Don't Torture a Duckling
|Don't Torture a Duckling|
Italian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lucio Fulci|
|Produced by||Renato Jaboni|
|Screenplay by||Gianfranco Clerici
|Story by||Lucio Fulci
|Music by||Riz Ortolani|
|Editing by||Ornella Micheli|
|Release dates||29 September 1972|
|Running time||102 minutes|
|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.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (December 2011)|
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 rowdy swinging couples, is surprised when the three boys appear behind him and yell out, "Giuseppe's a big baby!" which goads him into a state of bitter resentment. Meanwhile, in the hills surrounding the village, a reclusive Gypsy witch named La Magiara (Florinda Bolkan), is conducting sinister black magic ceremonies, first by digging up the skeletal remains of an infant, and then plunging pins through the heads of three tiny clay dolls. It makes it clear that these are the three 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 the local adolescents when she's shown sexually taunting Michele.
When Bruno goes missing, a media circus begins as reporters from all over Italy 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 the collaboration of the village chief of police Captain Modesti (Ugo D'Alessio). Giuseppe is soon arrested when he's found near the dead body of Bruno, but he protests his innocence and 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, the police realize Giuseppe is innocent. A few nights later during a thunderstorm, Michele sneaks out of his house to meet with someone he speaks to over the phone and is strangled by an unseen assailant and his body found the following morning.
Martelli befriends Patrizia whom he recognizes from newspapers when he worked in Milan. Patrizia is considered a whore by rest of the insular villagers because of her modern style of dress with halter-tops and mini-skirts. Martelli also meets with the young village priest, Don Alberto Avallone (Marc Porel) and his strangely reserved mother Aurelia (Irene Papas). Don Alberto runs a boys group at the church (which the murder victims came from) and he also encourages the boys to play soccer on the church grounds to keep them out of trouble. Don Alberto is known and respected by everyone in the village. But Aurelia is a dour mysterious woman. A villager confides in Martelli that, "she is only tolerated because she is the priest's mother."
Elsewhere, Captain Modesti and his aide meet with Francesco (George Wilson), an eccentric old hermit living in a stone hut in the hills overlooking the town, who practices black magic and offers charms and potions to the superstitious. He tells the police he has passed his knowledge of black magic to his disciple, Magiara, and also shares time with the thrill-seeking Patrizia. He is also rumored to have had (and then disposed of) a baby from a tryst with Magiara. Angered by Francesco's unwillingness to co-operate with the investigation, the police hunt down and arrest Magiara. Under interrogation, she gleefully confesses to the murders. However, it seems to Modesti and the Commissioner that she believes her voodoo dolls and incantations have merely brought about the deaths of the three interfering boys, and she professes to have no interest or awareness of the physical methods used. An alibi provided by a policeman sighting Magiara miles away from the latest murder scene clinches her legal innocence and she is released. Nonetheless, the hostile and superstitious villagers are not convinced and the so-called "witch" is set upon in a local graveyard by a mob of men who beat her with chains and leave her for dead. The mortally-wounded Magiara drags herself to the nearby Autostrade where she futilely tries to flag down a car, and dies on the shoulder of the road. The following day, another boy is found murdered, drowned in a local stream.
Patrizia herself becomes a suspect when Martelli finds her gold-plated cigarette lighter at the scene of the latest killing and while being interrogated refuses to supply an alibi for the nights of each killing. Under threat of incarceration, she's forced to admit 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 little girl is a witness to the killings after seeing her compulsively pulls the heads off her dolls, as if doing an imitation of the strangulations. One doll's head, that of Donald Duck, is found near the latest crime scene. But Martelli and Patrizia wonder: is the killer the priest or his mother? When Aurelia disappears with her daughter, Martelli and Patrizia track her down to a shack overlooking the town. When they arrive, Aurelia is found barely conscious begging them to help her stop her insane son. Don Alberto is the killer, he strangled the boys, not for their sins, but 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, a witness to the crimes, off a cliff. Martelli arrives in the nick of time, and after a climatic fistfight between Martelli and Don Alberto, the insane priest loses his footing and falls of the cliff to a gruesome death.
- Florinda Bolkan as Maciara
- Barbara Bouchet as Patrizia
- Tomas Milian as Andrea Martelli
- Irene Papas as Dona Aurelia Avallone
- Marc Porel as Don Alberto Avallone
- Georges Wilson as Francesco
- Antonello Campodifiori as Police Lieutenant
- Ugo D'Alessio as Captain Modesti
- Virgilio Gazzolo as Police Commissioner
- Vito Passeri as Giuseppe Barra
- Rosalia Maggio as Mrs. Spriano, Michele's mother
- Andrea Aureli as Mr. Lo Cascio, Bruno's father
- Linda Sini as Mrs. Lo Cascio, Bruno's mother
- Franco Balducci as Mr. Spriano, Michele's father
- Marc Maggio as Lady Spriano, Michele's Mistress
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.
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.
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.
- Firsching, Robert. "Don't Torture a Duckling - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- "DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING by Blue Underground, directed by Lucio Fulci (Zombie, House by the Cemetery, The Beyond)". blue-underground.com. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- "Don't Torture a Duckling". shameless-films.com. Retrieved 30 July 2012.