermore, she was pregnant. Later, he answers a call from an elderly maid who recognised a photograph of the girl in a local newspaper. We discover that the girl's name was Sylvia and her wealthy parents are holidaying abroad.
Taking his information to his boss, Valentini walks in on Vittoria watching a black-and-white film reel of recent street protests by political extremists. Vittoria recognises Sylvia in the background of the film, and deduces from the footage that she did not commit suicide: she was murdered.
At this point, Valentini calls in Inspector Silvestri (Claudio Cassinelli, MURDER ROCK; FLAVIA THE HERETIC) to help with the case. Together they go to the attic to rake around for clues. It's here that Silvestri spies a peeping Tom taking photographs from behind an adjacent rooftop.
The snapping voyeur is Bruno (Franco Fabrizi, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS), who is hauled in for questioning and later released. His photographs come in useful as it transpires he'd been taking snaps of Sylvia shagging her boyfriend. The cops seize the snaps, and set about trying to identify the lad.
It doesn't take Silvestri and co long to find the lad - Marcello (Paolo Turco, THE LICKERISH QUARTET) - who insists he has an alibi. The cops are also quick to act upon an anonymous tip-off which leads them to an apartment, which they believe is where Sylvia was killed. The plot thickens as we learn the apartment's rent is paid monthly - but the tenant died three years ago …
Despite finding a bathtub filled with blood there, suggesting a second murder, the cops keep their focus on finding out more about Sylvia's life - she clearly had another lover besides Marcello, and they're desperate to learn who it was.
To this end, they interview Sylvia's cagey parents upon their return, her slimy family doctor and the estranged wife and hyperactive mistress of a private detective hired by the dead girl's mother upon discovery of her daughter's sexual awakening.
A gruesome discovery reveals the identity of the second murder victim and the links between both corpses start to become clear, as the list of suspects mounts. But as quickly as that list grows, there is a mysterious leather-clad figure brandishing a machete intent on killing the suspects off.
Rosa is the first to experience a close encounter with the helmet-disguised assassin, but before long his sights are set squarely on Vittoria who along with Silvestri uncovers an unsavoury child prostitution ring …
DAUGHTERS is one of the better giallo thrillers of the 1970s. While lacking the elaborate set-pieces or innovative camerawork of Argento masterpieces such as DEEP RED or THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, it does easily stand up alongside the efforts of Martino and Fulci.
The pacing of Massimo Dallamano's (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?) assured direction keeps things moving along briskly, helping this tightly plotted and realistic yarn unravel in a taut 87 minutes.
Dallamano is also responsible for the screenplay, which plays a big part in the film's success. Devoid of any distracting romantic sub-plots, DAUGHTERS is interested instead in the painstaking work covered by the police in the search for the truth. This gritty authenticity lends the film a resonance missing in many gialli.
Another strong point of the multi-talented Dallamano was his keen eye for visuals (he was the cinematographer on A FISTFULL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE), and he makes good use of his skills here. Aiding the tight storytelling and convincing montages of policemen scouring the countryside for clues, are some beautifully composed exterior shots - not to mention great use of the camera in Vittoria's sparsely decorated hotel and an expertly shot car chase.
The cast all hold up well too, even when dubbed into English as in this presentation. The script and the acting alone help overcome the disadvantages that dubbed soundtracks often present. And, talking of soundtracks, no review would be complete without making mention of Stelvio Cipriani's (THE FRIGHTENED WOMAN) brilliant score.
Bookended by sombre onscreen text that reminds the viewer of the very real threat of our children going missing or being killed, this is a film with apparent serious intent. And it's all the more commendable for being so. Lest we forget though, it's also an extremely entertaining slice of giallo mystery with occasional gore but a thankfully light approach to the sleazier aspects of its plot subject.
Shameless Entertainment continue to please with their latest release. The film is presented in an uncut 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and is anamorphically enhanced.
The picture quality is superb. Despite very minor specks and grain at the beginning, the overall visual presentation here is great: rich colours, sharp images and pitch-perfect contrasting. A fine job.
The English dubbed 2.0 soundtrack is equally problem-free, ensuring a pleasurable distraction-free playback. Three lines of dialogue are spoken in Italian with forced English subtitles. Shameless have issued a disclaimer at the beginning of the film to advise the viewer of this - it's great that they've restored these 'lost' moments into the film making it, at 86 minutes and 59 seconds long, the most complete version available anywhere.
An animated main menu pages leads to a static scene-selection menu, allowing access to the main feature via 12 chapters.
The only extra feature relating to the film is a fairly rough, grainy-looking 3-minute theatrical trailer in widescreen.
Other trailers featured on the disc include BABA YAGA, THE BLACK CAT, NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS, MY DEAR KILLER, TORSO and PHANTOM OF DEATH.
Finally, it's always worth mentioning the double-sided reversible cover artwork that has become a regular feature of these mighty fine Shameless DVD releases. The alternative artwork on this particular release is stunning, believe me.
Another great release from the Shameless Entertainment - my personal favourite of the unofficial "schoolgirl" trilogy (the others are WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? And ENIGMA ROSSO [RED RINGS OF FEAR]).
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Shameless|
|Region All - PAL|
|see main review|