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 definitely 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. The synopsis is 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, start to look into it. His parents receive information that the father was told by the person claiming to have taken him to pay 6 million lira 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 Milina), 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 is a bit of 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. Who is actually committing these murders and why?
I wasn’t really sure what to expect coming into this. I just knew that there was a killer, it was a murder mystery and children are dying. Having now seen it, I thought I knew who the killer was. I remember listening to a podcast that actually spoiled the film, but it has been long enough since hearing it that I forgot. This film does really well at giving us red herrings to throw us off; some of them to the point that I knew it couldn’t be the specific person. I thought it was well conceived.
This film goes much deeper than I was expecting to be honest. I like the setting of the film being that it is in this village that is pretty isolated. They’re stuck in their beliefs and that they don’t like outsiders. It kind of reminds me how people in my hometown are. Those that are a little bit different stick out and I kind of feel that way when I come home to be honest. The village is really set in its religion as well. That isn’t too shocking as it takes place in Italy, where Catholicism is really a big deal there.
Some of the other deeper issues in the film that I noticed are singling out those that don’t follow conventional beliefs. Maciara is blamed for the killings because she is a witch. The film gives us some of the odd things she does so it makes you wonder if she is doing, but there isn’t a lot of evidence aside from that. There is a sad aspect that comes from this about mob mentality, which is quite scary. Patrizia is 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.
The last couple things to point out are how mean-spirited this film 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 is fitting for who the victims are and when you realize why they use this title, it really hit me and I loved it as well. That is a great thing about giallos, they have some amazing titles.
Now at the time of writing this, I’m pretty limited in my knowledge of this sub-genre I’ve seen. The ones that I have, I will say that I really like them more if I can’t guess who the killer is. I don’t normally fall for the obvious red herrings, but for this film, there were about three people that I still considered until the final reveal. This film flew by for me as well. It runs 105 minutes, but I really was hooked the whole way. I really liked the ending, even though I had a slight issue with some of the effects there. I like that we are given why the killer did what they did and it is something that makes a lot of sense for them and their beliefs.
The acting really helps to bring this film to life. Milian is an interesting character. He really becomes the hero, but we don’t get much of him in the first half of the film. He does make an appearance and the police kick him out. It really isn’t until the latter part of the film that he really takes over. There is a great image that he took that really starts to piece things together and I loved it. Bouchet was another character I liked. She is someone that is really a suspect through most of the film and it is hard to not consider her. We also see her nude, which I enjoyed. I thought the rest of the characters in the film rounded it out for what was needed as well. All the suspects give off a creepy vibe and you could see why they could be the killer.
Coming into this film, 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 film is much more subdued and I can see why many really like his work. This film is subtle in its effects, but they are quite effective. Not all of them work and there were some that made me laugh. Two examples are what happen at the end of the film and the boy who is underwater. I do think the film was shot very well.
Now with that said, I really had a lot of fun with this film. I’m trying to watch more giallo films and I can say that from the ones I’ve seen, I’m really enjoying this journey. I thought the story of this film was good and the deeper issues that it is exploring not only hit close to home for me, but really hooked me into this film. I thought the acting really helped to bring that life and it is edited in a way that kept me guessing who the killer was. I really wanted a bit more from the effects, but it wasn’t bad at all. The soundtrack of the film really didn’t stand out to me, but it also didn’t hurt the film. As I said, I really had a lot of fun with this one and I thought it was good. I will warn you this is from Italy in the early 1970’s so if that’s an issue, I’d avoid this one. If not and you like murder mysteries, give this one a viewing.
My Rating: 9 out of 10