Lucio Fulci/ Italy/ 1972/ 108 mins
Available on Blu-Ray/ DVD from Mon 11 September 2017
This is no ordinary film. From the opening sequence, it becomes clear that director Lucio Fulci was playing by his own rules as we watch a woman dig up the remains of a baby – an incident which will be left unexplained, never mind mentioned, for quite some time. Yet despite this gloriously macabre intrigue, the film suffers at the hands of its incredible reputation.
Don’t Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) concerns itself with the solving of a series of child murders which rock a small, rural Italian village. There are larger themes at work throughout which keep the film interesting – superstition, ochlocracy, even hints of paedophilia – but it never amounts to anything substantially powerful. Part of this may be due to the confused morality behind the film, for example: the character of Patrizia (Barabara Bouchet), the promiscuous outsider who seems unnaturally comfortable with the idea of underage sex, is also one of our likeable leads.
Fulci’s confidence in the piece he was making at the time is admirable; one can only imagine how criticising the Catholic Church in 1972’s Italy would be viewed by the general public, but the stature of the film has outgrown the quality that is present on screen. It might seem harsh, or unfair, to criticise a Giallo film for unbelievable dialogue or terrible dubbing, as these issues are taken as part-and-parcel of the genre, but the fact of the matter is that the style is incredibly jarring and constantly removes you from the story. To put it simply, the film suffers from its badly dated aesthetics.
Any quick search into the film will highlight its standing as a classic and an important piece of cinema. Whilst that is almost undeniable, sometimes classics become so because of what they inspired and not what they actually created themselves. This might just be one of those classics.