Don't Torture A Duckling, Non si sevizia un paperino (1972)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti
Starring: Barbara Bouchet, Florinda Bolkan, Tomas Milian
In a remote village in Southern Italy,somebody is killing boys who are on the brink of puberty. Initial suspicions fall on the local peeping tom and he claims to have kidnapped one of the boys but turns out he was innocent and was just trying to blackmail one of the parents. Maybe it’s Maciara, a local ‘witch’ who stabs voodoo dolls of the boys,or Patrizia,a loose moraled woman from the city? Maciara is tried and released but some of the villagers decide to take the law into their own hands. However then another boy is killed and journalist Martelli find even more suspects……
Don’t Torture A Duckling is one of Lucio Fulci’s best films and it was the one he was most proud of, though it only recieved limited distribution outside Italy. As well as a clever and tight plot which keeps one guessing to the end, it boasts superb photography by Robert Gianfriti [especially during some vivid night scenes], excellent performances which shine through even with the English dubbing and a real sense of time and setting. The script by Fulci and Roberto Gianfrazzi who had co-written A Lizard In a Woman’s Skin cleverly changes sympathies of most of the characters throughout and explores the clash of Catholicism and rural superstition, while also allowing Fulci to express his typically cynical view of the world and it’s people without going quite as far as the total nihilism of The New York Ripper.
With yet another title that deliberately evokes Argento’s movies [perhaps these were forced on Fulci by the producers!], again this is quite a different movie, and it’s also very different from Fulci’s previous Giallo A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin. This has a much more realistic approach, and one feels throughout that Fulci was truly aiming for a ‘great’ movie, it really goes for an almost ‘classic’ feel and is indeed very well made on almost every level. Unfortunately it got lost in the glut of Giallos coming out of Italy around the same time and those out for just some gory thrills may have been disappointed by the leisurely pacing and relatively few violent killings.
There are though some controversial elements which almost got the film banned in Italy in 1972 and perhaps these limited it’s release too. There’s a stinging attack on the Cathlic church expressed, children are strangled, the supposed ‘heroine’ likes to sexually tease young boys, and a main character is chain whipped to death, in a unforgettable scene that is like the start of The Beyond but is probably nastier for being in full colour and having the ironic use of a romantic song in the background, plus we’ve got to know this character. It climaxes incredibly with the victim crawling up to a road where she is ignored by passing motorists, a really heartbreaking climax to a brilliant piece of cinema which really shows the director’s skill. Not at all ‘nice’, but art shouldn’t always be nice and it really shows Fulci at his best. Look out also for a climactic head-repeatedly-bashed-against-cliff bit which Fulci virtually reprised in the beginning of his next film Seven Black Notes.
Out of the cast Florinda Bolkan, in a second great role and performance for Fulci as Maciana, stands out. Of course all Barbara Boucher has to do, as usual, is to flirt, tease and generally look sexy all the time and it sure works! Don’t Torture A Duckling is very talky and there are perhaps too many scenes of the cops searching the countryside. Fulci wasn’t always that good at pacing and around the middle of the film things almost draw to a halt, a bad thing for a thriller but then again Fulci seems to have been out to try and do more than just thrill with this movie. I wonder if the film had been the success and had the acclaim it deserved then would Fulci’s career stil have gone the same way and would still have still made his bloody classics of the early 80s? There are at least two or three other Fulci films I find more entertaining, but this fine film should reward the patient viewer and maybe make you appreciate this perenially underrated director a little more.
[pt-filmtitle]Don’t Torture a Duckling[/pt-filmtitle]