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Lucio Fulci’s Most Disturbing Giallo
Italian genre director Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling has gained something of a reputation over the years as his masterpiece and it’s hard to disagree. More known in the States for his gory splatter films, Don’t Torture A Duckling is an early giallo with disturbing subject matter. As several young boys are murdered in a rural Italian village, suspicion falls on a witch known to practice black magic. What sounds like a fairly ordinary set-up for a giallo weaves superstition, religion and a colorful cast of eccentric characters into a compelling and well-crafted film. This is still an exploitation film with alluring women and grisly murders, but Fulci’s shocking giallo has some thought behind it.
When the sleepy rural village of Accendura is rocked by the murders of local boys, the superstitious locals are quick to pin the blame on someone. Suspects include a dimwitted farmhand that likes peeping on prostitutes and the local witch, Maciara (Florinda Bolkan, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin). With the community gripped by panic and a thirst for quick vengeance, two outsiders to the town play key roles in the unfolding drama. Journalist Andrea (Tomas Milian, The Four of the Apocalypse) and rich sophisticate from the city Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times) get drawn into the murder mystery. Before the killer is found, deeper mysteries in the village will spark yet more horrific violence.
… this exploitation movie covers a lot of ground
… this exploitation movie covers a lot of ground
Like many gialli, Don’t Torture A Duckling’s colorful name has little to do with the central plot or its grisly themes. The name is taken from a minor plot detail. Deemed shocking at the time for its brutal violence against women, depiction of the Catholic Church and child murder, this exploitation movie covers a lot of ground. Surprisingly, none of it feels that gratuitous when taken in a broader context. There is definitely a method to Fulci’s madness working within the often outlandish tropes of the typical giallo mystery.
There is no doubt some parts are disturbing. An adult woman sexually teases a 12-year-old boy. Children are shown smoking in a manner that would be unthinkable today. Fulci had a keen sense of the lurid and dances on the edge between sleazy and entertaining.
Don’t Torture A Duckling is essential viewing for giallo lovers and Fulci’s fans. The one problem it overcomes is a predictable reveal for the serial killer. Anyone familiar with how gialli work will likely guess the killer within the first twenty minutes. That doesn’t hurt its entertainment value as the narrative takes many interesting twists and turns before the end.
The 1972 Techniscope film looks fresh as a daisy on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Video’s impressive new 2K restoration. The included booklet goes into length on the viable film elements used for the transfer, a damaged 2-perf Techniscope camera negative and 4-perf internegative.
Their restoration has turned out wonderful, rewarding the laborious work Arrow Video has put into it. Fulci’s film breathes with convincing definition and capable detail. This is a film-like presentation in 1080P video with superb grain reproduction and solid black levels. It’s not the sharpest film as some softness is evident.
The 105-minute main feature, completely uncut and including extended exit music, is encoded in a consistently excellent AVC encode at high bitrates. Presented at its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Don’t Torture A Duckling receives one of Arrow’s best color gradings.
The even contrast highlights perfect flesh-tones without the color fading occasionally seen in aged Italian elements. Minor wear is visible on the print typical to the era and genre. Arrow Video should be proud of this 2K restoration, it represents some of their finest work.
The Italian soundtrack and English dub are included in clean-sounding, if thin, 1.0 PCM options. The mono soundtracks generally feature limited sound design. Composer Riz Ortolani’s over-the-top score is possibly the film’s weakest element. It occasionally comes across as harsh and compressed.
Dialogue is nicely reproduced and intelligible in both languages. This is one case where the Italian soundtrack is recommended over the laughably poor English dub.
Optional English SDH is included for the English soundtrack. Undefeatable English subtitles play when the Italian audio is chosen. They play in a white font remaining inside the scope presentation at all times.
Arrow Video seems to go the extra mile for this release with a bevy of new interviews from surviving crew members and well-done featurettes on various aspects of the film. It comes with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides. The first pressing includes a collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes.
It should be noted that the German Blu-ray put out by 84 Entertainment has a different set of extras.
- New audio commentary by Troy Howarth – The author of “So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films” gives an entertaining discussion of the film.
- Giallo a la Campagna (27:44 in HD) – A new video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film.
- Hell Is Already in Us (20:30 in HD) – A new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
- Vintage Audio Interviews with co-writer/director Lucio Fulci: Part 1 (20:13), Part 2 (13:13)
- Interviews with actor Florinda Bolkan (28:20 in HD), cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi (46:21), assistant editor Bruno Micheli (25:38 in HD) and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani (16:03 in HD)
Lucio Fulci’s most realized film is a strong giallo with disturbing moments and unforgettable twists.
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