Don’t Torture a Duckling – aka Non si sevizia un paperino – is a 1972 Italian giallo thriller feature film directed by Lucio Fulci. He has said in numerous interviews that he ranks this film as his personal favourite of all the movies he directed in his career.
It is significant within Fulci’s filmography as it is one of the first in which he began using strong violence and gore effects, something he would continue to do in his later films, most notably Zombi 2 /Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond and City of the Living Dead. The stand-out soundtrack was composed by Riz Ortolani and features vocals by Ornella Vanoni.
On August 14 (UK) and 15 (US), 2017, Arrow Video released the film on Blu-ray with the following special features:
- Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (new)
- The Blood of Innocents – Video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film (new)
- Interviews with director/co-writer Lucio Fulci, actor Florinda Bolkan, cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi, assistant editor Bruno Micheli, and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani
- Collector’s booklet with new writing by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes (first pressing only)
- New artwork by Timothy Pittides and original artwork on reverse.
A reporter and a promiscuous young woman try to solve a series of child killings in a remote southern Italian town that’s rife with superstition and distrust of outsiders…
When the film was first released in 1972 it received only a limited release in Europe, due to the film’s themes, among which was criticism of the antiquated, authoritarian and repressive Roman Catholic Church.
Although an English language audio track was created for the movie, it was not released much outside of Italy and remained unreleased in the USA until 1999 when Anchor Bay Entertainment released the film on DVD and VHS.
Lucio Fulci is best known for the ultra-gory gothic horrors that he made at the start of the 1980s, however, like many Italian directors, he was a jack of all trades, moving from job-to-job as required by producers and able to knock out efficient films across genres, from comedy to westerns to science fiction. And like many a jobbing director in the 1970s, he also ventured into the giallo field. The curious thing is that while most fans would say that he found his true voice with the gothics, his 1970s gialli are considerably more interesting films, each playing with the conventions of the genre and expanding it in unusual directions.
Don’t Torture a Duckling is a fine example of this – it has all the giallo staples (POV killings, red herrings galore, an outsider investigating the mystery) – yet often sidelines these, instead concentrating on the effects of suspicion and superstition in a small village, where young boys are being murdered by an unknown assailant. The number one suspect is local witch La Magiara (Florinda Bolkan), who actually admits to the killings – though this depends on the idea of believing that her curses actually work. The villagers certainly do, and take a brutal revenge (in one of the most painfully nasty scenes Fulci ever shot). However, journalist Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian) and local rich girl Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) are less certain, and continue the investigation themselves.
The film is much more interesting as a study in small town bigotry and paranoia than it is a giallo, and Fulci does a fine job with these scenes. His characters are generally unpleasant characters – the villagers are horrible, narrow-minded and insular, the police incompetent and even the heroes are dodgy – we first see Bouchet naked and teasing a small boy, while Milian’s character is as much careerist as crusader.
Even the children seem nasty pieces of work in progress. This sense of nihilism works well for the film and makes it far more interesting than a more straight-forward giallo. It’s certainly not perfect – there are unfortunate clumsy moments and the gore effects, especially in the final scene, are dreadful. Showing these in such loving close-up is less shocking and more laughable, and a very bad decision that almost derails the film. Yet, on the whole, Don’t Torture a Duckling is an interesting, if somewhat bleak effort, and one that stands up rather more impressively than some of Fulci’s better known work.
David Flint, HORRORPEDIA
“While many Italian murder mysteries (or gialli) involve black-gloved killers stalking women in the big city, Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling turns the formula completely inside out to produce a violent, sweltering masterpiece of regional and religious oppression. Don’t expect to see any shuffling zombies or gory power drills in this one, folks.” Nathaniel Thompson, Mondo Digital
“From the startling opening shot of the film to it’s tense conclusion the movie works wonderfully. Don’t Torture is a true anomaly in Euroshock cinema, using the common tools of the trade yet applying them completely differently. One thing remains though, you won’t be disappointed if you are looking for something unique (and yes my ghoulie pals…it’s got gore to spare).” DVD Drive-In
“This is a dirty, brutal, squalid film – and it just happens to be one of Fulci’s best, most powerful and most personal movies.” Braineater
“Don’t Torture a Duckling is a genuine one off in Italian cinema. It looks great, sounds great and embraces a clutch of prickly off-the-wall subjects. Its coherence rarely veers into the pedantic (with maybe a couple of scenes too many depicting the police search for the killer) and its idiosyncrasies stay in the mind well after attempts at giallo thrills have receded into a distant glue of confused titles.” Stephen Thrower, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
Main cast and characters:
- Florinda Bolkan as Maciara
- Barbara Bouchet as Patrizia
- Tomas Milian as Andrea Martelli
- Irene Papas as Dona Aurelia Avallone
- Marc Porel as Don Alberto Avallone
- Georges Wilson as Francesco
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