• Don’t Torture A Duckling



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: October 3rd, 2017.
    Director: Lucio Fulci
    Cast: Tomas Milian, Barbara Bouchet, Florinda Bolkan,
    Ugo D'Alessio, Vito Passeri
    Year: 1972
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    The Movie:

    Set entirely in the small rural Italian village of Accendura, Don’t Torture A Duckling begins with a scene where a trio of young boys watch as two farmers play around with some prostitute in their shack up in the hills. A man named Barra (Vito Passeri) peeps in on the action and the boys make fun of him. Shortly after this escapade, the boys are killed one after the next.

    The local police, led by Captain Modesti (Ugo D'Alessio), are doing their best to figure out who is behind the murders. A journalist from the city, Andrea (Tomas Milian), finds a lighter at a crime scene belonging to Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), a beautiful and promiscuous girl with some strange nocturnal habits. He returns it to her wondering if she’s the one, but then she tells him her story. Eventually the cops and the citizens of the town alike begin to suspect that a ‘witch’ named Maciara (Florinda Bolkan) is behind it all – but there’s a lot more to this than they suspect. Before Andrea and the others learn the truth they find themselves in a race to stop the culprit before there are more killings.

    Far more realistic than a lot of Fulci’s other horror pictures, Don’t Torture A Duckling has no shambling corpses to speak of nor even a hint of the supernatural. Here he plays things completely straight, grounding the film in a reality that’s easy to accept even while what happens in said reality can be difficult to watch. The film was no stranger to controversy when it was first released. Not only did it deal with the understandably controversial issue of child murders but it hints a pedophilia and paints the Roman Catholic Church in a less than perfect light. Fulci liked pushing buttons, and push buttons he does with this picture. At the same time, this is definitely one of the director’s more accessible films. There’s a logic to the events that play out and while there are still times where our imagination is stretched a bit, what winds up on the screen is remarkably efficient, less an exercise in style over substance than, say, A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin.

    Of course, it helps that the performances here are really strong. Tomas Milian plays ‘cocky’ better than most, and that trait helps him ease into character as Andrea quite effectively. At the same time, while he’s a bit of a smart ass, he’s also quite bright and in many ways far more perceptive than the police. Milian is solid in the role, never going over to the top or underplaying his character. The truly gorgeous Barbara Bouchet provides some fairly daring work here, playing her character as more than just a little sexually predatory, but doing it well. More than just a pretty face, Bouchet makes her Patrizia interesting just as much for her damaged soul as for her looks. Florinda Bolkan steals a few of her scenes as the witch who lives outside of town. As we get to know her back story she proves to be the most tragic of the adult characters in the story, although she also suffers far more abuse than anyone else.

    Production values are impressive. Save for a rather unfortunate ‘dummy death’ that happens later in the movie the effects are quite good, though to be fair this movie is much lighter on the gore set pieces than many of the director’s other pictures. The cinematography is excellent, preferring brightly lit open spaces to the more dark and atmospheric night or interior scenes that populate so much of Fulci’s filmography. Add to this a genuinely excellent score from Riz Ortolani and Don’t Torture A Duckling remains one of Fulci’s strongest efforts.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Don’t Torture A Duckling arrives on Blu-ray framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 28GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The image quality here is quite good. There’s nice detail in close up shots but also in medium and long distance shots. There isn’t much print damage to note at all, though eagle-eyed viewers will spot the odd small scratch here and there, while the grain inherent in the film is maintained, never blasted away with DNR. As such, detail and texture are good, skin tones look nice and natural – never waxy – and there’s quite a bit of depth to the picture. Color reproduction is also really solid and we get strong black levels are well. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement.

    Arrow provides both Italian and English language tracks in LPCM Mono, with English subtitles translating the Italian track and English SDH for the English track. The film not only plays better in Italian, but it sounds better too. The English track is thin and the score and effects don’t sound as strong. Regardless, both options give you properly balanced levels and a listening experience free of any hiss or distortion. Ortolani’s score definitely sounds stronger on the Italian track, however.

    Supplements are plentiful, starting off with a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years Of Italian Giallo Films and Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci And His Films. Howarth’s clear enthusiasm for the film is obvious here, you can tell he’s really into it as he covers not only the standard information you’d expect – locations, who did what both in front of the camera and behind it, the score, etc. – but also some more information unique to this specific movie such as its portrayal of the Roman Catholic Church and how it deals with child murders. It’s a good track, lots of information in here and no dead air worth complaining about.

    Up next is a video essay entitled Giallo a la Campagna by Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema And The Italian Giallo Film that clocks in at just shy of twenty-eight minutes in length. In this piece Koven discusses the cultural differences between Northern and Southern Italy and how this can sometimes be reflected in giallo cinema and how that can come into play in this particular film from Fulci. From there, Kat Ellinger narrates a piece she wrote entitled Hell Is Already In Us, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger that clocks in at just over twenty minutes. Here Ellinger talks about the often discussed misogyny in many of Fulci’s films but also about the different gender roles and how they’re explored in some of his pictures, Don’t Torture A Duckling being just one of the pictures discussed and dissected.

    Arrow has also supplied a selection of interviews starting with a two part archival piece featuring Fulci Himself. The first part runs twenty minutes and the second thirteen, so these are decent clips with some good substance. Originally recorded in 1988, these are audio only, but throughout the two chats we learn his thoughts on what were some modern horror pictures at the time (Cronenberg’s The Fly comes up), his feelings on music, his take on the cinema of some of his contemporaries including Argento, some of this theories on filmmaking and his take on horror films in general. Fulci isn’t one to mix words, these are quite interesting to hear.

    From there we get a twenty-eight minute long discussion with actress Florinda Bolkan. This might be the best interview on the disc as she goes into quite a bit of detail about making this film and Lizard In A Woman’s Skin with the infamously tempestuous director. She shares some interesting stories about her time working with him and getting to know him, as well as her thoughts on acting and a scene that appears to have been lost to the ages where she encountered a bat inside a cave! Bolkan is a bit of a firecracker, this piece is great. Up next, cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi speaks for over forty-six minutes about working on this picture. He shares some stories from the early days of his career, notes some highlights from that period, then talks about the specifics of shooting this particular film (which he is understandably quite proud of) and how he got along with the director. From there, assistant editor Bruno Micheli gets twenty-six minutes in front of the camera. He talks about how he got into the industry and about some career highlights before then going into some detail about his history with Fulci, who he seems to have gotten along with quite well, and their work together on Duckling. Last but not least, we get a sixteen minute interview with assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani. He shares his a story about his unlikely entry into the industry which was basically a happy accident before then going on to develop a knack for makeup effects and being able to fill a need in the Italian film industry during this time doing just that.

    As this is a combo pack release a DVD version of the movie with the same extra features that are found on the Blu-ray disc is also included inside the clear keepcase. Accompanying the two discs is some nice reversible sleeve art, a cardboard slipcover and, in the first pressing, a full color insert booklet containing credits for the feature and the Blu-ray as well as new essays on the film written by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes.

    The Final Word:

    Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Don’t Torture A Duckling offers up the film in very nice shape, with fine audio and with a nice selection of extra features that cover not only the history of the film but many of the people involved in its making as well. The movie itself holds up really well, a dark thriller that takes some unexpected twists and turns and that remains a highpoint in the late Lucio Fulci’s career.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!