twisted overpass snakes through a green landscape in a long shot for the opening of Lucio Fulci's best film "Non si Sevizia un Paperino" aka "Don't Torture a Duckling". Starring the delectable Barbara Bouchet, the equally stunning Florinda Bolkan and the journeyman charisma of Tomas Milian it is a giallo of religous delirium and dreamy violentia.
Set in a small village in southern Italy it deals with the disappearances of several boys and the confusion surrounding the hunt and mis-timed solutions via suspects and community. Told with such verve that we can see why this remained the directors favourite picture.
Outcast "witch" Maciara (Bolkan) is seen clawing the earth on a hilltop, digging up a skeleton of a child she seems to mourn. Alone in a rural belt she is seen as alienated, an Antonioniesque homage that was never allowed Fulci?
A boy is seen firing a catapult at a lizard on a rock and his friends are seen smoking and gathering to catch glimpses of out of town wh*res doin' tricks with clients in remote shacks watched by tramp Giuseppe who becomes the object of ridicule for the lads.
Pressman Martelli (Milian) is on the case and is pensive at the arrest of Giuseppe who, after a body is found, claims to have only buried the boy.
Maciara is then accosted after we see her at the crime scene and get a personal insight into her doll-pinning hex antics, this ultimately forcing her own belief that she killed the boys after another, Michele, is found drowned in a well.
And what of Patrizia (Bouchet)? She too is a suspect after calling the boy out in the darkness during a rainstorm, soon questioned by police who have noticed this "foreigner" and the effect she's had on the townsfolk.
The gypsy "witch"? We learn that the boys teased her and meddled around the area by the highway, this where her possibly stillborn child is buried. "a child of the devil" she states, her father who practised black magic is yet another hint at rural hell, this time possibly concocting inbred mentality!
Destroyed by vigilante locals in a searing scene of violence and tragedy, she collapses by the roadside with her eventual demise witnessed by the seemingly superior family existence of 2.4 in travelling cars that pass through.
These scenes of carnage are softened by the more tranquil lives of the remaining boys who come under local parish practitioner Don Alberto Avallonne (Marc Porel), his church offers sanctuary and protection whilst Martelli noses about and finds Patrizia as sidekick.
Her post modernist home, seen as titles open, stands out from the whitewashed houses that line these hills, a telling and important contrast this time to the traditional architectural virtues on show.
Owned by her rich absent father it's interiors are decked out with a sheen more suitable to the "beautiful people". Here they mull over events and notice a connection to Milians paper article and an earlier chance meeting between Bouchet and a mute girl.
She had taken pity on the girl who's doll had been broken, the reporter later finding a Donald Duck head used in his article covering the crimes. They detangle the case and we are presented these complexities with the summary being that the mute had possibly witnessed the murderer and left the broken toy at the crime scene.
Tracking events back to the youngsters mother Irene Papas, could she be involved? perhaps her fury lies with her son Alberto's affections being stolen by the boys and ultimately the church.
Papas passive emotions are used well as the film draws it's own conclusions. She hides out in a Cliffside stone cabin with the girl, soon joined by the priest, who struggles with her for possession of the toddler. Milian and Bouchet follow on his heels and see her being held over the precipice, some Hitchcock style "North by Northwest" fight choreography is played out as the real killer and the reporter engage on the edge of the drop.
The director has us experience the realisation that decay can fester in a serene environment. The holy traditions embedded in Italy's south during these times are an alternative universe to, say, Visconti's Rocco and his Brothers, lacking the neo-realism, of course, but sharing in horror the harsh realities that can manifest in a class divide.
His intentions are to question what lies beneath the consequences of modernist ideals that encroach these values. Perhaps these struggles touched on tellingly by the Police chief, standing over the gypsy's torn corpse proclaiming the killing as "bred from ignorance and superstition"...
"They construct" he adds, "leaving highways, but are a long way from modernising the mentality of people like this"
The deaths of the parish boys and the logic of the killer is explained from voice over, "what sins will they enact if they don't go to confession, the stirrings of the flesh? they will go to paradise, free of sin"
The cement mix rot of industrialization made solid by an extremely sour and watery thin religious belief is what Fulci searched and succeeded in portraying, and with some quality, I may add.
