The guest writer for a second time this week is Christine Hadden from Fascination With Fear. She will fascinate you... with FEAR!.. AGAIN! This time she's going to lay some Fulci on you. This is as good as the cup of coffee you might be drinking right now.
Dir. Lucio Fulci
The victim of a rather lame excuse for a title, Don't Torture A Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) is a far cry from director Lucio Fulci's zombie-gore films he is so very famous for in horror circles. An on-point giallo film from 1972, it is considered to be one of the director's best films, but one can experience where Fulci's love affair with gruesome effects started by watching this mystery/thriller.
Someone is killing young boys in the small Italian hamlet of Accendura and it seems there are several suspects as the film begins. Local peeping tom Giuseppe (Vito Passeri) has a habit of watching couples copulating and when he is caught doing so by three mischievous lads (who themselves are overly interested in naked women, natch), he warns them he will kill them. Not to be taken too seriously, Giuseppe is more or less the village idiot, so he is an easy target when the police find him hovering over a shoddy, haphazardly-dug grave that ends up being one of the boys. Giuseppe professes his innocence, claiming that he found the boy dead already and only buried him so that he could try to get ransom money from the child's parents.
As these events unfold, we have also been introduced to a mysterious gypsy woman (Florinda Bolkan) who is first seen digging up the bones of a small child and making off with them, and then crafting three crude dolls out of clay and performing some kind of voodoo ritual on them. It's obvious, after she catches the three boys spying on her at the child's grave, that she's more than a little pissed at them - and has the means to take her revenge.
Meanwhile, one of the boys, Michele, is asked by his mother to deliver a tray of juice to her employer - a beautiful woman named Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) who is hiding out in the tiny town due to a drug scandal. She just happens to be sunbathing in the nude when Michele comes in and soon she gets all creepy with the twelve year old, spilling juice down her breasts and offering herself to him sexually. (Can you say pedophile??). Michele, in case you were wondering, doesn't get a chance to act on the invitation because his mother calls him away. (Damn her anyhow!)
After the death of the first boy, reporters and detectives assemble in the town in an attempt to discover the murderer. One of the reporters, Martelli (Tomas Milian), takes a shine to Patrizia (and who wouldn't?- she's gorgeous!) and is baffled when he finds several clues that seem to point to her as the murderer. The police, after another murder occurs even though they are holding Giuseppe in custody, realize they may have arrested the wrong person and begin to concentrate on the gypsy woman. Soon, evidence leads them to Patrizia as well, who is confused by the interrogation. She and Martelli team up to find the true identity of the killer, before it's too late.
Don't Torture A Duckling wasn't my first Fulci film by far. I'd already flew through most of his gorier works like The New York Ripper, House by the Cemetery, Zombi 2, and The Beyond. Honestly I had no idea this film was considered a giallo, either, until I actually took a peek at it about ten or twelve years ago. As previously mentioned, it was touted as one of Fulci's best works, and it is probably his most critically acclaimed film as well. Regarding the gore, there is a reasonable amount. It's that hokey, inferior gore that isn't that great but we love it anyway, don't we? Give me second-rate gore over today's laughable CGI any day! There is a scene near the end, one that I vividly recall from former viewings that, while ludicrous and really fake-looking, really screams FULCI! You'll know it when you see it.
DTAD is a vivid piece of film making, it really is. While I would never say the style is up to say, Argento's beautiful expression and impassioned approach, it holds its own with above-par cinematography and a gritty tone that helps it to stand apart from some of his other, less-appealing works. The story, while simple, is fashioned with a social commentary regarding how misfits are treated and how small towns still look at outsiders with resentment that often turns to anger and in turn, violence.
If you're wondering where the ridiculous title comes from, it's one of those titles that loses a lot in translation. In Italian, Non si sevizia un paperino translates to "Don't Torture Donald Duck", which seems quite comical but really does have meaning within the film. If you watch all the way through, you will get it. But the title has done nothing to make any of Fulci's fans want to entertain the idea of watching it. So it's here that I say: don't let the goofy title dissuade you from taking a chance on this great giallo film. It really is some of Fulci's best work.
Christine Hadden is the creator, editor, and head writer of the blog Fascination with Fear. Addicted to trashy vampire novels, she also loves Argento films, listening to the score from Psycho while showering, sitting alone in a darkened theater, and above all - yearns for a good ghost story. She is a contributor to Fangoria and has written for the excellent genre magazine, Paracinema.