When a southern Italian town is rocked by a string of child murders, the police and two urban outcasts search for the culprit amid scapegoating within the superstitious community.When a southern Italian town is rocked by a string of child murders, the police and two urban outcasts search for the culprit amid scapegoating within the superstitious community.When a southern Italian town is rocked by a string of child murders, the police and two urban outcasts search for the culprit amid scapegoating within the superstitious community.
Definitely a prime candidate for the most insane movie title ever conceived and that's quite an achievement in giallo-land. Originally, the film was titled even more absurdly, "Don't Torture Donald Duck", literally translated from its Italian title. A small Donald Duck figure features briefly as a toy, but hardly enough to render a title like this, but, apparently, it was changed in fear of legal ramifications by Disney. I railed quite a bit against Fulci's earlier LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971), but here all the right ingredients are present. A surprisingly effective mystery, a good cast and imaginatively shot against an unusual rural setting. Everything just clicks. I think it's justly hailed as one of the director's most accomplished achievements.
The story is set against the backdrop of a small mountain-side town in Sicily, where someone is killing young teenage boys. Among the suspects, the most obvious one is a young woman, Maciara (Florinda Balkan), a self-proclaimed witch who is seen suspiciously unearthing the skeleton of a baby and sticking pins into way effigies. Guiseppe, the village idiot is under suspicion as well, since he made a feeble attempt to profit from the disappearance of one of the boys and walked right into their trap. By the time a quick-witted newshound (Tomas Milian) arrives from Milan to cover the murders, he immediately begins to question the authorities' assumptions, when he meets two other potential suspects: Don Alberto, the local priest (Marc Porel) with a high-minded attitude, and Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), a bored young woman from the city with a troubled past of drug offense, who also fancies having sexual relations with the young boys in town. Talk about your prime red herring.
Fulci nicely contrasts modernity and tradition with the newly constructed elevated highway meandering through the Sicilian hills, past old towns where life is still firmly rooted in tradition and superstition. One could debate about the film's political stance as The North versus The South, or as commentary on small-town virtues - society's conventions in general - that are all too often dangerously close to tipping over into moral disintegration, chaos and - ultimately - self-justice by the populace. The film has often been lambasted because of its anti-catholic tone, but it's hardly an important element here, except for obvious plot-related reasons, which would be giving away too much. It's actually rather tame compared to a film like Joël Seria's DON'T DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1971). Probably, the film's rather unflattering portrayal of small-town Sicilian values (when another boy is killed, the local populace are depicted as a retarded lynch-mob) might be cause for some offense in Sicily, but - considering Sicily's problematic relation with the rest of Italy - hardly problematic for other Italians, I would think. The film vanquished into obscurity far too quickly to have much impact anyway.
When talking Fulci, the amount of gore is usually a prime subject for discussion. Although eyes-gouging scenes are lacking, the film does contain two very graphic scenes. In the gross-out finale, the killer falls of a cliff, smashing his face along the rocks on the way down with gruesome results (albeit, not very realistic). And the chain-whipping sequence with Florinda Balkan in the graveyard shows Fulci's penchant for sadistic violence and typically, he's not holding back at graphically showing what most film-makers would merely hint at. Surely, one of the most horrifying scenes in Fulci's repertoire.
Above all, this is a taut, well-written, effective little mystery, nicely lensed by Fulci, with an impressive cast of genre-regulars like Barbara Bouchet, Marc Porel (not very convincing as a priest), Tomas Milian and Florinda Balkan (mouth-foamingly crazy as the town's witch).
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
- Feb 17, 2007