Gialloween Day 16: Don't Torture A Duckling
Bodies of young boys start appearing within a small rural community. While the town and law enforcement continue identifying the wrong suspects, a reporter and woman work their own leads to identify the killer and solve the crimes themselves.
Inaugural director of our Gialloween series, Lucio Fulci, is back again to kick off the second half with his 1972 entry Don’t Torture a Duckling. One of my top Fulci gialli’s (the other being The Psychic) Fulci manages to incorporate the stylish visuals of an urban high society giallo while cultivating the sense of distrust and unease that pervades the film’s small town setting. Much like the rural giallo The House with the Laughing Windows, three of our main characters feel the effect of the village’s paranoia and distrust grow as the bodies continue to turn up.
One character that Fulci uses to portray this deftly is the young Patrizia played by the gorgeous Barbara Bouchet. Coming to seek refuge from some criminal troubles in Milan, Patrizia stays at the uber-modern home built by her father. Shifty looks and gossip begin to turn her way as the murders continue to happen. All of this is further amplified when she is implicated in being within close contact to the villages “dark-art” practitioners.
The portrayal of black magic in the form of voodoo dolls and “spells” is contrasted through the film with the church as there are many funeral and mourning services. The distrust of the characters associated with the black magic is palpable and comes to a tragic climax in the form of a brutal lynching set to a melodramatic opera ballad. This is the scene, if there are any in Fulci’s oeuvre, that transcends associations with exploitation and genre towards the “artistic”. The film is worth watching for that scene and remains one of the highlights of my discovery of the giallo genre.
Fulci manages to make another statement during the last act of the film. The reveal of the killer and motive is not only well crafted, but a great statement that subverts beliefs of the small town and a commentary on society that its still applicable to this day. Fulci’s best “animal giallo” and one of the must-see films in the genre, this Don’t Torture a Duckling is great and I hope to see a proper blu-ray release sometime in the future.