CULT CORNER: ‘Don’t Torture a Duckling’ is a criminally unseen Italian murder mystery
The name Lucio Fulci is synonymous with horror, specifically over-the-top gore-filled horror. His films “Zombie,” “City of the Living Dead,” and “The Beyond” are among the pantheon of must-see movies for horror fanatics. However, he has a plethora of great titles that have been overlooked due to their lack of nonstop gore.
“Don’t Torture a Duckling” was originally released in 1972 and is one of Fulci’s initial forays into horror after his early career in spaghetti westerns and comedies. “A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin” was his earlier giallo entry that was released in 1971, but with “Don’t Torture a Duckling,” he steered even more directly into the horror genre. In this, he used some flourishes of gore that would later be staples for all his films.
The film seems like it could follow the standard giallo plotlines with an unsolved murder and more to come as the mystery unfolds. However, it steers clear of many of the tropes and stands on its own as a great horror film with a strong mystery element.
The death of young boys in a small Italian town sparks a media frenzy. One of the reporters decides that she is going to get to the truth of what is really going on. The trouble is this town is filled with distrust of outsiders and, even more so, a reliance upon superstition.
While the disturbing subject matter is still a bit taboo, it is handled in a non-celebratory manner – the deaths are not glorified, as is typical in many horror films. Instead, these deaths are at the forefront of the character’s mind and impart an underlying darkness throughout the film.
The taboo material in the film is actually what may have led to its disappearance into the underground for a number of years. Upon its initial release in Europe, “Don’t Torture a Duckling” was only seen on a limited number of screens and not released in the United States at all. In fact, it did not come out here until 1999 when it received a DVD and VHS release by Anchor Bay.
In 2017, though, this film received its best release to date thanks to Arrow Video. The new Blu-ray is even packaged with a DVD for those who have not have made the move to Blu-ray yet. It also features interviews with the late Lucio Fulci and a number of other great extras.
Is it worth seeing? “Don’t Torture a Duckling” is not a “fun” horror film to watch with friends; however, it is a great horror movie. Fulci is notorious for gory horror films and, while this certainly does have its share of gore, it is nowhere near the amount he would later pour on.
This is a must-see film for any Italian horror fans or those who love a great mystery with elements of horror.