Thursday, November 19, 2020

Capsule Reviews - Lucio Fulci

Three from the Godfather of Gore (Over the course of my 2,500 Movie Challenge, I covered several Fulci films. To read these reviews, click here).

1.The Black Cat (1981)

The first half hour of The Black Cat features one incredible scene after another! There’s a creepy pre-title sequence in which a guy, driving down the road, spots a cat in the back seat of his car and crashes into a parked vehicle (his head smashes through the windshield, and the car bursts into flames). Next, we visit the home of Professor Robert Miles (Patrick Magee), who is resting comfortably in a chair, listening to audio tapes, when he’s suddenly and viciously attacked by a black cat. From there, we join American photographer Jill Trevers (Mimsy Farmer) as she’s walking through a cemetery. She descends into an open crypt, where she finds numerous skeletons (from the way the remains are positioned, it’s obvious that, centuries ago, this area functioned as a torture chamber). Moments later, the action shifts to a small boat, where Maureen (Daniela Doria) and her boyfriend are making out. Interrupted by another boat that happens by, the boyfriend suggests they go somewhere a little more private… with tragic results. All of these scenes are great, yet as I sat watching them, it suddenly dawned on me: I had no idea what the hell was going on! As The Black Cat progressed, it started to make a little more sense: every tragedy centered on Professor Miles and his pet cat. Though I was admittedly baffled when David Warbeck, playing a Scotland Yard Inspector, was randomly attacked by a black cat. Or maybe it was three black cats? I can’t say for sure. But, you know, the seemingly incoherent story didn’t bother me, because The Black Cat featured plenty of that patented Fulci gore I’ve come to love, and many scenes, whether or not they made a lick of sense, were so damn cool that my comprehension of it all became secondary. To be fair, it does come together in the end, but even if it didn’t, I would have walked away from The Black Cat smiling ear to ear.
Rating: 8 out of 10

2. Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Several children have been murdered in the small village of Accendura. As the police work diligently to track down the killer, an out-of-town reporter (Tomas Milian) and a pretty socialite (Barbara Bouchet) do a little investigating of their own, hoping to find out who is committing these heinous crimes, and why. Don’t Torture a Duckling is Fulci’s take on the Giallo subgenre, and it’s a good one! The mystery surrounding the killings becomes more puzzling with each subsequent murder, and there are hints that black magic might figure into it all. While not as consistently violent as some of the director’s later films, Don’t Torture a Duckling does feature a handful of bloody moments, the most shocking of which occurs when La Magiara (Florinda Balkan), a suspect in the killings, is cornered by five villagers and beaten with chains. Like most giallos, there are plenty of potential suspects, and Fulci does a masterful job juggling them all, keeping us guessing right up to the very end. A word of warning, though: there is a very uncomfortable scene towards the beginning of the movie, in which a naked Bouchet practically seduces an adolescent boy. But if you can somehow overlook this bit of creepiness, you’ll find - as I did - that Don’t Torture a Duckling is both a strong Fulci film and one of the best giallos of its era.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

3. The Psychic (1977)

Virginia (Jennifer O’Neill), a clairvoyant, experiences visions of a brutal murder that occurred sometime in the recent past. Before long, these visions lead to the discovery of a skeleton, which was buried in the wall of an estate owned by her new husband Francesco (Gianni Garko). The remains are those of a 25-year-old former model that Francesco once dated, so, naturally, the police arrest him and charge him with murder. But Virginia is sure her husband is innocent, and hopes that, with the help of her somewhat confusing visions, she can track down the real killer. With Don’t Torture a Duckling and The Psychic, Fulci proved he was more than the Godfather of Gore; both of these giallo-esque films are well-paced, with intriguing mysteries at their core. In addition, The Psychic makes great use of its lead character’s extrasensory abilities, showing us her entire vision at the outset and slowly revealing the mystery behind it, scene by scene. Jennifer O’Neill is very good as Virginia, and Gabriele Ferzetti (L’Avventura, Once Upon a Time in The West) turns up in a small but essential supporting role.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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