[review by Bengt Wallman & Justin Kerswell]
Bengt: The line between classy gialli and cheesy sleaze is indeed a fine one, in DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING cult director Lucio Fulci of ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS fame explores just that grey area to great effect.
Young boys hanging around the local church's football ground are being killed off one by one for no apparent reason. Investigations unearth both a strange ransom situation and witchcraft. But truth seems to elude the Police time and time again while the killer strikes out repeatedly upon the children of the village.
If you are expecting an occult zombie extravaganza in the style of THE BEYOND you are definitely in for a disappointment for this film is much more in debt to the likes of Massimo Dallamano's excellent giallo WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO SOLANGE? than to any of the Italian Zombie flicks. Just like in SOLANGE there is moral/vengeance theme at work rather than one of resurrecting the dead. Yes, there is witchcraft involved but as the police commissioner of the film so rightly points out it goes " ... hand in hand with religion".
Arguably Fulci's best looking film with a Dario Argento-esque imagery beautifully shot on the background of an old Italian mountain village. This is a film that will not disappoint any fan of the giallo genre although I feel I should point out that there is no breaking of new ground here. And although the killer's identity is cleverly disguised throughout the film you are not really surprised when it is revealed.
An interesting aspect to the film though is the villagers. Throughout the film they stand as one, an ominous mob, seemingly more curious than caring. Repeatedly they show up either outraged on the murder scenes or bloodthirsty outside the police station awaiting the chance to bring vengeance upon the killer. And even when it is suggested they have killed an innocent in their brutal quest for retaliation they still stand as one, silent observers without regrets. Needles to say the solving of the murderous riddle is left to outsiders, this being a hungry out of town journalist and an scandalised member of the nouveaux riche, living on the outskirts of the village.
All in all this is an interesting and able giallo and any fan of the genre would enjoy a viewing if only on the count of some early slices of trademark Fulci gore. The original chain whipping scene years later used in THE BEYOND is found here, a sadistic excursion in realistic special effects to a weird up tempo radio soundtrack. But the main reason for tracking this tape down is the film's slightly surrealistic feel which doubled with the general plausibility of the story and Fulci's frank portraying of the characters gives DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING a disturbing sense of realism.
Justin: Outside of Fulci's superlative early 80's zombie quartet DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING has to be my favourite Fulci movie to date. I must admit that, on occasion, I have been tempted to think of him as something of a hack - afterall he has made some utter dreck (NIGHTMARE CONCERT, anyone?), and, despite my feeble protests that he was some kind of auteur (often met with cries of merriment and derision) I couldn't shake the feeling that maybe it was really a case of the Emperor's new clothes. Maybe his zombie films weren't brilliant surrealist nightmare; maybe they were just bad film making hiding behind a cloak of delirious, if empty, weirdness, but then I saw this film - and my faith was restored. I've since seen bad Fulci (the touchingly atrociousMURDER ROCK: DANCING DEATH (1984) - Fulci does SLASHDANCE!), but the impressive images from this twisted little giallo still linger.
Perhaps, this is little more than a rambling afterthought to Bengt's wonderful review, but I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of approval. Often people say you need to be able to construct before you can deconstruct, and I often heard it said that Fulci couldn't piece together a compelling narrative if his life depended on it; that he was forced into willful abstraction rather than chose it. DON'T TORTURE A DUCKILING dispels than myth once and for all; still imbued with that magic weirdness, that resonance that is pure Fulci, this rural thriller is compelling and exciting, thundering to a conclusion that is as perverse as it is cruel. A filmmaker of many hats Fulci bravely takes the often provincial giallo - it is far more usual to find the couture houses of Roma a backdrop for the murderous deeds than a rundown farm house in the wilds - out into the wilds of the countryside.
It's a film filled with eye-watering violence - the chain whipping scene may not have the crowd pleasingly Grand Guginol exuberance of Olga Kalartos' eye watering demise in ZOMBIE FLESHEATERS but the sheer breath taking mean spiritedness of this scene (the assailants turn up a jarringly poppy car radio to drown out the screams) is awe inspiring. Fulci, when he was at his best, never pulled his punches and that is to be applauded.
BODYCOUNT 6 female:1 / male:5
1) Pre teen struck over head
2) Pre teen found dead in well
3) Pre teen strangled
4) Female beaten to death with chains (B.RU.T.A.L)
5) Pre teen found with cracked skull
6) Male falls to his death (G.O.R.Y)