Strange cinema

Completely unclassifiable cinema, bizarre films from the fringes

Don’t Torture a Duckling

With more bungled police work than the entire Amanda Knox case, this Italian crime curiosity is notable for showcasing some of the hallmark gore Maestro Lucio Fulci would later bring to the big screen in The Beyond and City of the Living Dead.

Don’t Torture a Duckling, aka Non si sevizia un paperino, like the later New York Ripper, also features Donald Duck; however, it’s in passing reference, and not as a key killer character trait (the killer in the latter adopting that quacky voice to thwart NYPD detectives, which has haunted horror hounds since 1982).

Here, the fictional small town of Accendura is rocked by the death of three local rapscallions, Bruno, Michele, and Tonino. What ensues is a media circus not unlike the one cartwheeling weirdo Amanda Knox brought to the city of Perugia (where the giallo, Torso, is set, incidentally).

Martelli (Cuban-born Italian genre stalwart Tomas Milian) is a big-city journalist who brings gumption and Burton Cummings facial hair to the town, asking probing questions and eventually befriending a nympho Milanese supermodel, Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet, see accompanying poster) and a priest (as one does) to get to to the bottom of the killings.

Don’t Torture a Duckling, released by Arrow on Blu-ray, features a number of hilarious set-pieces, and enough weirdness to carry the day.

This includes: a village idiot and peeping Tom, Giuseppe (taunted by the boys in a truly bizarre set-up involving ladies of the evening retiring to a country shack); some of the most laughable exposition you’ll ever see (even for an Italian horror), Voodoo dolls; and yes, Patrizia securing Orangina* from a youngster while she reclines in the buff (again, see accompanying poster).

Fulci fans will forgive a veritable Smørrebrød of pickled red herrings, as he is able to create some unforgettable elements (as usual) and enough to keep the viewer engaged.

Of particular note, the incredible score by Grammy winner Riziero Ortolani, who provided the soundtrack to our nightmares in Cannibal Holocaust (1980), House on the Edge of the Park (1980) and Madhouse (1981).

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our Don’t Torture a Duckling discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]

*a delicious, lightly carbonated Italian fruit drink.

Don’t Go Near the Park

Don’t be fooled by Don’t Go Near the Park. While it sounds like the other “don’t” films, don’cha know* (many of which we’ve covered here, including Don’t Go in the Woods, Don’t Answer the Phone!, Don’t Look in the Basement) it’s actually far from being a straight-ahead stalk ‘n’ slash. In fact, it’s far from being straight-ahead.

You see, Don’t Go Near the Park features immortal cannibal cave people, with a story so byzantine it makes Finnegans Wake look like Ten Little Indians.

Like its slasher brethren, DGNTP features an insane prologue. However, instead of merely going back a generation to explain how being forced to put on a dress turned Little Johnny into a wide-eyed campground Stabby McGee 15 years later, this film takes us back 12,000 years ago.

Picture it: humans lived by torchlight. In caves. Wearing loin-cloths. And they spoke English (who knew?)

We are introduced to cave-siblings, (Patty and Gar) who are somehow cursed to drink human blood in order to quell sped-up aging (ten years for every one). And in order to speed up the plot, the viewer is catapulted to the present, and then vaulted 16 years ahead after that.

Gar rents a room from a landlady (played by horror icon Linnea Quigley, best known for being antler bait in Silent Night, Deadly Night) in the time-honored fashion: walking in on her in the shower (!). Despite this breach of etiquette, he isn’t immediately sent packing in favor of another prospective tenant, but actually is allowed to rent the place (after which, they become a couple).

The 16-year narrative jump is for their teen daughter, the hilariously named Bondi (that’s “Bond-ee,” not like the beach, dear Aussie readers) who’s the apple of daddy’s eye. She’s ostensibly birthed so that Gar and his sister can feast on a virgin. Possibly. This requires a second and maybe a third viewing for further clarification, as the two seem to feast just fine on random people.

To plug the narrative gaps, there’s some exposition aplenty, provided by a somewhat confused local historian, Mr. Taft (the legendary Aldo Ray) who regales an orphan boy with tales of the “demons of Las Filas?” and who voices the film’s titular warning (odd, given there are two separate parks where Gar feasts on his victims, both of which don’t meet any definition of what most would consider a “park”).

With effects that wouldn’t pass muster at the HG Lewis School of Film-making, inappropriate nudity, head-scratching performances, and histrionic wailing like “You never gave me gold!” Don’t Go Near the Park is a bona-fide cult classic and a fascinating bit of gonzo cinema.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast discussion of Don’t Go Near the Park]

[*Editor’s note: Many “Don’t” films were added to the Video Nasties list]