Don't Torture a Duckling
don't torture a duckling | lucio fulci | roberto gianviti | gianfranco clerici | florinda bolkan | barbara bouchet | tomas milian | giallo | mystery | thriller | italy | irene papas | marc porel | georges wilson | antonello campodifiori | ugo d'allessio
Film: Don’t Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writer: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti and Gianfranco Clerici
Starring: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet and Tomas Milian
This was a film that I heard quite a bit about on horror podcasts and I was intrigued. I knew this was one of the more popular giallo films and this is a sub-genre that I need to see more of. This would also be the first one I’ve seen from writer/director Lucio Fulci in this sub-genre as well. I’ve also now given it a rewatch being more versed in gialli, Fulci and doing this as a Trek through the Twos rewatch.
Synopsis: a reporter and a promiscuous young woman try to solve a series of child killings in a remote southern Italian town rife with superstition and a distrust of outsiders.
We start this off with a boy who is watching the road. He sees a car coming and goes to signal his two friends. Inside of it is a couple of women who are prostitutes and they’re going to a remote place to make some money. There is a slower man who is trying to watch and the boys mock him.
Things take a turn when one of the boys goes missing. A couple of police officers, Captain Modesti (Ugo D’Alessio) and Antonello Campodifiori, investigates his disappearance. His parents receive information that the father was told by the person claiming to have taken him to pay 6 million lire in ransom. The boy ends up being found murdered and the man they arrested claims he didn’t do it. His two friends also end up dead amongst others. The police are at a loss as they try to figure out who is committing these crimes.
There is a reporter, Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian), who shows up to write about what is happening. The village has quite a bit of possible suspects. There is the local witch Maciara (Florinda Bolkan) as we see that she is doing black magic on the boys. There’s the beautiful Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) who has a drug problem and might be a pedophile. She always seems to be around the area where bodies are found. There is also Dona Aurelia Avallone (Irene Papas), who was said to have the devil in her previously. There are others who could be committing these murders and the town won’t sit by, letting others be killed.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I’ll then start is that I wasn’t sure what to expect coming into this with that first watch. I just knew that there was a killer, it was a murder mystery and children are dying. Having now seen this a couple times, I thought I knew who the killer was. I remember listening to a podcast that spoiled the film, but it has been long enough since hearing it that I forgot. This film does well at giving us red herrings to throw the audience off. I’d say this is a well-crafted gialli there. Now for this second watch, I did remember so this time around it allowed me to focus on them. Fulci didn’t cheat and that is something I appreciated it.
This goes much deeper than I was expecting to be honest originally as well. I like the setting of the film being that it is in this village that is isolated. They’re stuck in their beliefs and they don’t like outsiders. It reminds me how people in my hometown can be. Those that are a little bit different stick out and it feels that way when I come home. Most of the villagers are also religious. That isn’t too shocking as it takes place in Italy, where Catholicism is a big deal there. Something I noticed this time as well is that we have this major road in the background. That tells me they aren’t too far out of the way while still being how they are.
There are people here who are different though as well. This develops a deeper issue in that I noticed being singling out those that don’t follow conventional beliefs. Maciara is blamed for the killings because she is a witch. It gives us the odd things she does so it makes you wonder if she is the killer. What is interesting is that there isn’t a lot of evidence aside from her rituals. There is a sad aspect that comes from this involving mob mentality, which is quite scary. Patrizia is also considered because she keeps appearing around areas where murders happened. She comes from money and didn’t grow up there. She also has a drug problem and there is quite a weird scene where she has a bit of pedophilia tendencies. Don Alberto Avallone (Marc Porel), who is the local priest, also gives off that vibe with something that’s said the first time we meet him. He’s a man of God though so that makes you question if he’d do what is being done. Especially with how religious the people of the area are.
I have a couple other things to point out with the first being how mean-spirited this is. The killer is going after children, which you don’t see a lot of. The other thing is the title of the film. I thought it was fitting for who the victims are and when you realize why they use this title, it hit me and I loved it as well. That is a great thing about gialli, they have tended to have amazing titles.
Now at the time of originally writing this, I was limited in my knowledge of this sub-genre. I have now seen a good handful more and have a better grasp on the subgenre. I don’t believe I figured out who the killer was and I think this does well in showing us that person while also not being too blatant. They do push red herrings and I knew it couldn’t be certain people. I love how they develop this and it is paced well, so that is a major credit.
What also helps bring this life is the acting. Milian is an interesting character. He becomes the hero, but we don’t get much of him in the first half of the film. He makes an appearance and the police kick him out. It isn’t until the latter part of the second act that he takes over. Andrea being an investigative reporter makes sense to solve the crime. Bouchet was another character I liked. She is someone that is a suspect and it is hard to not consider her. That is classic for a giallo since she wants to stop the killings and clear her name. I thought she worked well off Andrea. We also saw her nude if you’re curious. I’ll also credit Bolkan, Papas, Porel and the rest of the cast to round this out for what was needed. All the suspects give off a creepy vibe and you could see why they could be the killer.
Where I’ll finish is filmmaking. Coming in and knowing that it was Fulci, I was expecting more effects than what we got. I will admit that my first forays into his films were Zombie and The Gates of Hell Trilogy. This is subdued and that’s not an issue. This is subtle with its effects, but they are quite effective. Not all of them work and there were some that made me laugh. Two examples are what happens at the end of the film and the boy who is underwater. Dummy stuff in Italian movies has a bit of charm that I’m a sucker for now. The cinematography is great though in capturing where this takes place and giving it that isolated feel that it needs. I did want to give credit there.
In conclusion, I enjoyed this movie despite how bleak its outlook and critiques are. This has social commentary that I didn’t originally know as it looks at people’s belief and how mob mentality can be dangerous. This is well-made. The cinematography is the bright spot there and I’d also credit the effects. Not everything is great there, but it is effective. The acting is good with Bolkan, Milian and Bouchet leading the way there. This is up there as one of my favorite Fulci films for sure. Probably his best giallo that I’ve seen to date. If you like him as a filmmaker or this subgenre, this is a must see.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10