in Shocktober

Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Whenever I hear the word “Giallo” I think of three names: Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci. Bava made the classiest looking pictures in stark black and white, Argento made the most artistic films with a deeply rich palette and Fulci’s were neither. Fulci’s films were not classy, nor were they colorful, that is unless you count the color red. Lucio Fulci’s reputation is mostly that of a goremeister, if that word has yet to be coined I’m calling it. Fulci’s films often employed incredibly graphic death sequences brimming with nakedness and corn syrup. Zombi 2, aka Zombie, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters, aka Woodoo was Fulci’s 1979 international breakout and the film I most closely associate with the filmmaker. Though I’ll admit Zombi 2 is an entertaining midnight movie, it’s definitely a “leave your brain at the door so zombies can eat it” viewing experience. Zombi 2 was a fairly conventional zombie flick, so I never understood why Fulci was considered so important to the whole Giallo movement. But after Don’t Torture a Duckling I think I get it.

Set in a small village in Accendura, Italy, not your typical slash ‘em up setting, Don’t Torture a Duckling is an ensemble piece set around a string of child murders. People in the village band together to unravel the mystery of the boys as they go missing, while an unseen figure slowly takes them out. The death scenes border the line between horrifying and laughable, employing some nauseating makeup with some oddly distracting music. The deaths made me uncomfortable so… Mission accomplished? Yes and No. Don’t Torture a Duckling is a film that’s half a troubling dissection of faith and half a cheesy 70s drive-in slasher flick.

It doesn’t help Don’t Torture a Duckling that the most commercially available US version of the film is horrendously dubbed. The voices are always over the top and never seem to match the character types or mouth movements. All the cartoony voices, violence, and endlessly droning soundtrack definitely began to eat away at me after awhile. Still, I didn’t hate this movie. The mystery was surprisingly sharp. There are so many people in the town to suspect and so many motives, it’s a deeply layered mystery. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to translate over here in the states. Though I do know it has its following.

Earlier I pondered what made Fulci important to the Giallo movement. Now I see that he may have been the ballsiest. He was the most graphic, he was the most fearless (picking children as his victims), and the most “F@#k the system”. I know Catholics didn’t like this movie and after you’ve seen the end you’d probably see why. Maybe Fulci isn’t quite my taste but I still found some mild pleasure in gnawing on the raw slasher that is Don’t Torture a Duckling. Bon Appetit