Writer/director Lucio Fulci delivers a thriller as weird and wonderful as the title suggests with this convoluted who-dunnit with psychedelic inserts. Filmed with a druggy ennui that sits oddly with quaint London settings like the Alexandra Palace, Stanley Baker plays Inspector Colvin, who doggedly investigates Carol Hammond (Florida Bolkan) when she becomes prime suspect in a murder case. Surreal aspects include a giant swan and a sculpture made out of living dogs, but the narrative delivers plenty of tension and surprises, leading to a conclusion that shows Balkan at her most iconic. The funked-out score is by Ennio Morricone.
Although his early career was distinguished by tense Eurothrillers like Perversion, A Lizard in a Women’s Skin, The Psychic and Don’t Torture The Duckling, Lucio Fulci’s name will be forever associated with his embrace of gore in the late 70’s and early eighties. The derogatory description ‘Ful-shit’ was coined, but many of his attempts to follow up the success of Zombi (1979) can be seen to have values beyond just sensation. After an eerie prologue, The Beyond sees Catriona McColl unwittingly opening the gates of Hell in a South Louisiana setting, and that means the undead in various stages of decomposition, but it’s the dreamlike logic and often beautiful visuals that stay in the mind; there’s a strange poetry at work between the gross-out shocks.
Director Lucio Fulci’s favourite from amongst his own films, Don’t Torture a Duckling’s bizarre title gives an accurate sense of the baroque mystery contained within. A series of child murders in Sicily leave investigators stumped, but who is responsible? It could be the Journalist (Thomas Milan), the sexed-up seductress (Barbara Bouchet), or the village sorceress (Florida Balkan), or a long list of other suspects, but the resolution is a controversial one that explains the film’s unavailability for many years. Striking moments of non-supernatural horror are mixed with lush photography of the countryside, and great work from a cast that’s a dream team for fans of Euro-cinema. If you can handle the occasional gore, this is a great whodunit to keep genre fans on their toes.