Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Lack of updates here of late is a function of the not wholly unexpected yet somehow oddly abrupt death of my nearly eight year old DVD player a couple of weeks ago; I did admittedly watch Pepé le Moko on the laptop but I don’t really like doing that and anyway it’s a pest setting the thing up to play non-region 4 discs, so I’ve held off until the new player was acquired… and so here I am again, with one of several loans from Brendan to get through. It’s Fulci time once again, this time what has historically been one of his most obscure films, poorly received in Italy where it was barely released and seemingly unseen almost anywhere else for decades. It’s a giallo set in a small Italian village where a number of young boys have been killed; the rendering of this material on screen is comparatively more straightforward and much less flamboyant than Fulci’s other films I’ve seen, though in truth the subject matter is so downright nasty that a more luridly exploitative handling would’ve been hard to take. I’ve seen this cited as Fulci’s first serious attempt at gore effects, but they’re pretty minor in quantity and quality, though the attack on the village “witch” in the cemetery has a marked edge to it that’s more genuinely disturbing than some of the atrocities he’d later unleash. Indeed, he seems more concerned about the overall feel of the film, which is really disquieting from start to finish, and the fact that the boys actually aren’t sexually abused arguably makes things worse; that hint of sublimated pedophilia in the killer’s self-justification of his deeds is somehow even more unpleasant than if he’d actually just molested them. Despite the harm it apparently did to his career, Fulci seems to have considered this his best film, and I can kind of see why he’d think that; in the right hands it could probably be successfully remade now without much updating.

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