Movie Discussion: Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling [Non si sevizia un paperino] (1972)

  • Monthly Theme: Giallolocandina
  • The Film: Don’t Torture a Duckling
  • Country of origin: Italy
  • Italian title: Non si sevizia un paperino
  • Date of Italian release: September 29, 1972
  • Date of U.S. release: n/a
  • Studio: Medusa Distribuzione
  • Distributer: Anchor Bay Entertainment (home media)
  • Domestic Gross: ?
  • Budget: ?
  • Director: Lucio Fulci
  • Producer: Renato Jaboni
  • Screenwriters: Gianfranco Clerici, Lucio Fulci & Roberto Gianviti
  • Adaptation? No.
  • Cinematographer: Sergio D’Offizi
  • Make-Up/FX: Franco Di Girolamo, et al.
  • Music: Riz Ortolani
  • Part of a series? No.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Italian horror stars Florinda Bolkan (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Flavia the Heretic, etc.) and Barbara Bouchet (Black Belly of the Tarantula, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, etc.).
  • Other notables?: No.
  • Awards?: n/a
  • Tagline: n/a
  • The Lowdown: Don’t Torture a Duckling was Lucio Fulci’s favorite of his own movies. He referred to it as his “most personal film.” It was also the first of his films to truly garner him notoriety in Italy, in part because of the controversies surrounding the film’s release. It was blacklisted across Europe for appearing to be “critical” of the Catholic Church, and never received a theatrical release in the U.S. (it first saw the light of day in America when a DVD version came out in 2000). The movie, in relation to some of Fulci’s other beloved films, is relatively coherent, yet the plot is still more convoluted and circular than most. It is almost Altmanesque, featuring at least a dozen major characters, including several police inspectors, an out-of-town reporter, a boy-loving priest, a formerly-drug-addled nymphet, a histrionic hill witch, three young village boys, a local simpleton, an elderly warlock, a mentally challenged young girl and her laconic mother, et al. The movie is set in the Southern village of Accettura and concerns a series of child murders that scandalize the local community. The film follows the media (represented by a Roman reporter named Martelli) and the police as they scramble to solve the crimes, and takes us on a seedy tour of the often depraved goings-ons behind-the-scenes of the picturesque community (á la Blue Velvet).

If you haven’t seen Don’t Torture a Duckling our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Kristine: Well, this was a giallo of a different feather.

Sean: It certainly was. Want to just tell me your gut reaction to the movie?

Kristine: I mean, it all boils down to one scene for me, and I think you know what I’m talking about. That graveyard beatdown was crazy and incredibly upsetting and spooky. I know there are a lot of other things “going on” in the movie, but I am stuck on that scene and that’s all there is to it.

Sean: Right? And the soundtrack for that scene?

Kristine: The music was incredibly effective. Pop music used to stage a scene of brutality and griminess is done to perfection in that scene.

These Pottery Barn “child murder trinkets” are only $29.99 each!

Sean: I think the music is supposed to be diegetic (meaning it’s the music coming from the car, so the characters are all hearing it too, not just the audience). Because during the beating, one song ends and then another begins.

Kristine: Oh yeah, I know. The men turn the music up to cover up the noise (of the beating).

Sean: Well, why don’t you tell me what seems important about the scene to you? Why are you “stuck” on it?

Kristine: I mean, many reasons. It’s so brutal. You know exactly what is going to happen, and the movie takes it’s time, so you get to feel the full weight of the dread. The premeditated feel of it all makes it so much worse.

Sean: Yes.

Kristine: Also, it’s very plain and simple. If it had been some ridiculously choreographed or elaborate sequence, it would have felt “directorial.” But instead I think the scene forces the audience to feel like voyeurs witnessing something real. I mean, this movie overall has a more cinema vérité vibe to it.

Sean: At this point in the story, also, Maciara’s been cleared of suspicion in the murders. So you know the real motive is that she’s just a non-traditional woman that needs to be exterminated. Her arrest simply gives the villagers the perfect excuse to curbstomp her.

