Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

DontTortureADucklingPosterAfter watching this movie I came to a couple of conclusions. The first is that despite this being directed by their idol, Lucio Fulci, the gorehounds will be somewhat disappointed with it. The second thing I figured out is that in spite of Fulci’s reputation, anyone that enjoys a good, unsettling thriller will come away feeling very satisfied with what they’ve seen. The last and by far the most important thing I learned was that the title refers to a retarded girl’s Donald Duck doll.

Strange things are happening in a small Italian village. Strange things like little boys turning up dead and a dirty woman digging up a little baby skeleton. I suppose that qualifies as strange if you’ve never seen an Italian horror movie before, but those of us in the business see that kind of stuff a couple of times a week.

We also meet three boys who appear to be about ten years of age and are about as familiar with soap as they are with not playing hooky. These are the kind of kids who hang out around the gigantic highway outside their village shooting lizards with slingshots and waiting for fat hookers to drive by.

Guiseppi, the town peeping Tom, is immediately a suspect in the killings the movie details. His antics consist of running up to the house in broad daylight and just looking through holes in the door. Everyone involved knows what he is up to, so he’s not terribly successful. The three boys, who are there to peep as well (this must be what passes for entertainment in small Italian villages) make fun of him and he chases after them threatening to kill them.

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Since this is one of those whodunits where, like Inspector Cloeseau, we suspect everyone and we suspect no one, there are several more characters that get introduced along the way. Some are obviously potential killers, others perhaps not so obvious, but since they all give us their alibis in poorly dubbed English (one of the little boys sounds like he’s about twenty years old) our Spidey sense tingles at all of them.

There’s the daughter of the local rich guy. She’s back from Milan or wherever Italians go when they want to get out of superstitious villages and make it in the big city. She’s living in one of the boy’s homes because she’s recovering from a drug problem.

As part of what I’m assuming is her drug abuse treatment, she sunbathes nude in the room upstairs. This aspect of her treatment is of some interest to the ten year old boy who lives there, and she kind of tries to seduce this kid when he shows up to bring her orange juice.

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The nosy reporter (you didn’t really think an Italian murder mystery movie would travel without one of those did you?) suspects her because the lighter he found is gold and she is the only one with money enough to buy a gold lighter. Sometimes you just have to take those flying leaps of logic to keep the plot chugging along I guess. Naturally, she immediately owns up to it, but denies being the killer.

The peeping Tom is busted for picking up some ransom money on one of the boys, but it turns out he was just scamming the parents and didn’t know anything about the murders.

So, if he didn’t do it and the rich, naked chick didn’t do it, who did? Surely you don’t suspect the local witch, who spends most of her time making furtive movements whenever she’s out and about. Well, that and her full time job appears to be making voodoo dolls of the boys and gleefully sticking pins in them.

She also has this habit of carting around that little baby skeleton. The police decide that they need to pay a visit to the old warlock that lives on the other side of town and who rooms with the young witch.

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We learn about the origin of the baby skeleton and that these dang kids tried to dig it up! What is with these kids over there? Torturing lizards, peeping fat hookers, grave robbing dead babies, trying to hook up with a druggie hoochie – it’s like a whole town full of Dennis the Menaces or something!

The police question the witch and release her since they don’t really accept her confession that she did everything with voodoo. For some reason, the witch then decides this would be the perfect time to bury her devil-baby skeleton in the city graveyard!

Since this is a town of strong Christians, they don’t cotton much to devil spawn being interred with all the goody-goodies. A couple of guys with log chains show up and trap her in the cemetery resulting in a brutally effective sequence.

The ending of the movie is a very good one with lots of doublecrosses, shocking revelations, and a climatic mountaintop fight that will actually have your pulse racing a little bit. Fulci even manages to work in some completely gratuitous gore which would have been right at home in his movies such as City Of The Living Dead.

Despite that, this is not the typical effort he became known for starting with Zombie and it easily stands out as one of his best films. He eschews the typical blood and pig guts motif that those later movies were awash in and instead focuses on a variety of characters and a story that drums up a good deal of suspense. The fat hookers don’t hurt either!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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