Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 24th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, September 29th, 1972
Director: Lucio Fulci
Writers: Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Irene Papas, Marc Porel
DVD Released: May 30th, 2000
Approximate Running Time: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Anchor Bay
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
“One of Lucio Fulci’s best films and a superb giallo!” – Dario Argento
Synopsis: A series of child murders have taken place in a rural Italian village leading to fear and blame from the towns people. As usual the police have come to the end of their leads in steps a reporter Andrea Martelli (Thomas Milian) who decides to do his own investigating. Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) a wealthy woman joins Martelli in pursuit of the killer. Don Alberto (Marc Porel) a priest with the help of his Aurelia (Irene Papas) try to help everyone in the village cope with the lose of their children while a murderer is still on the loose. The suspects and young children start to pile up leading to a killer whose motive is even more shocking then the crimes committed.
Lucio Fulci is primarily remembered for his trilogy of zombie films that he made in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. His films from Zombie which was made in 1979 until his death 1996 were filled with over the top gore and violence which help solidify his reputation as the godfather of gore. It is this latter period that most audiences outside of Italy are most familiar with unaware of his pre-zombie films that should he was more then just a director for hire. During his career Fulci would only direct a handful of giallo’s including One on Top of The Other, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Seven Notes in Black and The New York Ripper.
The giallo genre was Fulci would achieve his greatest success as an artist crafting some of the best films of his career. Don’t Torture a Duckling when originally released in 1972 the film was black listed because of its controversial story which lead to it receiving a limited release in Europe. It never received a release in America and Anchor Bay’s DVD mark’s Don’t Torture a Duckling arrival on American shores.
Murder is one of the central themes that is present in all giallo’s and where the majority of Giallo’s are populated by adult characters. Don’t Torture a Duckling is an exception with this film focusing on a murderer of children, which adds to the films sinister plot. As far back as 1931, films like Fritz Lang’s M have dealt which loss of a child at the hands of a madman. It is no surprise the controversy that surrounded this film at the time of its release since murdering children is still a issue that remains prevalent even more today then ever.
Riz Ortolani’s score is one his most unforgettable of his career giving the film a melancholy feel that mirrored the loss of innocence in this film. And though Don’t Torture a Duckling is not a gory as his latter films, there is still a few sadistic moments like when Martiara an outcast is whipped in a cemetery by the towns people who believe she is the reason their children are dying. This scene is one of fulci’s most brutal and haunting scenes that he ever filmed. Overall Fulci keeps most of the violence in the background while he focuses more on character and plot. The scenic country landscapes are beautifully shot as Fulci uses every inch of the scope frame.
The thing that has plagued Fulci most of his career is lack of budget unlike his contemporary Dario Argento has been blessed with stronger casts. Fortunately, Don’t Torture a Duckling features the best cast Fulci would ever work with and a solid screenplay that told a compelling story filled with religious and sexual undertones. And unlike most giallo’s that try to copy Dario Argento’s style, Don’t Torture a Duckling does not do this and because of this Don’t Torture a Duckling succeeds were others have failed in part due to their inability to create a fresh take on the genre.
Don’t Torture a Duckling is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The colors vivid for the most part and flesh tones look healthy through out. The black levels are solid adding exceptional detail during the darker scenes. There are a few instances of nicks and scratches still nothing that ever distracting. This is another great job by Anchor Bay rescuing an obscure film and restoring it to its former glory.
There is only one audio option included for this DVD release as English Dolby Digital Mono track. The dialog and action are clear and easy to follow. Music and effects have been nicely integrated into this mix of the soundtrack adding to the tension that builds through out the film.
Extras include a bio about Lucio fulci and liner notes written by Cliff Macmillan. It is a shame that one of Fulci’s best films and one of the best giallo’s ever made is slighted in the extras department when Anchor Bay has given lesser titles a four star treatment. Overall Don’t Torture a Duckling is a perfect showcase for those who are only familiar with Fulci’s effects and gore films to finally see his masterpiece it its best home video release to date.