Credits roll and a spaced out long shot of a questionable landscape is all that remains along with a body broken from the cliff drop fall.
Don't forget that Don't Torture A Duckling is now available to order on Widescreen DVD using our special 70s search device... [See DVD section or click here for more details]
By: Nik Allen
In this wonderful and underrated film, the Italian known for his horror seems to aspire to the cultural and regional divides brought forth by Visconti in his masterpieces, or at least try his hand at incorporating an array of social issues. The genre is usually derived of such importance sadly, but ironically it is using variations on these themes that he has created this, his best work.
"Non si Sevizia un Paperino" bathes in humid provincial existence, all tolling bells and circling swallows it pulls back the lid that disguises a serenity it purports to endorse. It can also be seen as clever social thesis whilst shining in an unconventional giallo format and using these intentions to present an expose' of bored rural life.
There are nods to which it follows, as in early scenes where a yellow covered book like shape is seen on a bridge although strangely I failed to notice any eyeless children and decapitated animals as stated in "The Aurum Encyclopaedia of Horror". In fact this book however remarkable seems to constantly frown upon the directors work whilst more or lass hailing the more baroque works of Argento as that of genius.
The impressive acting adds class to these virtues, Bolkan who plays a suspected local witch gives an excellent performance of salivating insanity, Bouchets erotic ex-drug temptress is most definitely the seductive force she portrays. Add to this Milians cool northern reporter with an interest in the case and Irene Papas almost comatosed wide eyed mother and we are happy.
Sunlight drenches every outdoor shot, shadows, rays through branches, the forest and cliffside searches, german shepherd dogs on the trail of clues, the polizia confused, the community angry and the environment a crime scene of shattered ideals.
The interior sets are straight out of Italian design Habitat. In fact, it was
and the iconography noted in fashions are hard to miss. Check out Bouchet's dresses. Disorientating use of scene shifting cuts to pelting rainfall in the darkness are masterful as are the bleached village streets that serve only to endorse "Silenzio", introverted intentions, a southern sealing of lips amongst the shameful events.
The exposure of an absence of decency in this most tranquil of locales with religion as its main offender is most unsettling, vigilante mobs form from alienated communities amidst hidden witchcraft serve only to back up the spacious hell. A touch of genius by the often forgotten and much maligned Fulci.
A great scene has a long shot of the village rooftops, possibly at daybreak, a figure wanders down steps clad totally in black, the director plays with us following this veiled suspect? a pitched score enforces doom as the camera closes in, unmasking the figure as a local woman carrying clothes to a well.
She glances down as trademark zoom reactions to her expressive discovery of another body submerged in water. Superb.
Points of view shots have camera jolting nervously, none so effectively as when young Michele' approaches a radiant Bouchet in her birthday suit.
The woman playing on and jarring the boys virtually untapped pre-adolescence, cruel but somehow needing to be seen.
The director's unflinching desire to confront these images are sensational at times, at others paradoxically repellent, we could reject their naked truths of course. "Go, obey your Mama" Bouchet orders him after his parent breaks the clearly awkward but pubescent moment in time for the boy.
Adolescence tweaked, inhumanity exposed, "Paperino" bristles with sexuality , style and violence. A scene where Bolkan is chain whipped would appear again in later films as would the Duck symbolism of innocence crushed.
The above scene surely the most bombastic in the film, a powerful sequence showing a rare excursion into apathy for Fulci who has the woman cornered and beaten almost to death in a desolate place by three villagers set to the monumental vocals of Ornella Vanoni, this violence choreographed to the point of parody. Stunning none the less.
A chilling and thought provoking film at best, it smartly breaks from the giallo mould and too the conventions of the horror genre in a way that leaves its real horror implied. Its theory that monsters can exist within society that uses the church as a fulcrum for decency shows these issues as questions for our own ideals and notions of correctness written as scripture.
