“Don’t Torture A Duckling” (1972)

duckling

By Jerome Reuter

Don’t Torture A Duckling is a 1972 Giallo film directed by Lucio Fulci. It’s considered by many to be one of the most important of the genre. Aside from being essential viewing for any fan of the genre, it’s also one of Fulci’s best works. It marked the beginning of the style that would cement his legacy as the ‘godfather of gore.’ Many of the elements and tropes found in films such as City Of The Living Dead can be traced back to this one.

Unlike other works in the genre, Fulci takes his camera and sets it up in rural Italy. So many others took place within the confines of a city, most notably Rome. Aside from the setting, it’s the tone and pace this film has that makes it so great. A good amount of the violence takes place off screen. This leaves the audience in the dark about the true identity of the killer.

The victims in this village aren’t scantily clad vixens, but children lured into a false sense of security. Children are always naïve and trusting, so they sometimes make the perfect victim. After all, when you were 10 years old, you would never suspect an adult to cause you harm. Unless of course, you watched America’s most wanted every Saturday evening. As the bodies continue to pile up, the mystery builds.

One thing you’ll notice about this one is the bizarre characters contained therein. We find a reporter, a temptress, a witch, a detective, and even a priest. All of who make this story so great. Just when you think you know who might be the guilty party, you’re thrown for another loop. At the end of the day, that’s what makes Giallo such an amazing genre. It’s not the gore, it’s not the murders—it’s the mystery. It’s what makes you to continue to guess until the end credits roll. Riz Ortolani’s soundtrack keeps the level of suspense high throughout the films duration.

Going back to the characters, you might recognize a trope in some of his future works. You have the reporter being whisked off to an adventure, and a mysterious clergyman. A good amount of Fulci’s works always had an underlying theme of Catholic guilt. The reporter trope can also be found in City Of The Living Dead and Zombie. In a sense, this can be considered the turning point for Fulci’s narrative style. Here is where he came into his own, and never looked back.

This is truly a great work, one of Fulci’s best. It’s also proof that he was a filmmaker that was capable of much more than he’s given credit for.

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