Editor’s Notes: What Have You Done to Solange? and Unleashed! A Dog Dancing Story are out on their respective formats December 15th. While You Can’t Take It With You is available now.
What Have You Done to Solange?
What Have You Done to Solange? (Arrow Video) falls into the category of “giallo” — the 20th-century Italian slasher genre, usually with mystery elements and often with either supernatural horror or crime fiction elements. Enrico (Fabio Testi), a married teacher, is having an affair with one of his students, Elizabeth (Christine Galbo). On a romantic boat ride along a river, Elizabeth sees something on the bank that frightens her. They find out the next day that a brutal murder was committed in that location. After several more women are killed, the police begin to suspect that Enrico is the murderer. The women being targeted share a secret that marks them as the murderer’s intended victims.
The quality of giallo films varies. Some can be dull, others repetitious, and still others just poorly made. What Have You Done to Solange? is among the better pictures of this genre. Performances are above average and the story holds our attention as it sustains an effective level of suspense throughout. It contains a creepy murderer with a bizarre fetish, and the overall tone is extremely dark. Don’t look for happy endings in this one. The score by Ennio Morricone is lush and beautifully sets the mood for this Jack the Ripper-inspired picture.
Bonus materials on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include a booklet featuring brand new writing on the film, illustrated with original stills; reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork; original theatrical trailer; audio commentary by film critics; newly filmed cast interviews; and original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio. The dialogue is in Italian with optional English subtitles.
Unleashed! A Dog Dancing Story
Unleashed! A Dog Dancing Story (Virgil Films) is a documentary about an amateur dog dancing troupe and an aspiring theatre director as they attempt to mount the first-ever dog dancing and indoor kite flying theatrical performance. The film captures the challenges they face in their personal lives as well as on the stage. A real-life version of the Mickey and Judy “Let’s put on a show!” movies, the film chronicles the difficulties of producing an amateur theatrical performance and reveals the powerful bond between handler and dog. The group spends over two years realizing the first-time director’s vision, writing scripts, building sets, raising funds, and rehearsing exhaustively. As tension mounts and obstacles pile up, the trainers, all women, and their dogs persevere and the director finds his patience wearing thin.
This unusual documentary focuses on a world unfamiliar to the general public. Though at first it might seem as if these people are deluded eccentrics with show biz aspirations, we see their enthusiasm, total dedication, and unswerving drive to get their act up to professional standard, backed by hard work, long hours, and constant adaptation. With a niche act and limited venues, the trainers know they must create an exceptional show. The director is both the means to their goal and, at times, an impediment as ideas clash and “artistic differences” strain relationships. In its brief 81 minutes, the movie provides the backgrounds of the trainers and their director. The dogs, of course, are born scene stealers and adorable, so dog lovers would probably enjoy watching them exercise their considerable talents.
There are no special features on this bare-bones widescreen DVD release.
You Can’t Take It With You
You Can’t Take It With You (Sony Home Entertainment) was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Based on the hit Kaufman-Hart play, the story follows Tony Kirby (James Stewart), a young man from a family of wealthy snobs who becomes engaged to a girl, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur), from a good-natured but eccentric family. The film contrasts blissful, creative liberty with the strictures of wealth, status and ambition.
Calm, soft-spoken, easy-going Tony is the son of wealthy banker Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold), who is planning to buy out a local neighborhood and gentrify it, putting many families out on the street in the process. All that stands in his way is a single property owned by Alice’s grandfather, Martin Vanderhoff (Lionel Barrymore), whose home houses a collection of inventors, musicians, dancers, and artists. His daughter, Penny (Spring Byington) pounds away on her typewriter; granddaughter Essie (Ann Miller) twirls to the beat of a xylophone played by her husband, Ed (Dub Taylor); and Penny’s husband, Paul (Samuel S. Hinds), sets off fireworks in the basement. When the two families finally meet, chaos ensues. Director Frank Capra paces the action of this screwball comedy at breakneck speed with considerable slapstick, while keeping the themes of social responsibility and individualism in the forefront.
Available for the first time on Blu-ray, You Can’t Take It With You is digitally restored and comes with 24-page Digibook packaging featuring rare photos and a new essay by film historian Jeremy Arnold. Bonus extras include commentary by Frank Capra, Jr., the featurette “Frank Capra, Jr. Remembers ‘You Can’t Take It With You,’” and the original theatrical trailer.