Kristine: Right, of course. I mean, compared to Don Alberto falling down the cliffside with sparks flying off of his face… That image is so absurd and almost comical. This is just a woman being hit with a chain, and witnessing the effects on the body of that action. It’s just… hard to take.

Sean: You’re right about the “effects on the body” being key to the sequence, I think. The murder of Maciara is the gore centerpiece of the movie, where Fulci is really showing off the practical effects they developed.

Kristine: Which character doesn’t want to release her from police custody right away, because their might be “trouble”? And then Martelli, the outsider (and city slicker) who thinks he is being moral, insists on her release because he doesn’t “get” the village the way the local cops do…

Sean: Truthfully all those male cops run together for me. This movie is fucking chock full of RIMAs [Rational Inquiring Masculine Authority]. [Editor’s Note: For the backstory on RIMA, see our discussion of Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.]

Kristine: I mean, you get a taste of how the social fabric of the village operates early on when they arrest Giuseppe, the village idiot.

Sean: Giuseppe was vile.

Maciara can’t believe Katie Holmes finally did it either.

Kristine: Oh, stop. He was just an idiot. You hate yourself for wanting to make out with him. By the way, I thought the movie’s depiction of kids possessing a basically cruel nature was great and spot on. Especially how it was interlaced with their mixture of nervousness and innocence when actually confronted with adult behavior (Patrizia’s nudity, for instance) and not just playing at adulthood (smoking cigarettes, etc).

Sean: I totally agree. Ok, so let me ask: Was Maciara the true “hero” of the movie? Or is the movie celebrating her extinction?

Kristine: Neither.

Sean: I disagree that it’s neither.

Kristine: I think the movie takes great pains to establish her as someone who, through no fault of her own, is deeply fucked up and probably beyond redemption. She is obviously an abject victim of her circumstances.

Sean: Is there no way at all to read her as a kind of radical figure? Subsisting in the hills on her own? A total rebel?

Kristine: No, because she did think she was murdering those kids with her witchcraft. She DOES have murderous intent. Plus, her speech (which was great) where she says, “I’ll break you, I’ll break you” shows that she is truly nuts, I think.

Sean: I don’t know. She’s a total force of Nature (and of Supernature). And remember how the movie goes to great lengths to point out that in this part of the world, “witchcraft” isn’t quite pagan? It’s related to the Church. It’s like a weird kind of Catholic paganism. She is devout, but radical.

Kristine: Well, sure I agree with all that. But I still don’t see her as the hero. I see her as … the lesson about what happens to “outsiders” in a community of distrust and ignorance.

Sean: Right, I agree. This is where I am interested in the gender politics of the giallo, in general. Did you ever read Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird?

Kristine: Yes, but a very long time ago. I am fuzzy on the details.

Sean: Well, there is a village idiot woman (named Stupid Ludmila) who is stomped to death and it is very similar to this movie. Scarily so.

Kristine: Do you think it is significant that she was the one beaten to death, not Giuseppe?

Sean: Yes.

Kristine: Me, too.

Sean: I think that Italian cinema is totally obsessed with/fascinated by women in a unique way, and that giallos are really about staging confrontations with different kinds of women. They are obsessed with: 1) the Seductress 2) the Mother 3) the Witch and 4) the Virgin. And in the giallo, one or more of these is often revealed to be the killer. (Actually, for Bava I might add a fifth archetype: the Widow).

The Disney Limited Edition “Quack Attack” Donald Duck Butt Plug

Kristine: Right. Maciara, the Witch, is just one of three women that the village treats with distrust – there is also Patrizia, the Seductress from the city, and Aurelia, the priest’s Mother. Is Don Alberto’s mongoloid sister the Virgin?

Sean: I don’t think there’s a virgin in this movie.

Kristine: I think it’s Mongoloid Sis.

Sean: Ok, she could be, if we want to go there. I can accept that. But overall I think that all women are distrusted in this world, for various reasons.

Kristine: And remember Michele’s mother? How horrible and shrewish she was?

Sean: Really? I thought there was a stark contrast between Michele’s mother (the good Italian matriarch) and the priest’s mother (witchy and suspicious) on purpose. I thought she was being held up as a kind of archetype of goodness.

