Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

I know Lucio Fulci has an extremely high reputation among many cult movie fans. After seeing The Beyond I was somewhat bemused by this - it’s just a total mess of a film I wondered what I was missing in Fulci’s work. But I decided to give him another chance. And now after seeing Don't Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino)I’m still bemused by his reputation.

Don't Torture a Duckling, released in 1972, is a routine giallo. It has the standard giallo elements - the series of murders that appear to have some sexual motivation (although in this case the motivation is initially rathe obscure), the hard-bitten reporter who is a better crime-solver than the police, the beautiful mysterious woman whose sole function is to provide the movie’s token nudity, and a plot with far too many twists and turns.

What Fulci adds to the mix is some very crude and totally unnecessary gore, which actually weakens the film.

Most giallos rely on having at least one star who is a competent actor, and at least one actress with some real sexual charisma. This movie does have one very competent actress, Florinda Bolkan, but she’s largely wasted.

Most giallos also rely very heavily on visual style, but Don't Torture a Duckling is fairly weak in that area as well.

A number of young boys have been murdered. A local madwoman (Florinda Bolkan) finds herself under suspicion, but there are the usual plentiful red herrings. A beautiful blonde woman also becomes a suspect, apparently because she’s beautiful and blonde so she must be up to no good.

The boys had disturbed the grave of the dead child of the madwoman, and in fact they’re as thoroughly unlikeable and obnoxious a group of boys as you’ll ever find in one movie. They’re obsessed with slaughtering the local wildlife, perving on the local prostitutes, persecuting anyone they can, and in at least one case they’re also obsessed with sexual fantasies about the mysterious beautiful blonde woman. She tends to encourage this by flaunting her naked body at the boy.

There’s also a dedicated young priest who believes soccer is the answer to everything, there’s a retarded girl and there’s a disturbed mother.

While it’s very much a by-the-numbers giallo, it’s at least competently done. If you really love the genre you may enjoy it. I personally mostly enjoy giallos that play around with the conventions of genre and spring some genuine surprises rather than just convoluted plot twists. The typical giallo is a type of film that doesn’t hold all that much interest for me, so those with more enthusiasm for the genre will undoubtedly respond to it more positively than I did.

Blue Underground’s DVD release is more impressive than the film itself, despite a lack of extras.


Shaun Anderson said...

Good to see this reviewed. I have to admit this is my favourite Lucio Fulci film and along with "House with the Laughing Windows" and "short Night of Glass Dolls" one of my favourite giallo's. I love the atmosphere of this film, the rural repressions, and the clash between modernity and a backward superstitious way of life controlled by catholicism is very evocative here.

Tim said...

And yet...this is probably the best Fulci film I've seen. I'm right there with you, not understanding his reputation.