Don't Torture a Duckling

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Don't Torture a Duckling
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Produced by Renato Jaboni
Screenplay by Gianfranco Clerici
Lucio Fulci
Roberto Gianviti
Story by Lucio Fulci
Roberto Gianviti
Starring Florinda Bolkan
Barbara Bouchet
Tomas Milian
Marc Porel
Music by Riz Ortolani
Cinematography Sergio D'Offizi
Edited by Ornella Micheli
Medusa Produzione
Release dates
29 September 1972
Running time
102 minutes
Country Italy
Language Italian
Box office ITL 1,101,461,000

Don't Torture a Duckling (Italian: Non si sevizia un paperino) is a 1972 Italian giallo film directed by Lucio Fulci. It is significant within Fulci's filmography as it is one of the first in which he began using violent gore effects, something he would continue to do in his later films, most notably Zombi 2, The Beyond and City of the Living Dead. The soundtrack was composed by Riz Ortolani and features vocals by Ornella Vanoni.


In the small Southern Italian village of Accendura, three local boys, Bruno, Michele, and Tonino are engaged in mischief. Giuseppe Barra (Vito Passeri) a local simpleton and peeping tom, who is seen spying on two swinging couples, is taunted by the boys. Meanwhile, in the hills surrounding the village, a reclusive Gypsy witch named La Magiara (Florinda Bolkan) conducts black magic ceremonies by digging up the skeletal remains of an infant, and plunging pins through the heads of three tiny clay dolls of the youths taunting Giuseppe. When Michele returns home, his housekeeper mother urges him to deliver some orange juice to their employer, Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) a young woman from Milan who is lying low in the village after a drug scandal. Patrizia offers undefined sexual favors to local adolescents when she's shown sexually taunting Michele.

When Bruno goes missing, reporters converge on the town. One of them is Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian) a sharp-witted journalist from Rome whose insights into the case are acknowledged by the regional police commissioner (Virginio Gazzolo) working with village chief of police Captain Modesti (Ugo D'Alessio). Giuseppe is arrested when he's found near the dead body of Bruno, but claims to have only discovered the body and then phoned his parents in a feeble attempt to extract a ransom. When the dead body of Tonino is found, police realize Giuseppe is innocent. A few nights later, Michele sneaks out of his house to meet with someone he speaks to over the phone and is strangled by an unseen assailant. His body is found the following morning.

Martelli befriends Patrizia whom he recognizes from newspapers when he worked in Milan. Martelli also meets with the young village priest, Don Alberto Avallone (Marc Porel) and his mother Aurelia (Irene Papas). Don Alberto runs a boys group at the church (from which the murder victims came) and encourages the boys to play soccer to keep them out of trouble. Don Alberto is known and respected, but Aurelia is a dour mysterious woman.

Elsewhere, Captain Modesti and his aide meet with Francesco (George Wilson), an old hermit living in a stone hut who practices black magic and offers charms and potions to the superstitious. He tells police he has passed his knowledge of black magic to his disciple, Magiara, and also shares time with thrill-seeking Patrizia. He is also rumored to have had (and disposed of) a baby from a tryst with Magiara. Angered by Francesco's unwillingness to co-operate with the investigation, police arrest Magiara who gleefully confesses to the murders. However, it seems that she merely believes her voodoo dolls have brought about the deaths of the boys, and she professes to have no awareness of the physical methods used. An alibi provided by a policeman sighting Magiara miles away from the latest murder scene clinches her innocence and she is released. Nonetheless, superstitious villagers set upon the so-called "witch" in a local graveyard, leaving her for dead. Magiara drags herself to the nearby Autostrade where she futilely tries to flag down a car, and dies. The following day, another boy is found drowned in a stream.

Patrizia becomes a suspect when Martelli finds her cigarette lighter at the scene of the latest killing and refuses to supply an alibi for the nights of each killing. She admits she traveled outside Accendura to buy marijuana and the police release her.

Martelli and Patrizia become more determined to track down the killer on their own. During further meetings with Don Alberto, Martelli learns Don Alberto's mother has another young child, a six-year-old girl born mentally challenged. Martelli is convinced the girl witnessed the killings after seeing her pull the heads off her dolls, as if imitating the strangulations. One doll's head, that of Donald Duck, is found near the latest crime scene. Martelli and Patrizia wonder if the killer is the priest or his mother. When Aurelia disappears with her daughter, Martelli and Patrizia track her down to a shack overlooking town. She is barely conscious and begs them to help stop her insane son. Don Alberto strangled the boys to prevent them from committing sin when they grew up, as well as to save them from the "horrors of sexuality", thus sending them to Heaven with clean souls.

Don Alberto tries to throw his little sister off a cliff. In a fistfight with Martelli, Don Alberto loses his footing and falls of the cliff to a gruesome death.



According to Danny Shipka, the small Italian town of the setting turns out to be an Italian version of Harper Valley PTA, with suspects including voyeurs, drug addicted pedophiles, gypsies and priests.[1] He finds that the film provides a thought-provoking depiction of life and politics in a small town of Italy. The main themes are "repression, sin and guilt". [1] The motive of the murder turns out to be a desire to rescue the boys from the effects of their own sexuality. [2] In other words, the killer attempts to preserve the innocence of the victims. [3] He is attempting to send them to Heaven while they remained in a stage of uncorrupted grace.[4]

Shipka finds that the film also demonstrates the tendency of giallo filmmakers to seriously question religion and priesthood. [5] Mikel J. Koven points that predatory priests also appeared in Who Saw Her Die? (1972) and The Bloodstained Shadow (1978).[3]


When the film was first released in 1972 it received only a limited release in Europe, due to the film's themes, among which was criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Though an English language audio track was created for the movie, it was not released in the United States and remained unreleased until 1999 when Anchor Bay Entertainment released the film on DVD and VHS.

Critical reception[edit]

AllMovie called the film "one of Fulci's more successful outings".[6]

Home video[edit]

The film was made available for the first time ever in the United States on both VHS and DVD through Anchor Bay Entertainment as part of the "Lucio Fulci Collection", uncut and remastered, containing its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 for the DVD release. American distribution company Blue Underground released the same version of the film on DVD on 27 February 2007.[7]

In the United Kingdom, Shameless Screen Entertainment made the film available on DVD on 29 August 2011 in a "Shameless Fan Edition", which contains, for the first time, optional English and Italian audio and subtitles, the Italian theatrical trailer and a booklet adapted by Stephen Thrower from Beyond Terror, his definitive book.[8]



  1. ^ a b Shipka (2011), p. 104
  2. ^ Shipka (2011), p. 91
  3. ^ a b Koven (2006), p. 66
  4. ^ Koven (2006), p. 57
  5. ^ Shipka (2011), p. 143
  6. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Don't Torture a Duckling - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING by Blue Underground, directed by Lucio Fulci (Zombie, House by the Cemetery, The Beyond)". Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Don't Torture a Duckling". Retrieved 30 July 2012. 

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