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Film / Don't Torture a Duckling

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Don't Torture a Duckling is a 1972 Giallo film directed by Lucio Fulci.

When several young boys are brutally murdered in a small southern Italian village, the superstitious locals react with ignorance and violence. All misfits are immediately suspected, such as big-city tart Patrizia, local village idiot Giuseppe, and voodoo practitioner Maciara. A cop named Martelli comes to investigate, and is rather curious about a young priest, Don Alberto, who censors the town's reading material to keep it free of corruption. No one is truly innocent in this town.

The film's score was composed by Riz Ortolani, of Mondo Cane and Cannibal Holocaust fame.

The film is Darker and Edgier than most other gialli of the time period, and Fulci himself considered it his best film.

This film contains examples of:

  • Big Bad: Don Alberto Avallone is the killer.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: No one in this movie is innocent. No one.
  • Cain and Abel: There's no hint of a sibling rivalry between them, but the evil Don Alberto has no qualms about throwing his innocent little sister, Malvina, off a remote cliff, all because she witnessed his killing of the children. He fails, and it's he who falls off the cliff instead after a climactic fight.
  • Chain Pain: Maciara is beaten to death with chains by an angry mob.
  • Creepy Child: Downplayed with Malvina Avallone, a deaf and mentally slow girl who carries around a decapitated doll. At first, it's assumed that bullies have simply broken her toy so Patrizia buys her a Donald Duck toy to replace it. It turns out, she's actually imitating the murders of the children by strangling her toys in a similar manner until their heads come off, leading to a mutilated Donald Duck toy, and a doll's head, being found near one of the crime scenes. Being a potential witness to the crime, she becomes the murderer's next target.
  • Death of a Child: Death of children is more like it. Three — and later four — boys are killed, and a girl is nearly thrown off a cliff.
  • Disney Villain Death: Don Alberto's fall from a cliff is probably one of the most gruesome examples ever, which is ironically not very Disney. We even see his face getting smashed by the crags in slow-motion mid-plummet.
  • Extreme Mle Revenge: Maciara is beaten up by the bereaved fathers of the slain children, which is made obvious if you remember their heavily focused faces in several earlier scenes.
  • Gorn: The majority of the film is very light on gore, but Maciara's beating and Don Alberto's death are surprisingly graphic.
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: Don't Torture a Duckling
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away when the young boys are murdered, and we only see the aftermath. Averted with the deaths of Maciara and Don Alberto, which are shown in graphic detail.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Don Alberto is about to kill another child by throwing them off a cliff, but Andrea foils his plan resulting in a struggle where he winds up falling from the cliff instead, ending him.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Don Alberto's belief that by killing children, he's saving them from becoming increasingly lustful.
  • Jitter Cam: Fulci uses handheld camerawork to add to the film's bleak atmosphere.
  • Knight Templar: Don Alberto is a very conservative priest. He eventually turns out to be the killer. Unusually, his delusion doesn't involve punishing the boys for supposedly having lustful thoughts; he feels that by killing them before puberty can corrupt them, he is actually saving their souls from damnation.
  • Market-Based Title: While Non si sevizia un paperino does translate from Italian to Don't Torture a Duckling it has a double meaning in that Donald Duck is called Paperino in Italy and a mutilated Donald toy plays a key role in the mystery, so "Don't Torture Donald Duck" might be a more accurate translation but for obvious reasons would never be used so a more literal translation had to do even if there are no duckings to be found.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Patrizia, who is introduced naked. Could also be considered Fan Disservice, since she's trying to seduce Michele, but not to him.
  • Never Trust a Title: No ducklings get tortured, though a mutilated Donald Duck doll turns out to be an important clue.
  • Offing the Offspring: When interrogated by police, Maciara confesses to killing her baby under the mad belief that she gave birth to the Devil's child. The little skeleton we see her digging up in the opening is implied to be that child.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The final shot of the film is of the clear blue sky after the camera pans away from the shot of Don Alberto's bloody corpse after falling off a cliff.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: The discovery of the boy's body in the well.
  • Police Procedural: Regularly, when they think they've finally found the suspect.
  • Red Herring: Giuseppe the town pervert, Maciara, Patrizia, and finally Aurelia.
  • Sinister Minister: Don Alberto as it turns out. Though he has a reputation of being the Good Shepherd among the town, he's the one who's been murdering the children for incredibly delusional reasons.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • American soul music and an Italian romantic ballad blaring from a car radio as Maciara is beaten to death for her supposed murder of the three boys.
    • And who can forget that beautiful score being played by the orchestra as Don Alberto falls to his death while his face gets scraped on the side of the cliff?
  • Tautological Templar: Don Alberto does not see anything wrong with killing the children. As far as he's concerned, he's turning them into "angels" by letting them die before the world robs them of their innocence.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Don Alberto is a kindly looking priest, but he's actually an insane child murderer, and the main villain. Compared to the film's red herrings—Giuseppe the town pervert, Maciara a haggard looking witch, Patrizia the strange city girl, and Aurelia a lonely reserved widow—it just goes to show that no one ever came close to pinpointing the actual culprit due to prejudgment of the suspects' outward appearance. The main characters are guilty of this, too, not just the villagers.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: The townspeople blame the murders on Maciara, an unpopular witch, and lynch her based on zero evidence (though it didn't help that she claims responsibility for their deaths at the precinct). The murders continue.
  • Vigilante Injustice: The film makes perfectly clear that the acts of street justice that the citizens are performing are just the mob exploiting the situation to freely hurt and kill anybody they despise, and when they finally get their hands on the person who is actually responsible for the crimes, the alleged justice that this act brings is tainted by their savagery.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Giuseppe doesn't appear again after he is led away on a cop car surrounded by the growing mob of townspeople.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: Inverted. The townspeople use the string of murders as an excuse to accuse all the local outsiders and misfits of being murderers, including a witch and a mentally disabled man.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • The fathers of the murdered sons when they beat Maciara to death, accusing her for their murder.
    • Don Alberto smacks Patrizia around until she's unconscious when she stops him from murdering Malvina.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Don Alberto is the killer of the four boys and almost makes his own little sister the next victim had Andrea not come in time to stop him.
    • Years ago, Maciara killed her own baby because she thought it was born of the Devil.
  • You Monster!: In the English dub, at least, Patrizia cries out "You beast!" to the murderer who is none other than Don Alberto the priest.