Saturday, September 16, 2017

Review: Don't Torture A Duckling (1972)

Way back in the dim and distant past, some of the masters of Italian Giallo were cutting their teeth on crime dramas, which, while having something in common with the horror fare we might be used to seeing from them, comes from a somewhat different angle.

Years before he rose to notoriety with Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), Lucio Fulci made Don't Torture a Duckling, a crime/giallo film which has one or two touches of his future horror fare included. In many ways, it's quite a straightforward film: three boys in an Italian village are messing about, as boys do, making trouble and tormenting the locals. One of them goes missing, and amid the press interest, one journalist (Tomas Millian) tries to help the police out.

The boy's body is discovered, and in a welter of red herrings and characters, we get numerous possible suspects for the murder. Was it the strange gypsy witch who has been making dolls of the boys and sticking pins in them? Is it Milan socialite Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) who is acting very suspiciously? Is it the local priest (Marc Poreli) or his mother (Irene Papas)? There are no end of suspicious activities until we find out at the end ...  and I'm not going to spoil it for you!

Overall, it's a pretty accomplished film, and sets out to do what it does very well. There's touches of horror in the deaths, and one very brutal and protracted and hard to watch killing by the villagers, which, if you replace said villagers with zombies, is almost a template for later films ...

The title is, I suppose, a play on duckling=children ... but there is some relevance to a mute girl who has a headless doll, and later a headless duck, as a toy ...

The Arrow release is beautifully mastered, with good colours and a clear picture. We watched the film in Italian with subtitles, not realising there was an English soundtrack as well!

And the extras are, again as usual, excellent.


• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
Giallo a la Campagna, a new video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
• Hell is Already in Us, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
• Interviews with co-writer/director Lucio Fulci, actor Florinda Bolkan, cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi, assistant editor Bruno Micheli and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes

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