Kristine: Oh, I thought Michele’s mother was terrible. She was totally Livia Soprano, right?

Sean: No, I didn’t see that. When was she terrible? I just remember her bustling around being busy. Then when Michele dies, she is grief-stricken. That’s all I remember.

Kristine: She was all, “Nag nag nag, bitch bitch bitch, all I do is work, no one cares about me.”

Sean: Well, sure, I guess. But aren’t we supposed to just lovingly roll our eyes at that and be like, “That’s what a good mama is like!” I don’t feel like the movie is trying to make her shrewish, just adorably dowdy and aggrieved.

Kristine: Remember when she sends Michele up to Patrizia’s room with… The orange juice? I’m sorry, I meant: the sweet nectar of seduction.

Don Alberto finally discovers the joy of trampolines.

Sean: Totally. It is the love sap of adolescent desire. It is the creamy, acrid potion of hormonal reponse. Patrizia’s behavior with Michele is just… Her whole character is a huge problem. But I do kind of love her back story, that she’s there in the country recovering from some urban shenanigans involving drugs. I died laughing at all that.

Kristine: Okay, I need to say things about her because, while I enjoyed her scenes, she is the shittiest part of the movie. She is set up at first to be this degenerate, right? Possibly a pedophile and definitely a druggie (and, hello, it turns out to marijuana)?

Sean: I mean, I think her “seduction” of Michele is one of the most batshit entertaining scenes in the whole movie. That wave machine?

Kristine: I know, like I said it was hella entertaining. But problematic. And I get that she was bored and entertaining herself… But even still, the minute a full-grown man comes along (Martelli, the reporter) she turns into a not-crazy, average lady who wants to save the children? But before she was like, shoving her beaver into a 10-year-old’s face and pouring orange juice over her nipples? I liked her better as a total degenerate.

Sean: It was weird – the movie wants her to play the role of the slut and also of the heroine. But that duality is kind of interesting, because the movie doesn’t ever really punish her for being a nudist and a vamp. Which is surprising and sort of awesome. This is a perfect instance of the other side of horror’s depiction of women. Are horror movies often pathetically retrograde and sexist, if not downright misogynistic? Yes. But there’s also this other side, where horror is a space to encounter kinds of women that aren’t allowed to exist in other genres, or to permit female characters to express things – desires, interests, predilections – that they’re not allowed to admit in other genres. In any other kind of movie (and, hell, in most other horror movies) “correcting” Patrizia’s character would be of paramount importance, if not just flat-out punishing her. Fulci’s juggling so many characters and subplots that’s he like, “A-we a-don’t a-have-a the time!” and just lets her scamper around, being a provocateur. I also want us to remember those swinger couples at the beginning (though those women are probably prostitutes)….

Kristine: I would have been fine with her going full-sex-offender. Just being like, “I’m bored in the sticks so let’s tear this place up! Michele, pour orange juice in my twat and suck it out!” That’s what I wanted. I think the movie believes that her big city sins (nymphomania, drug use) are overall less evil then the village’s sins (repression, groupthink, misogyny, superstition, ignorance, brutality, and possibly pedophilia). In fact, she’s small potatoes compared to how fucked up the villagers are.

The real shocker? That Patrizia shaves her pits.

Sean: You are on to something there. I think this plays into how the movie constructs Maciara’s death, and how it is played for Shakespearian tragedy. I think Fulci wants us to kind of see it as a heroic/tragic death, a kind of martyrdom. And remember that Maciara herself is the “mad” mother. She goes batshit on the boys because they’re trying to dig up the skeletal remains of her dead babies.

Kristine: I agree with that read, and I thought her actual death scene, where she expires by the side of the road while “modern” folks in cars go whizzing by was amazing and horrible and moving. Remember, she is a pastoral figure, part of the woods. The contrast between her wildness and the modernity of the highway/cars was totally interesting. She is treated like a pile of trash by the side of the road and is not even considered a person. Also, when the police and later the village men hunt her down, she is totally this feral thing.

