Touch of Death

Good-natured isn’t exactly the right word for a movie which features a chainsaw mutilation pre-credit roll, but Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death is an easy-going, almost casual serial killer flick and a film which (probably for the best) doesn’t take itself too seriously.

As to whether Fulci himself took his work as seriously at the time of this production is a question unto itself, as the Godfather of Gutmunchers, who’d ridden high in the saddle for the much of the 80s, was starting to see his creative lights fade.

With release issues, Touch of Death (aka, Quando Alice ruppe lo specchio – when Alice broke the Mirror) languished in pre-production purgatory, finally seeing daylight at a time when Il Maestro’s creative decline matched horror’s Golden Era home-plate slide into the dreadful 90s (Touch of Death came out in 1988, along with the likes of Child’s Play, Waxwork, Night of the Demons and Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a great year all things considered before things took a turn for the worse)

Here, Lester Parson (played by sleaze/genre vet Brett Halsey) is a cannibal deviant divorcee who lives on a sprawling villa and feeds his vics to pigs. Parson suffers delusions that he’s been communicated with privately through radio dispatches, and spends his days wooing (and bedding) what in today’s politically correct times could still be referred to as “mature women.”

Halsey’s performance carries the day here, and it’s easy to believe disaffected society women would be charmed by the likes of Lester, who’s a dancing, sweet-talking, crustacean dinner-fashioning gallant.

Put into the context of Fulci’s other work, sure, there’s no contest: Touch of Death will never been up there (or as Fulci critics might have it, “down there”) with the likes of the incredible Zombi, City of the Living Dead or The Beyond). However, with touches of gallows humor, (including the protracted demise of an amateur opera diva), and some unintentional hilarity courtesy of TV journalism, Touch of Death brings the goods.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Touch of Death]

Killer Crocodile

You know you’re in trouble when your POV killer croc title sequence is juxtaposed with the phrase, “the crocodile was created and built by _________.” Please, for the sake of whatever smidgen of suspension of disbelief we still have left, hold off until the closing credits, will ya?!

Killer Crocodile’s title (if not reputation) precedes it. As you might have guessed, it’s yet another um, killer crocodile movie with the distinction being that it’s got the best Search Engine Optimized name. And delivers on its title promise.

We meet an amorous couple in the tropics, the male half of whom must be some kind of magician as he gets high notes to come out of the bass string of his guitar as he gently plucks sweet nothings to his paramour. Within seconds she interrupts this intimate moment by doffing her top  and charging the beach like its Normandy. She frolics about, then waves, coaxing him to join her.

Next thing you know, she’s dinner.

An ecologist (who resembles Greg Sestero from The Room), his lab assistant, a local guide, a photographer (and their little dog too) are paddling through a swamp that’s apparently been poisoned by the local plant. One of them dons a bio-hazard suit and jumps into the muddy river, Geiger counter in tow, apparently to see if metal barrels clearly marked “radioactive,” are indeed so. Gotta admire their due diligence.

Radioactivity is the springboard, for, I don’t know…a thousand creature feature movies? And it’s a pretty good, if incredibly lazy conceit for screenwriters to fall back on.

From there the natural horror devolves into, “has anyone seen __________?” and the time-honored, “you don’t think something’s happened to her, do you?” Don’t worry…”

And there’s lots of speculation about why people are going missing, and washing ashore. At first the carnage is mis-attributed to a boating accident, which is extremely weird unless the coroner is a graduate of the Dr. Nick Riviera School of Medicine.

Killer Crocodile is another hilariously inept Jaws variant, this time Italian, so ergo the bonus of awkward, stilted ADR. Director “Larry Ludman” sounds suspiciously like an Alan Smithee alternative, but it’s really the pseudonym of Frabrizio De Angelis, Umberto Lenzi/Lucio Fulci collaborator, best known for the Karate Kid knock-off, Il ragazzo del kimono d’oro (The Boy with the Golden Kimono).

Chomp down on this one. It’s kinda fun. And tune into our discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast.

*** (out of 5)