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Don't Torture A Duckling (1972)

DVD Cover (Blue Underground)
Giallo, Horror, Thriller, Whodunit
Lucio Fulci Lucio Fulci
Florinda Bolkan Florinda Bolkan
Barbara Bouchet Barbara Bouchet
Tomas Milian Tomas Milian
Irene Papas Irene Papas
Marc Porel Marc Porel

7.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Tristan
Added: April 22, 2009
While most of you are familiar with Fulci's work in the horror genre, primarily zombie films, he is really a jack of all trades. Comedies, westerns, fantasy, the man has done it all. Fresh off the tail of his highly successful 1971 giallo entry Lizard in a woman's skin, Fulci dove into the genre one more time with what many, myself included, think to be one of his finest films, Don't Torture A Duckling. It is definitely among his best non-zombie films, and that says a lot considering the notoriety he received for those movies.

Our film kicks off in a small Italian village. The local bunch of boys are playing hooky from school, smoking, taunting the town idiot, and getting up to all kinds of mischief. Everything is as it should be until one of them goes missing. The body is found buried in the woods, and the village idiot gets the blame. That is until another one of the young boys turns up dead. Now the police are baffled, and the townsfolk are in arms, begging for a scapegoat. Could it have been the town idiot? What about the creepy lady who is always wandering around the crime scene? These are the kinds of questions the police want to know. However, it would seem that the only person really interested in getting to the bottom of it is local newspaperman Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian). He may have to use some sneaky and potentially illegal tactics, but if it means getting in on the big story he's quite fine with that. What follows next is one of the finest giallo films I've ever seen full of great acting, an interesting (and plausible) storyline and tons of twists of turns.

Most of us are used to the typical black gloved killer giallos, but Fulci decided to make this film unique by making it a dark who dunnit that is an obvious attack on the Catholic church. Fulci has stated several times that this was not his intention, but most people believe that on a subconscious level, it was deliberate. There's no way a film like this could be made today without all sorts of protest, only justifying the phrase "they don't make 'em like this anymore". I watched this many years ago, before I was even aware of who Fulci really was, and after watching almost all of the man's career, this film definitely makes my top 5 Fulci films. It is understandable that Fulci has said on many occasions that this was his favorite film throughout his career; the cinematography is amazing, the acting is spot-on on all accounts, and the original score by Riz Ortolani (of Cannibal Holocaust fame) is breathtaking. This predates his horror years by nearly a decade, but it is clear that the man was very talented and was able to make a compelling film that didn't involve the living dead, gates to hell, and a plethora of shocking splatter effects.

I know that Fulci's films have been criticized for their terrible story lines and ridiculous pacing, well this is one of the exceptions to the rule. Don't Torture A Duckling is a very coherent and stylish modern murder mystery film that is not too over-the-top in the gore department, but it does leave us gorehounds satisfied. This is not one of his common splatter flicks, but rather a very good story with many twists and turns. There is some violence to be had mind you, specifically a very brutal scene in which a young woman is beaten to death with chains and various tools. This is almost 10 years before his career really took off as a horror director, but he still had an eye for realistic and believable onscreen deaths.

In the end, Don't Torture a Duckling is a great film that few have seen or even heard of. It is praised by Fulci fans as one of his greatest movies, but it sadly falls behind against such classics as The Beyond or Zombi 2. It truly proves that the man's career was not built on outrageous splatter films, and he does have a unique and unsettling style when it comes to film making. At nearly forty years old this film still stands as one of the highlights of Italian thriller cinema, and is certainly watchable even by today's standards. If you can hunt this one down I recommend you do so. You won't be disappointed, as it's well worth a watch.

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