Sean: Yes, that felt very cultural critique-ish, the way they staged her death by the roadside. I agree that she’s a feral mother-gone-mad, something almost pre-Christian, almost pagan. I feel like she embodies the paradox of the pastoral/natural/pagan coexisting with the civilized/Christianized. In her, all of these things are present without cancelling each other out. She’s a site of destabilization in that sense.

Kristine: Yes, she’s an embodiment of the modern world’s encounter with the past and that feels like part of the reason why her assassination is key. I mean, in some ways this movie is about how those kinds of encounters are incredibly fraught and always result in violence and cruelty and paranoia.

Sean: Remember Maciara’s backstory. She was seduced by that Hill Warlock and impregnated (again, probably multiple times), and she’s buried all her offspring. When we first encounter her she’s digging the infant bones up out of the dirt… She’s clearly haunted by her inability to produce viable offspring, and the narrative strongly implies that’s she’s a victim of sexual abuse and perhaps even rape.

Kristine: I agree. It is clear that her children were borne out of …something not good. We don’t know how Magiara’s babies died, but wasn’t it implied that the warlock father killed them?

Sean: Yeah, they implied some funny business. But I thought it was also implied that her ladybusiness is so defective that she just would pop out dead or feeble babies… The “perversion” of her mother-status seems to have been what drove her mad. And I think we’re meant to sympathize with her rage at Michele and his friends. They’re horrible and disrespectful to her, and to the graves of her dead children. They desecrate those graves. They’re little ghouls.

THE MOST PERVERTED 10-YEAR OLD FACE IN THE UNIVERSE wants you to know it can see you.

Kristine: I absolutely agree. I was mad at the punk kids, too, and felt like Maciara was totally justified in hating them. But like I said, I think their unthinkingly cruel actions were realistic. Kids are little turds. Like I also said, when they are confronted with powerful adults (like Patrizia and Michele’s mom) they back down.It’s only with outsider freaks like Maciara and Giuseppe that they are bold. They only prey on the “weak” because they are cowards and monsters.

Sean: Good point, and they got what they deserved. I never thought a movie could make me clap and cheer for child-murders, but this one does it.

Kristine: So, can I make a more lighthearted aside?

Sean: Yes.

Kristine: I thought Maciara was gorgeous and Patrizia was just okay.

Sean: Maciara was totally striking and handsome, and that actress fucking went for it. I love me some Italian histrionics and she delivered the goods. She was like me when my earbuds get accidentally ripped out of my ears.

Kristine: Wait, what? You have a fit and foam at the mouth when your earbuds get ripped out?

Sean: Yes. I hate it more than anything.

Kristine: Is it me or was there a strong rape subtext to the graveyard beatdown? Or is there just alwaysS a rape subtext when a group of men attack a woman?

Sean: Um, I was actually stricken by how that scene avoided sexualizing her death. If the chains had like, ripped open her blouse and her boobs popped out…

Kristine: That’s why I said subtext. It didn’t happen, but you are scared it will.

Sean: Well, sure there’s a hint of sexual violence I guess. I agree you are scared it might happen.

Kristine: Maybe it’s a girl thing. Anytime I see men surrounding a woman, even if they don’t do it, my mind screams “raperaperape.”

If the wishbone is there in the water with the body, where’s the rest of the turkey?

Sean: I get it. This hearkens back to our Frenzy discussion.

Kristine: Something about how Maciara’s death is staged… The way the village men don’t all attack her at once. They totally take their time and almost “casually” beat her… It just is so fucking horrible and intense.

Sean: Yeah it was terrible.

Kristine: I mean, they certainly aren’t worried about being caught or stopped, right?

Sean: Right, you get the sense that they feel entitled to this act of violence.

Kristine: Yes. It is their due, and it’s going to happen no matter what. It totally doesn’t matter that she is cleared of the crimes.

Sean: Fulci invests the character of Maciara with an immense amount of pathos. Like I said, her arrest is the perfect excuse for the community to destroy this wild, powerful woman.

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: I thought it was interesting that men and women are treated equally by the police as possible perpetrators. This was very unlike Blood and Black Lace, remember, where you noted that the police only suspected the mens?

