Review Date: October 12, 2000
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 5/23/2000
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
One of the maestro's earliest horror films, Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling
finally makes its debut in America on DVD, thanks to the fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment. This release is devoid of any extras but the great presentation and the fact it's uncut should make the price tag easier to swallow for most fans.
In a small Italian village several young boys seem to be marked for death by a mysterious stranger who enjoys sticking pins into small figurines - made to represent the three boys from the village. Soon one of the boys named Bruno is chased and attacked during the night. The next day Bruno's parents receive a phone call from the supposed kidnapper who demands a ransom of 6 million lira to be delivered to the old warehouse or else he'll murder the child. The boy's parent's have no chance of paying such an outlandish sum and quickly call the police. The police question the parents and plan a sting on the location in which the kidnapper said to deliver the money. They place the money in the furnace of the old warehouse and wait for the kidnapper to come and collect it. When he does he is captured and the supposed kidnapper turns out to be the village idiot, Giuseppe (Vito Passeri).
Back at the police station, Giuseppe is questioned but claims he didn't kidnap or kill anybody. However, the police prove that it was indeed Giuseppe who made the call to the boy's parents in demand of the ransom. This is confirmed after Bruno's parents recognize Giuseppe's voice over the telephone. The police soon discover the body of Bruno buried out in the woods and Giuseppe is there to witness it. When the boy is unearthed Giuseppe exclaims that Bruno was already dead when he found him and that he merely buried the body. After some deliberation the police believe it wasn't Giuseppe that murdered Bruno. They believe Giuseppe merely used the murder of the boy as a way of collecting the ransom and that the true killer is still out there. The authorities fears are confirmed when another young boy is found drowned in the village and it would appear they have a serial killer on their hands.
Meanwhile a reporter, Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian), whose been following the murders begins an investigation of his own. He interviews many of the people who knew the boys and have a familiarity with the town, including the local priest Don Alberto (Marc Porel). Andrea also meets up with a young restless woman named Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet) who also had close contact with the boys and is bored stiff of the village. When Patrizia's activities begin to be questioned by police she teams up with Andrea to try and unravel the mystery of who the killer is. However, as Andrea and Patrizia get closer to the truth the evidence begins to point to an unlikely suspect.
Don't Torture A Duckling
is one of Lucio Fulci's earliest horror films and is a fine example of the Italian Giallo. But if you're thinking Don't Torture a Duckling
is similar in content to something like Dario Argento's Deep Red
or one of Fulci's other giallos, New York Ripper
, you're liable to be in for a disappointment. Don't Torture the Duckling
is unconventional Fulci missing most of his trademark gore that would spotlight his follow-up horror films in particular his Zombie
epics. It seems Fulci was constrained due to the subject matter of this film. After all, Don't Torture a Duckling
deals with a child murderer and the victims in the film are mostly children. Perhaps the mere depiction of a murdered child was enough shock in itself and besides who wants to see gory death scenes involving children anyway? Certainly that would've been in bad taste, but after reviewing films like Nekromantik
and Cannibal Ferox
I'm not sure such a thing as good taste exists in certain parts of the horror genre.
Don't Torture a Duckling
is not completely devoid of gore. There is one brutal chain-whipping scene involving the character of Martiara, which would later echo the opening scene of Fulci's The Beyond
, complete with similar sound effects of the chains tearing through the flesh. This scene is also one of the films most violent and unflinching made all the more meaningful by the fact she is murdered by a band of suppositious villagers out for blood and revenge. On a further note, the murderer in the ending sequence meets with a grisly end. The sequence would wind up laying the blueprints for a similar scene in a future Fulci film. In Don't Torture a Duckling
, Lucio Fulci does a great job of making every character in this film bad in some way. From the delinquent boys, one of whom kills a lizard with a slingshot, to the pedophile Patrizia none of them are good or sympathetic people so to speak. There are seldom any lines drawn in the sand stating who is innocent and who can be the guilty party, which makes the reveal in the end deliciously ironic.
Don't Torture the Duckling
is shot in what appears to be a backwater town and nothing about it seems modern. This is a great contrast to the giallos of Dario Argento, which are usually shot in modern arenas of Rome. Here there is only sprawling countryside and primitive structures. The scenery is always used to cameraman Gianni Bergamini's advantage as he always gives the photography a sense of scope with the beautifully photographed vistas. I highly recommend Don't Torture A Duckling
. The film can be a little slow at times and the lack of gore may also disinterest those looking for typical Fulci gore, but it is a great giallo directed confidently by Lucio Fulci.
Anchor Bay presents Don't Torture a Duckling
letterboxed at 2.35:1 in a new 16x9 enhanced transfer. With a few minor complaints aside, this is an excellent transfer of Don't Torture a Duckling
. The print used for this transfer was in excellent shape with only a few noteworthy instances where some scratches and specks are evident. Also there is one instance where there appears to be a couple damaged/missing frames early on in the film. The incident happens five minutes and 41 seconds into the film and only lasts for about a second, so it's a little superficial but worth mentioning nonetheless. However, there are no similar problems in the remainder of the transfer. Some mild film grain is also evident throughout the transfer but is most evident in big long shots of the landscape and sky. Most of the grain is well masked, however, and never becomes too distracting. The colors appear a little washed out and muted at times, but flesh tones looked fairly natural.
Nighttime scenes looked great with strong blacks that seldom appear grayish. Thanks to an anamorphic transfer the image is also nice and sharp with great visible detail and only a handful of softer looking shots. Overall Anchor Bay has done an excellent giving Don't Torture A Duckling's
debut in America a fine release.
Don't Torture a Duckling
is presented in a serviceable English Dolby Digital Mono mix. Dialogue sounded very thin at times but was audible. I also thought the angry cries of the crowd when Martiara is brought in for questioning sounded harsh and made me turn down the volume somewhat. Overall this is a decent sounding mono track, undoubtedly hampered by the film's production.
Very disappointing - I realize films like Don't Torture a Duckling
aren't going to make it as robust special editions, but here Anchor Bay hasn't even included a theatrical trailer. The only thing on this disc is a filmography/biography for Lucio Fulci that has been recycled over from Anchor Bay's previous DVD releases of Fulci's films. On top of this Anchor Bay wins the golden turkey award for the absolutely dreadful cover art on this release. It is truly one of the worst I've seen, even outdoing Deep Red
Don't Torture a Duckling
is in my opinion one of Lucio Fulci's best films and showed the director could put together an enveloping thriller without the use of over the top gore and special effects. But as a side note, I don't think viewers new to Fulci will appreciate this film as much as those who have seen many of his other films. On the DVD side of things Anchor Bay provides a great presentation (don't they always?), but the lack of extras brings down the value of this release somewhat. The important thing though is that it's uncut and presented in its proper ratio of 2.35:1 in an excellent anamorphic transfer. This is a DVD best purchased by fans of the giallo and of Lucio Fulci.
Image Quality - B
Sound - C+
Supplements - N/A
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital Mono