Don't Torture a Duckling (Non si sevizia un paperino) was my first entry into the filmography of Barbara Bouchet and quite the pleasant surprise. If you've ever watched an Italian thriller then you're quite aware that the staple of the genre almost always includes a little nudity and some extremely gratuitous violence, and Don't Torture a Duckling doesn't stray far from that seemingly common Italian staple, as both are two of the most memorable scenes in the film.
Don't Torture a Duckling surrounds the investigation of a series of serial killings involving young boys who are seemingly strangled or drowned to death by some certifiably insane individual. Could it be the town's perverted peeping tom who threatens to kill the boys who caught him spying? Maybe it's the crazy witch whose fashioned three voodoo dolls of three boys who are later found dead? Or the stunning socialite whose recently returned to town, the place where she was born, to escape her drug problems in the big city, and who continuously and disturbingly appears to be flirting with the young boys who soon after die? Or maybe it's the town's local priest who seems all too involved in the lives of the town's young boys.
The success of Don't Torture a Duckling lies squarely on the fact the story always keeps you guessing until almost the very end. Anyone could be the killer because almost everyone is setup to look like the killer. Barbara Bouchet plays Patrizia the "formally" drug addicted socialite, her character is the most interesting, receiving a very memorable introduction as she's seemly sun bathing in the buff inside a darkened room and mentally toys with a young boy who brings her something to drink, one of the boys whose later murdered. Of course the setting of the scene makes absolutely no sense but it's definitely a burning introduction to her character and surprisingly the only skin scene in the film.
Aside from the provocative Patrizi, Don't Torture a Duckling features a pretty disturbing murder scene. While none of the murders of the children are shown in much detail there is a scene in the town's graveyard where a woman suspected and recently cleared of the murders is beaten to death by a group of men with chains and blocks of wood. This sequence was hard to watch, definitely more graphic than anything you'd normally see in an American film, but probably pretty standard for this type of Italian genre. Adding to the unbearable edge is the length of the sequence which is quite long as the woman crawls on the ground beaten and bloodied for what seems to be a minute after her thorough beating.
Overall, Don't Torture a Duckling was a pretty engrossing thriller which was definitely more than I expected. At only 102 minutes the film feels a little long, but strangely enough there's never really a dull moment. The English dubbing wasn't horrible, the films score is convincingly creepy and the beautiful Barbara Bouchet was a nice visual mouthwash to a sometimes violent and disturbing plot. If you're a fan of Italian thrillers, or looking for a film to get your feet wet this is a decent place to start and it's readily attainable on Netflix.