Kristine: Right. Though here, all the suspects (except Giuseppe, a neutered male) are ladies, right?

Sean: I think because the victims are all children, women are viable suspects. There’s an undercurrent of Andrea Yates-y infanticide…

Kristine: I agree with that. I am interested in how different Magiara’s death and Don Alberto’s death felt…

Sean: Well, I think we have to establish that Don Alberto is a pederastic character, no?

Kristine: I have been struggling with that question, myself. I think you can certainly read it that way, but my personal read is that he was not, though he was obviously obsessed with sexuality in general and the sin associated with sexuality in particular.

Sean: Oh boy here we go. Kristine you are so contrary on any issues of homosexuality in these movies. Your mission in life is to misread ANY queerness. [Editor’s Note: For context, see Kristine’s obsession with Tao-Lin being a bull dyke in Blood and Black Lace and her epic refusal to read Anna as a lesbian figure in Martyrs.Kristine, there are slo-mo shots of the priest like, wrestling with boys and then caressing their heads, dappled in sunlight. That is all I have to say. I rest my case. And his rage at their potenital “sin” is a stand-in for his own desires, obvs.

So-called Italian “cardigan naps” are quite common in the Southern hillsides.

Kristine: I know, I know.

Sean: Ok, now say your piece.

Kristine: I am scared to.

Sean: Come on. I promise not to be a rowdy homo. Give it to me good and hard.

Kristine: Look, I think Don Alberto is definitely fucked up sexually and the murders he commits are obviously linked to male adolescent sexuality… So, yes, I would say he is a pederast at heart.

Sean: Well, don’t totally capitulate to me and my whims. I am willing to be convinced that the modern connection between Catholic priests and sexual abuse are coloring my reaction to Don Alberto’s character.

Kristine: I see him kind of like the mother in Carrie, all obsessed with “dirty pillows,” seeing himself as the protector of these boys and the whole village. I think he really believes this, it is not just a cover so he can be a creep. I mean, I don’t believe he ever had any sexual encounters with the boys.

Sean: Right… I agree that his desires are subsumed/sublimated and not enacted.

Kristine: To be honest, I don’t care that much about Don Sparkface. I am more interested in his mother, and how she knows what he is but sits idly by…

Sean: But he is the killer. He is the key to the whole narrative.

Kristine: True, but I still don’t care.

Sean: Well, here’s the thing. That dynamic of the enabling and over-protective Italian mother and an adult man who is still protected/babied by her is a huge archetype in Italian (and Italian-American) culture. Men are treated like little princes by their mamas.

Kristine: Like Paulie Walnuts.

Sean: Totally.

Kristine: Everything I know about Italian culture is from The Sopranos.

Sean: So I thought that it was interesting that in the climax Aurelia, his mother, turns against him when he threatens her other child, his sister.

This is the peasant woman who hand-carved the marble sinks you find in all the Trump Tower bathrooms.

Kristine: The Virgin. This is so The Cabin in the Woods

Sean: Does Aurelia definitely know that her son is the one that’s been killing the boys? Is that totally confirmed?

Kristine: Yes. But even if she doesn’t, she knows he is “not right.”

Sean: Ok, I accept that. Well, it is hilarious that he is the most interesting part of the movie to me, a gay, and to you, a fey, he is uninteresting.

Kristine: I am not a fey. To me, he is an old story. Yawn. (Though he was hot.)

Sean: Oh my god. You are all “genderqueer men are so 1972.”

Kristine: Yes, I am.

Sean: You know this movie was like, banned in Italy because it was considered a critique of the Catholic Church.

Kristine: I can see that.

Sean: I mean, if anything, it means that this modern story of the Church sheltering monsters and perverts is old, old news.

Kristine: For sure. But we knew that all ready, right?

Sean: Yes, but I still find that incredibly fascinating. Religion as a facade for predation.

Kristine: Speaking of, have you read about the Freeh Report on Penn State? That everyone knew what was up?

Sean: I read the grand jury findings when they first broke and I was haunted for weeks. I can’t with that story anymore. Sandusky is a vile monster. He is Ottis.

