Don’t Torture A Duckling is one of horror maestro’s Lucio Fulci‘s first films where he used specific gory effects.
The plot revolves around a child murderer in the made-up Italian town of Accendura, but you’ll be pleased to know that that is NOT where the gross goriness comes out.
There’s not a huge amount else I can add to that, story-wise, but as I mentioned in the extra section, there’s comment about how ’70s Italian cinemas were places that customers went to chat and mess about on an almost-daily basis, only occasionally having their attention brought back to the screen when something striking happens, which highlights why this movie is so hit and miss.
Hence, the main bits are when the grisly situations happen, along with young Michele’s first experience of the naked Barbara Bouchet as Patrizia, which is what any young lad would want to see at that age.
There’s some fairly obvious plot devices in this, such as when a man is arrested for the deadly doing, the question comes – is he the right man? Well, since they’re still going on, and that we’re less than 30 minutes into the movies, what do you think? I’ll also add that it’s bit grim the way a certain individual is first shown with grotty and muddy hands, dealing with voodoo doll equivalents of the children they’re allegedly bumping off.
What stood out for me more, however, was the effect of occasional background and foreground shots in focus – simultaneously. That was neat, as can be seen below.
If you’re looking for buckets of blood on a regular basis, though, this is not your film. There’s a couple of memorable scenes where Fulci’s gore skills were coming together, but beyond that, it’s more like a murder mystery.
However, no doubt Fulci fans will love this, and for a 45-year-old movie, it looks surprisingly good. Apart from the obvious print flecks you can’t always avoid, and a slight softness from the film stock (which actually adds to the experience, given how it reflects the period), Arrow’s remaster looks far better than you’d expect a ’70s shlock horror film to look.
I chose to watch the film with its English language soundtrack, and didn’t realise until I started that that’s how it was filmed anyway. The Italian dubbed version was made for that market, with the English version not seeing the light of day until Anchor Bay’s 1999 DVD release.
I’ll add that there’s a great fight scene in the final act, but of course, none of it makes any sense whatsoever and I didn’t guess the real killer until they were revealed as it’s like Fulci and co were making it up as they went along.
Also, do not adjust your set, as the end credit theme continues for almost three minutes after the credits end and fade to black…
And don’t worry – no ducklings were tortured during the making of this film, but the title stems from a Donald Duck doll cropping up in the proceedings…
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and I’ve already made my comments about above the picture.
The audio is in DTS HD-MA 1.0 (Mono), and does a perfunctory job with no major issues.
The extras are as follows, and there’s a nice selection for Fulci fans, including a rare audio interview from the director, so this is a great find from Arrow:
- Giallo a la Campagna (27:44): Detailed analysis of the movie in a new video discussion with Mikel J Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film, the term giallo being best summed up by this line from Wikipedia: “giallo refers specifically to a particular Italian thriller-horror genre that has mystery elements and often contains slasher, crime fiction, psychological thriller, psychological horror, and, less frequently, supernatural horror elements”.
Koven also talks about how ’70s Italian cinemas were places that customers went to chat and mess about on an almost-daily basis, only occasionally having their attention brought back to the screen when something striking happens, which highlights why this movie is so hit and miss.
- Hell is Already In Us: Violence and Gender (20:30): a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger, who focuses on accusations of misogyny against Fulci. Kat confirmed to me that she uses the Gothic literary mode, and analysis of the female characterisations, to argue what he did was highlight misogyny in a patriarchal and old fashioned Italian rural society, and he was therefore critical of this aspect of Italian culture.
- Lucio Fulci Remembers (20:13 & 13:12): A rare audio interview from 1988, with questions from journalist Gaetano Mistretta, in two parts. This and the next interviews are in Italian with optional English subtitles.
- Cast and crew interviews: More to get your teeth stuck into – actor Florinda Bolkan (28:20) – aka Maciara (I won’t say who that character is in case you haven’t seen the film at the time you read this), cinematographer Sergio D Offizi (46:21), assistant editor Bruno Micheli (25:38) and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani (16:03).
- Audio commentary: Not from the late Mr Fulci, but a new one from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films.
I can only review what’s present on the check disc, but if you buy this title, you’ll also get a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork from Timothy Pittides, and a Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes.
The main menu features a short piece of the score set to clips from the film, there’s a bog-standard 12 chapters and subtitles are in English.
Don’t Torture A Duckling Special Edition is released on Monday September 25th on Blu-ray/DVD combo and, and check out the full-size cover by clicking on the packshot.
Running time: 106 mins
Distributor: Arrow Films
Released: September 25th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio (Mono)
Languages: English, Italian dub
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (Techniscope)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenplay: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti and Gianfranco Clerici
Music: Riz Ortolani
Maciara: Florinda Bolkan
Patrizia: Barbara Bouchet
Andrea Martelli: Tomas Milian
Dona Aurelia Avallone: Irene Papas
Don Alberto Avallone: Marc Porel
Francesco: Georges Wilson
Lieutenant: Antonello Campodifiori
Captain Modesti: Ugo D’Alessio
Police Commissioner: Virgilio Gazzolo
Barra: Vito Passeri
Mrs. Spriano – Michele’s Mother: Rosalia Maggio
Mr. Lo Cascio – Bruno’s Father: Andrea Aureli
Mrs. Lo Cascio – Bruno’s Mother: Linda Sini
Mr. Spriano – Michele’s Father: Franco Balducci
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.