The real deep philosophy behind Lucio Fulci?s ?Don?t Torture A Duckling? could be ?now, why would a child rip the head off of their Donald Duck doll?? Within that lies the disturbing drama unfolded in this 1972 Italian ?giallo? classic. Fulci reportedly got a lot of slack after this film and may very well have been shunned for future mass audience projects for this intertwined story of a child murderer. The film pivots around multiple suspects from our point of view, and eventually from the film?s lead detective?s point of view, who, even the viewer may consider a suspect. Is he? One by one, young boys around the age of twelve begin to be found murdered in various brutal ways. The small, Italian townsfolk are in an uproar as the village idiot, a big city woman just slumming it (who seems to have a penchant for, er, young boys), a mysterious black-arts practicing woman, the possible list goes on, are all running around in fear for their children?s lives. The suspense of the viewer lost in figuring out who the killer is doesn?t compare with the thrill gotten from each new child?s means of death. Yes, they may all have been strangled to their demise in some part, but they also were ?wounded? in other horrific ways in the sense of torture before the actual strangling, such as being clobbered over the head with a rock, exposing brain matter practically?.ah, then finish the tyke off by strangling him. It is in this light method does the horror come out through Fulci?s very early work.
Don?t look for the undead, don?t expect any eyeballs getting gorged or whatever in this one, well?not exactly. There are some brutal images here to satisfy the blood fiends, especially one to note is a woman being beaten by a few men with a myriad of objects, displaying gouges in her flesh that begin to ooze blood. It is not just the site of this, suddenly in the suspense-ridden mystery drama, that causes us to feel uneasy, it?s the music! Before they attack her, the men turn up the volume on a car radio, which, as she is bashed and lashed plays a slow, dreamy jazz-blues ballad which may seem out of place but is every much as creepy as the thought of what these men are capable of doing. It calls to mind David Lynch?s ?Blue Velvet? which also used songs of this genre during moments of violence and depravity.
DTAD takes a stab at religion also, if not religious mania. If you are a staunch Christian with closed mindedness and attitude you probably aren?t reading this. If you are an intelligent, faith certain person, then you can see the realm of ?possibility? this film encounters upon. Oh, you must see it to fully comprehend, but in these times of fervor about priests and all that, seeing a film in which a town so desperately clutches to religion (I think practically ALL of the children go to the Catholic school in the village) at the same time completely believing that powers of witchcraft are truly the cause of the murders, may unsettle your paradigm. There are some fine moments of little wax dolls being skewered with pins?.you know. Could it actually be this black magic that is causing the murders of these innocents? Hmmmm?small town ignorance and intolerance may also be what Fulci is displaying here.
The cinematography, if you?re into such things, is absolutely brilliant in ?Don?t Torture A Duckling.? Landscapes of the rural Italian countryside, the village, and the climactic ?cliff hanger? are hauntingly beautiful, yet plain, and will have you in a dream state throughout the film. It is on these cliffs where the other great moment of gore appears. A nice treat of a body being pulverized by rocks as it tumbles down a mountain?.ah, Fulci.
For the booty lovers, you get the tall, leggy red-head Barbara Bouchet bouncing all around and wearing some sexy outfits. Ouch. In one scene she entices a young boy by merely being naked as he enters the room and she questions him on his sexual experience. A bit hard to take if you are puritanical, but otherwise oh so necessary to the exposition of the storyline. She is, after all, a suspect. You almost forget that this was made in 1972 because besides Ms.Bouchet?s groovy wardrobe the rest of the cast seems to look and wear clothes probably found today in rural Italy.
?Don?t Torture A Duckling? is truly one of Fulci?s masterpieces, in my opinion. ?Zombie? is an obvious second to me now and many will claim ?The Beyond? to be one of his greatest achievements. Having watched all of the supernatural gore splatter fests of Lucio Fulci?s career first off and then to lastly see this early work of his made me see just how amazingly talented he was. Without meaning to offend, it is as if this was his last bout with a ?normal? mass audience before he truly went over the edge and decided to go all out by having the dead take chunks out of peoples necks and eyeballs being sliced in half with a razorblade?.the only poor part of the film would be perhaps be the lack of more blood?for that see Fulci?s other psycho murderer film ?New York Ripper.? Interestingly enough, ?Ripper?s? killer uses a Donald Duck sounding quack-quack voice when he taunts his prey. In DTAD Donald is a doll whose head is ripped off by a child who likes to rip off dolls? heads. Why, oh, why? See the beautiful masterpiece ?Don?t Torture A Duckling? in order to get a sense of chills from not knowing who it is that is capable of murdering children. You may be surprised.