Kristine: I know, it’s awful.

Sean: I think it is fascinating that the “new Church” is the institution of football. How fucking American is that shit?

Kristine: I know. My dad was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic school.

Sean: Mine too.

Kristine: Well, he was fairly into it, and wanted to be an altar boy. And my Grandma wouldn’t let him. My dad thought it was so weird, like, why wouldn’t she let him? Especially because she was super Catholic and always at church. Well, one day she told him it was because the priests were “funny.”

Sean: Wow. She knew the score. Go Grandma. Protecting her kids.

Sonny Bono decides to settle Patrizia and Don Alberto’s “Who’s prettier?” fight once and for all.

Kristine: She said that when she worked at the church at night (like, waxing pews and shit on her hands and knees, total Polish peasant penance) she saw the priests all drinking wine and getting drunk and… being inappropriate.

Sean: The thing that’s so disgusting in so many abuse stories is how the blindness and slavish devotion of the parents to the Church allowed the abuse to go on and on and on. So Grandma is a hero.

Kristine: Well, it is interesting because she did protect my dad and his brother, but she didn’t report anything and continued working for free for the church and going there slavishly. So it’s weird.

Sean: Yeah that is weird.

Kristine: Ok, I want to talk about this movie’s title. It is obviously some kind of Donald Duck tie-in, because Don Alberto’s mongoloid sister carries around a headless Donald Duck doll. But I guess I interpret the title as meaning that the children are the ducklings and all these rotten adults are torturing them? Like Patrizia (figuratively, with her sexuality) and Don Alberto (literally, by murdering them). I don’t know… What is your take?

Sean: Right. I mean, it’s a weird title. Yes, obviously it comes from the Donald Duck toy, which I guess is supposed to be symbolic of innocence and childhood. It’s like a fetish object for childhood right? So its decapitation is noteworthy, as are all the “corrupted” forms of childhood that we encounter through out the story: the perverted boys who get murdered, the retarded girl, Maciara’s unfeasible babies, etc.  So obviously that destablization of childhood is at the heart of the “horror” in the movie. Both femininity and childhood are destabilized.

Kristine: Sure.

Sean: But the title itself is this blatant plea or imperative command for leniency, for mercy, and for there not to be these atrocious acts committed against innocents. And it’s interesting that the subject of the plea – the “duckling” – is an animal, a piece of nature. I mean, we’ve discussed how the character of La Maciara is closely associated with “nature” and wildness. So the title conjures that too: asking that the natural not be despoiled, that the innocent not be corrupted, that the meek not be victimized. This is where Patrizia gets tied back in to the narrative, because she represents the “temptation” that motivates Don Alberto’s acts of violence. And I’m just going to say it: there’s a way in which the title reads as a very bizarre euphemism for masturbation.

Kristine: Patrizia is still the weakest character, despite having some amazing scenes. I have a question. I read that Fulci said this was his most personal film. Do you know about his background? I mean, does he hail from a provincial Italian village, and did he thus feel like a persecuted outsider for having artistic vision?

Sean: Nope, he’s a Roman, but he was a Catholic so I think that’s how the movie ties into his personal backstory. Why do you think this was set in the countryside and not in the city?

We want to be cool but we’re spawned from a ghoul.

Kristine: It has to be in the country. Remember, Don Alberto and the Catholic Church have a stranglehold on the information the villagers receive. Are there places in America where you feel scared going, and if so, are they rural or urban? I’ll tell you that a rural setting always scares me far more then an urban one. I’m never scared in a city.

Sean: Oh I’m more scared of cities, of bad neighborhoods.

Kristine: The Deep South scares me.

Sean: Why?

Kristine: Because… it sounds prejudiced to say. It’s just that rednecks scare me way worse then inner city thugs do. Are there places you feel that, as a gay man, you should not go?

Sean: Yeah 80% of the planet Earth.

Kristine: Right.

Sean: Lots of small-town America. Probably lots of small-town Italy. Any Muslim country. Most of Eastern Europe. Lots of Latin America. Most of the continent of Africa. Certain parts of Asia (but, um, mostly the Muslim ones). Basically the entire Caribbean.