As shown in the credit sequence when a boy covers his eyes whist in attendance, the forbidden implications of what we see, or not permitted to focus on ? This initial scene important.
In the same sequence a christ-like figure looming in the shadows of the aisles appearing as ominous and evil is a manifestation out of place.
These are the first looks at contradictions hiding within these prisons of religion in the film, and possibly to local priest Don Alberto?, masquerading as an icon of holy order.
Later we can see these social realities and hypocrisies laid bare with the perpetrator of the crimes this man of the collar who may use the body of Christ as salvation for his own psychosis. Believing the boys who see him as father figure as unfit to experience the "evils" of the world he opposes the fundamental right to mature, to reap the rewards of manhood even, because he was prevented from doing so perhaps?
Each sacrifice in turn is seen as their own salvation with Don Alberto's own hesitation to the church possibly the result of his inability to understand the nature of what's right and wrong. Seen when he pauses before taking a cigarette from Milian?
With these central factors of judgement to be found amid scenes of carnage and dreamlike agoraphobia its no wonder that the viewer is left feeling confused at times but strangely educated.
Perplexed even, the finale shows the boys in harmony with the priest in slow dreamlike motion set to Ortolanis poignant score whilst showing the fate of the youths in flashback as Don Alberto crosses his chest.
This said, those elements of delirium do not deviate the film from its natural scource, that is, a very well acted, expertly directed euro giallo from the 70s that is as cool as its deco habitat interiors and as stunning as its landscapes.
"Non Si Sevizia un Paperino" is definitely worth seeking out, especially on DVD and try to pick up the soundtrack if you go to Italy, like the film itself it's essential.
Cinematographer Sergio D'Offrizi also worked with Fulci on The Eroticist (1972) and went on to shoot Ruggero Deodato's notorious 'Cannibal Holocaust' (1979).
The reason the film was not released under its direct translation title "Don't Torture Donald Duck" was because the producers feared the wrath of a Disney lawsuit.
Roberto Gianviti who co wrote the screenplay for 'Duckling' also wrote for Fulci on other films such as 'One on Top of the Other (Una sull'altra)' (1969), 'Beatrice Cenci' (1969), 'A Lizard in a Women's Skin (Lucertola con la pelle di donna, Una)' (1971), 'White Fang (Zanna Bianca)' (1973), 'Challenge to White Fang (Ritorno di Zanna Bianca II)' (1974), 'The Psychic (7 Note in Nero)' (1977) and 'Murderrock - Dancing Death (Murderock - uccide a passo di danza)' (1984).
Barbara Bouchet featured also featured in Martin Scorese's 'Gangs of New York'
Florida Bolkan who plays the witch Maciara also featured in Fulci's 'A Lizard in a Woman's Skin' (1971).
Tomas Milian also featured in Fulci's 'Beatrice Cenci' (1969) & Four of the Apocalypse (1975) and has worked with some of America's top directors. He featured in Oliver Stone's 'JFK' (1991), Steven Speilberg's 'Amistad' (1997) and Steven Soderberg's 'Traffic' (2000)
know some Don't Torture A Duckling trivia that we could add? [Please
send it in]
The town is situated in the south east near Vieste.
Can you help? Do you know any of the Italy (or any other) filming locations used for Don't Torture A Duckling? [Please send them in]
due February 27, 2007|
The soundtrack used in the film was composed by well known italian score master Riz Ortolani who has turned his hand at almost every genre. He has scored Cannibal Holocaust, La Danse Macabre and Fulcis Una Sull'Altra among others in the horror stable.
His tense brooding theme for Dont Torture the Duckling harks back to Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmans ominous string assaults, proving a marriage of ideas between Director and Composer on the subject of visualising and enhancing space with "Come Un Delirio".
The song "Quei Giorni Insieme A Te" by Ornella Vanoni is a sweeping vocal track softening the violence that fills the reel .
On the contrary the other pieces used seem to encompass the innocence and frailty of youth as in the variations on theme that is "Giochi Di Bambini"
Soundtrack Available: Used On CD
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