Monday, August 1, 2011

REVIEW: Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

Lucio Fulci movies are always a pleasure. If you don’t know who he is, he was an influential and renowned director of Italian cinema, with work ranging in many genres from fantasy to horror. He became famous in the 80s for his gore-splattered horror tales such as The Beyond and City of the Living Dead – both of which are absolutely awesome, by the way. His movies never had the greatest production values or acting/dubbing, but they were intriguing and watchable due to great stories, strong directing and an ironclad love of filmmaking that shone through as bright as day. Today I’ll be reviewing Don’t Torture a Duckling, one of his 70s flicks that is definitely one of the more ambitious and artful of his films that I’ve come across so far…let’s take a look.

Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Tomas Millan, Barbara Bouchet

The film’s story revolves around detectives in a small town trying to solve the vicious chain of brutal child murders in town that have been cropping up like flies around a pile of waste. They’re baffled by the case and can’t figure out who to convict, as every suspect turns up a dud. The boys themselves are also given some screentime, as we see them interacting together and with the adults of the city, which adds a level of humanity and realism to the movie. These seem like real people – even despite the shaky dub-work on their voices…but the acting is theatrical and fits the atmosphere like a glove.

This is a very intricately put together movie with clear, simple messages that speak to you through the vivid and dramatic direction, lighting and acting. It’s a story about prejudice and how we judge people based on what we know of their general “type” – prostitute, gypsy, homeless man and priest are all some of the “categories” put under light here. Some of them are given harsher treatment by the law than others. The film illustrates quite a stark and biting point about who a society collectively turns against first when crisis comes to call, no matter if the evidence supports it or not. When a horrible crime is committed, society turns to the people they already find suspicious by nature, without asking questions. The title of the film – Don’t Torture a Duckling – will make a lot more sense after you’ve seen the social commentary on hand, and the film remains relevant even today.

And that’s the cincher as to why this is a great piece of art – it is a message-heavy film that is still relevant today. The social implications are somewhat obvious if you’re looking for them, but I don’t really think I can dock it points for that, as the meanings are still intelligently written into the film, and the whole point is for them to be noticed anyway. The movie itself is entertaining, gritty and engaging, but the message and meaning behind it make it stick out from the pack as a real cinematic great. Go see this; it is an excellent film and will enrich your life in some measure, I am sure. Very well done.