Kristine: Likewise, homeboy.

Sean: I think this was a legit reason why Anderson Cooper delayed his coming out until after the phase of his career where he’s globe-trotting, especially in the “developing world.” I don’t think that’s a cop out. I think it is very real that he would be in great danger were he out and doing that shit, something that Kathy Griffin gets at in her (what I thought to be) very moving open letter on his coming out. I mean, Jesus Christ, what happened to Lara Logan? Anderson Cooper at least had the privilege of his white masculinity to protect him. He could BE closeted. Women don’t have that privilege, unless they’re gonna fucking Albert Nobbs it.

Kristine: Would you feel okay/better going to those places with a woman instead of with your boyfriend? Like, pretending to be a straightie?

Sean: Well, it’s complicated. I want to acknowledge that, yes, I have the option to pretend, to be closeted. But for countries where it is a capital crime to be gay and you can be executed, it is so not worth it. Plus, I fucking radiate cocksuckingness.

Kristine: That sounds like a Manhunt ad. But I believe the technical term is “cocksuckery.”

Sean: And no, I would not feel comfortable travelling to murder-zones in disguise as hetero unless my lady-partner knew kung fu and a million ways to kill someone with her pinkie. The only way I would travel to some of those places is with someone who knew fucking tons of martial arts and I am not kidding.

Kristine: I believe you.

Sean: I just want to also acknowledge that I am a lover of multiculturalism and someone who is an ardent admirer of the cultures, music, food, literatures, histories and geographies of many of the places on Earth where I would be assaulted, murdered, executed, raped or at the very least beaten up for being gay. Horrible things are happening right here in the Americas. I know it’s not the right response to just be like, “Well, fuck you Jamaica.” But I do feel those things, as well as an intense fear and worry for the GLBTQ citizens of those countries. It makes me incredibly furious that sexism and homophobia are rampant on our planet. But there it is. I’m going to risk sounding provincial and naïve. There are certain places I want to go (Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Romania, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Lebanon, Turkey) where I feel like I would be okay but I am unsure of how “in danger” I would be… I mean, would I be okay in the cities but at risk in the country? I don’t know, maybe our readers could chime in on the gay-safety-ness of these places. The truth is someone could beat me to death on the street for being a faggot right here in Tucson. I know that. But travel brings a different kind of risk, being a stranger someplace… I am pretty sure that I am unwilling to be closeted as a traveler. I am a pretty discreet person, but I can/will not pretend to be straight. Also, if you cannot flirt with or hook up with locals ad nauseam, then what the fuck is the point of anything?

Pinocchio’s watery suicide was cut from the finished Disney film. Being a real boy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Kristine: Heh.

Sean: Did you think the shots of the Italian countryside and the village itself were beautiful?

Kristine: I thought they were okay. “Sun-bleached” is not my fave.

Sean: I loved all the old buildings and how they’re stacked up on the hillsides. I love the Mediterranean landscape. All the steep cobbled roads…

Kristine: I wasn’t “scared” by this movie, but it upset me.

Sean: I would like to know about how you think about this film compared to Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace.

Kristine: Well, I liked the Bava film more. But the beating scene is this one was pretty amazing and haunting. Just two totally different things.

Sean: My personal thing with Fulci is, I always feel like I need to take a shower after I watch one of his movies…

Kristine: I can see that. They are grimy as fuck.

Sean: Right? So grimy.

Kristine: Super grime.

Sean: Fulci is unique in that way. And his other “masterpieces” (Zombi 2, House By the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond) make me feel even grosser than this one. This one is tame in comparison.

Kristine: Ugh, really?

Sean: Yes. So grimy. Like, so nauseous and dirty.

Kristine: Why is he such a grimer?

A little witches sputum comes in handy for a love spell or just a tangy vinaigrette.

Sean: I don’t know, but it upsets me. His later films are also fucking incoherent as hell.

Kristine: I don’t like that. I need a narrative.

