Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, and Marc Porel in Non si sevizia un paperino (1972)


DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING (Non si sevizia un paperino)

(director/writer: Lucio Fulci; screenwriters: story by Lucio Fulci & Roberto Gianviti/Gianfranco Clerici/Roberto Gianviti; cinematographer: Sergio D’Offizi; editor: Ornella Micheli; music: Ritz Ortolani; cast: Tomas Milian (Andrea Martelli), Barbara Bouchet (Patrizia), Florinda Bolkan (Maciara), Irene Papas (Dona Aurelia Avallone), Marc Porel (Don Alberto Avallone, priest), Ugo D’Alessio (Captain Podesti), Virgilio Gazzolo (Police Commissioner), Georges Wilson (Francesco, black magic), Vito Passeri (Giuseppe Barra, village idiot), Antonello Campodifiori (Police Lieutenant); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Renato Jaboni; Blue Underground; 1972-Italy-dubbed in English)

“One of the best giallo films made by Lucio Fulci.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the best giallo films made by Lucio Fulci (“Conquest”/The Beyond”/”The New York Ripper”), that’s not exactly a giallo film but more a stylish modern-day murder mystery story about a serial child killer on a rampage in a remote southern Italian village that becomes violently paranoiac. Fulci is one of the more repulsive horror filmmakers ever, yet the misogynist’s giallo films are generally of a better quality. This one is at least efficiently crafted, watchable, suspenseful and shows occasional flashes of his talent. Though it’s more suited for Fulci’s loyal hardcore fan base than a general audience, as a few scenes are brutally crude, gory, unsettling and have questionable morality–one adult female has a thing about hitting on young boys (in one scene she’s in the raw while trying to seduce a bashful but eager 12-year-old) and many of the married men cavort with prostitutes brought in from Rome to do it in an abandoned shack.

A nosy hardworking newspaper reporter from the big city, Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian), is determined to not only report the story but crack the case of who is killing a number of young boys in the small village of Accendura. It’s a village that is overwhelmed with sex, violence and superstition. All the murders occurred when the recovering drug addict and sexy tart from Milan, Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), came back to her father’s hometown to stay in her luxury home on orders from her wealthy father to avoid a drug scandal and clean up her act and let the scandal die down (though there’s no one to supervise her). Patrizia, an annoyingly spoiled, bored, amoral, intelligent and complex character, gets her jollies by coming on to adolescent boys and tempting them with sex–but, does that make her the killer?

As the bodies of young boys keeps climbing, the outsider modern thinking Police Commissioner (Virgilio Gazzolo) heading the investigation and the cynical but more knowledgeable of the town’s traditions local police captain (Ugo D’Alessio), keep getting the wrong suspect and the murders continue, as we go through a number of red herrings. The village idiot (Vito Passeri) finds the first vic’s body and insanely tries to get ransom money from the child’s parents when he’s captured and then exonerated of the murder charge only to be sent to the loony bin for his own protection; a deranged voodoo practitioner Maciara (Florinda Bolkan) confesses to the crime, saying she stuck pins in dolls representing the vics who desecrated her child’s grave. But she’s released by the incompetent arrogant commissioner and then brutally killed by a bunch of crazed ignorant locals using chains and lead pipes to tear apart her skin as they believe her to be an evil witch, and yet the murders still continue after her demise. One thing we are certain, is that the killer is mentally disturbed and the so-called sane locals also have some serious issues.

The creepiest guy in the village by far is the young priest (Marc Porel) who believes the village must be without sin and illicit sex, and envies the dead boys because they will not grow up to be sinners like their fathers. The priest’s hard-pressed mom (Irene Pappas) also cares for a retarded young deaf and dumb girl, who possesses decapitated dolls and it turns out witnessed one of the murders. Another suspect is Francesco (Georges Wilson), a voodoo practitioner who lives in the hills with Maciara and has built up a reputation throughout Italy for his great talent in the black arts.

While the storyline certainly has its shortcomings and it’s no big deal guessing who did it and what was the psychopath’s motive, nevertheless it becomes more fulfilling as a powerful social commentary whereby Fulci has a field day throwing out themes of Catholic guilt, sexual repression, psychological trauma, and small town narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy. It’s a diverting film from an overrated director with a great cult following, a film that surprisingly (at least to me) rises above its overall tawdriness and unpleasant shockers to actually say something worth hearing.