One thing that Arrow Video knows well is the Giallo genre. Over the last couple years they have been the de-facto purveyor of the genre with releases like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, The Night Evelyn Came Out Of Her Grave, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, and numerous others. I am by no means an expert on the genre, but it is an acquired taste. Some of the Giallo genre films can be written off as crude exercises, or exploitative, but some showcase genuinely compelling filmmaking. My favorite Giallo film that I have seen is The Bird with the Crystal Plumage directed by Dario Argento. After watching this film by Lucio Fulci, I am happy to say that I have found a solid contender for second place.
Don’t Torture A Duckling is set in a small town in Italy besieged by a ruthless killer that is killing the town’s young men. When the first boy’s body is discovered and a ransom is requested, the village idiot is held in custody for the murder. The police and an investigative journalist both find it highly unlikely that the man is the killer. As more murders take place, the police begin a dragnet of the city. Each suspect finds themselves facing the suspicions of the villagers. There are numerous suspects but a mysterious woman from outside of the town named Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) and a woman named Maciara (Florinda Bolkan) considered a witch are considered the most likely by police and villagers alike.
I did not want to describe the plot too much because it is best to watch the movie not knowing what comes next. Given the fact that the murders in the film are of children, this film has some very dark subject matter. Fulci thankfully held back on how graphic the murders of the children were. A couple other moments in the film are quite visceral. People who flock to Fulci’s films for their violent content will find him somewhat reserved in comparison to his later films. In this case, I was relieved that he held back.
Given the subject matter, this is obviously a tough sell. If you can handle the grisly material, there is a tightly constructed thriller with a finish that makes sense and works brilliantly. This movie is very suspenseful. It keeps the stakes high throughout the film while also condemning puritanical fanaticism. This is no easy balancing act. I appreciated the way that Fulci realistically portrayed young adolescence and the loss of innocence that defines coming of age. The film obviously plays off of Fulci’s Catholicism and the religious imagery is striking. This was Fulci’s favorite of the films he directed and I understand why.
Video: How’s it look?
Arrow Video have provided a good looking transfer using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a brand new 1080p restoration from the original camera negatives. This transfer is not quite as beautiful as the new 4K transfer of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, but it still looks fantastic. Fine detail is great considering the age of the film. There are some scenes that demonstrate a soft look, but they are few and far between. I really enjoyed the cinematography by Sergio D’Offizzi, that relied heavily on filming in actual locations in the Italian countryside as opposed to on sound stages. The film takes place as much in the day time as night so it can be fairly colorful at times. Fans should be very pleased.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Arrow Video have provided both an English and Italian LPCM Mono Track. I stuck with the Italian track and found the mix pretty capable. The score from Riz Ortolani has some very memorable moments. Most notable is the scene involving a showdown between the witch and the townspeople with an offputting soundtrack from a car radio. This scene works thanks to the great sound mixing. The dialogue is crisp and clear and I did not notice much hiss aside from a tiny amount that cropped in occasionally. This is another job well done by Arrow Video and their fans would expect no less.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Giallo a la Campagna – (1080p, 27:44) an in depth discussion of the Giallo genre from authority Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film. This is a lively discussion from the excited Mikel who gives some great information. I really enjoyed his discussion of how the Confederacy is well portrayed in Spaghetti Westerns because they are relating it to the Southern part of Italy, not because of anything to do with the actual Confederacy.
Commentary by Troy Howarth- an authority on Giallo and published author discusses the film in depth. This is an informative and entertaining track that matches well with his track he did for The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Great.
Hell is Already in Us -(1080p, 20:30)a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger regarding violence and gender. This is an interesting discussion of Fulci’s films and the associated controversies due to what some perceive to be glorifying violence towards women. It also delves into his more gothic themes.
Audio Interviews with Lucio Fulci – two interviews from 1988 in reply to journalist Gaetano Mistretta. The first is 20:13 long, the second is 13:12. These were recorded by Fulci himself.
Cast and Crew Interviews:
Florinda Bolkan (1080p, 28:20) the actress discusses her memories of Fulci and working on the movie.
Sergio D’Offizi (1080p, 46:21) an excellent interview with the cinematographer of the film. I liked that this was the longest of the Interviews, because I found it the. It’s interesting. His discussion of the techniques used at the time and since for filming are pretty astute.
Bruno Michele (1080p, 25:38) the editor speaks on his experience with the film.
Mauricio Trani (1080p, 16:03) the make-up artist recalls his time on the film.
The Bottom Line
Don’t Torture a Duckling deals with some tough subject matter. The mere thought of someone killing children gives me goosebumps as a parent. Lucio Fulci took hard material and made a film that will stick with you after the credits roll. This is easily one of the best Giallo films I have seen. It has a strong feeling of suspense and dread that rolls into a fantastic finish. Arrow Video have provided excellent transfers of the audio and video along with an enormous amount of special features. Fans will be ecstatic to see it get the royal treatment. This film comes highly recommended for those who can handle the subject matter.