Sean: Can I ask you something else? What did you make of this movie’s male hero, Martelli, being so fucking besides-the-point? He is like, a non-character, totally underdeveloped. Whenever I watch this I will forget which one he is and not recognize him when he comes on screen… I have to keep reminding myself, “Oh yeah, he’s the ostensible lead here.” I had a huge crush on the young lieutenant with the ‘stache, by the way. I wanted him to be the hero, not tightpants reporter.

Kristine: I totally forgot about Martelli during our discussion.

Sean: Right?

Kristine: He is only important in the fight scene at the end. Yeah, it’s weird how this movie really seems to be all about the ladies. I feel like Maciara, Patrizia, Aurelia, and even Mongoloid Sis all leave a deeper impression than any of the men. Except Don Alberto, who is a face-sparking murder-priest so that makes sense.

Sean: The sparking robot priest.

Kristine: Oh god, that scene with it’s wistful music was so weird.

Sean: It would have been amazing if it was Patrizia who kicked Don Alberto’s ass at the end.

Kristine: Yeah, or if Aurelia had pushed him off the cliff, or Mongoloid Sis.

Sean: That falling priest sequence is like, my favorite thing in the whole movie. I love it. I adore it.

Kristine: It’s absurd.

Sean: It is so dumb and weird and garish.

Kristine: How they show his face chipping off bit by bit…

Sean: Like he was a cyborg or something.

Kristine: Like, they obviously spent so much time on it and yet it looks so shitty.

Sean: I love it

Kristine: It’s … something.

A wild band of roving RIMAs can be very unpredictable if caught off guard.

Sean: What about the overabundance of RIMAs in this movie?

Kristine: I guess there were a lot of RIMAs, but they all amounted to a hill of beans. For that reason, I think this movie is anti-RIMA.

Sean: Oh I totally disagree. This movie is so much more interested in the men investigating/trying to rationalize the crimes than Mario Bava’s movie. I think this movie is like, a huge barbaric yawp from the RIMAs about how degraded the social fabric has become.

Kristine: Huh.

Sean: Whereas in Blood and Black Lace the RIMA was a dumb out-of-place German who was stupid and clueless, in this movie so much screen-time is like, men in uniforms walking around trying to form hypotheses and failing to be able to explain the madness.

Kristine: Yeah, they keep trying to formulate theories and not getting anywhere.

Sean: Right. “Rationality” fails. That’s the horror of this movie. I think that’s a very masculine horror narrative.

Kristine: I agree with that.

Ratings Roundup

The Girls Rating: I’m traumatized but it sort of feels good.

The Freak’s Rating: A worthy film but won’t keep me up at night.

Don’t you love the gay priest’s impression of Charlie McCarthy on angeldust?

14 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling [Non si sevizia un paperino] (1972)

  1. Your reviews are amazing. It seems like most horror reviewers aren’t willing to look at horror movies from a socially aware perspective – I mean, I don’t usually, I have to admit I’m mostly in it for the scares – and as my high school English teacher would say you guys “interrogate the text” from some really interesting perspectives. AND I LOVE IT. Y’all are smart.

    Sean, is “The Beyond” worth watching (since it looks like you’ve seen it)? I’ve heard pretty mixed reviews.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words! I also just want to add I am TOTALLY in it for the scares. It’s just there’s all this other stuff too! So, The Beyond…. um, I mean I think Fulci is an acquired taste. If you’ve seen and enjoyed City of the Living Dead or House By the Cemetery I think you’ll dig it. It’s really surreal and batshit, which I sort of love. And it has one of my favorite downbeat insane endings ever… Also love the score. (And if you dig the music in Fulci’s movies I would HIGHLY recommend John Maus’ album “We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.”) I would give The Beyond a shot. I liked it better than House by the Cemetery, which is probably my least favorite of his supernatural stuff…

    2. Thanks for the comment! I am anxious to check out your blog, I see that you have reviewed “Phenomena” which Sean and I are planning to watch later this month. I have an infamous lack of self control when it comes to spoiling movies with pre-viewing research, and Sean would straight up murder me if I read your review before we watched, so I am steering clear for a couple weeks. Be assured I’ll be reading your thoughts as soon as I’ve seen it for myself!