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  Touch of Death A Hate Letter To Women
Year: 1988
Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Brett Halsey, Ria De Simone, Al Cliver, Sacha Darwin, Zora Kerova, Marco Di Stefano
Genre: Horror, Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lester Parson (Brett Halsey) has never been the same since his wife died, he has a gambling addiction to deal with for a start, and that always leaves him short of the cash he needs to fund his lavish lifestyle. To do so, he has gone to extreme lengths, as we see today when he wakes up and prepares a steak for his breakfast, then sits down to eat it in front of a home video he has made of a middle-aged woman with a growth on her face performing a striptease. Once the repast is complete, he ventures down to his basement where the woman lies dead on a stretcher, with a steak-shaped hole in her buttock - Lester is a cannibal, and has just taken this rich widow's money...

What that has to do with the rest of this movie is something of a mystery, though it does establish a pattern of sorts its writer and director Lucio Fulci settled into for the duration. This was intended as part of an anthology of TV movies for Italian television, though it was stronger stuff than what most countries would have allowed to be broadcast, and wound up with a limited release into various cinemas around the world. It was obviously a rather cheap affair, but there were signs it was attempting to be cheerful too, as effectively Touch of Death was Fulci's idea of a comedy, though what made him chuckle was far different from what most people's idea of a good set of jokes would be.

Indeed, for much of the running time, this was merely off-putting and horrible in its endeavours to make light of its antihero's murder spree, as he settled on a selection of middle-aged widows who had some aspect that made them ugly, be it a facial deformity, a sideburns and a moustache for one (plus hairy moles on her breasts), or one hapless lady who is apparently beyond the pale because she insists on singing opera not very well and more or less constantly until Parson strangles her with a whip. If this was your idea of hilarious, then good luck to you, but the relish Fulci went about disposing of them, with gore galore in a couple of instances, was far from humorous and betrayed his misogyny.

Fulci's fans will bend over backwards to tell you he was a lot less of a woman-hater than his movies might have you believe, he was employing dramatic irony, or was sending up his critics who called him on his love of savagely dispatching his female characters, but all this was difficult to counter when you watched something like Touch of Death. Yes, male characters are killed, and with a similar bloody detail, but the extended sequence where the hairy widow is chopped up and eventually microwaved into mush in the kitchen wasn't funny, it was like someone telling a sick gag and spending five minutes extrapolating the punchline to a sickening degree. Not helping was that the rampant misogyny appeared to be the only thing that made sense to the film, and it acted accordingly.

All other elements of the plot were simply nonsensical, and even at the came across as the product of a talent who just didn't care anymore, and was falling back on a complacent "only joking!" mode of expression because he had found himself in a creative rut and was taking that out on the film's victims. There was various business about Parson and his gambling, but also material about a copycat killer whose crimes the police are blaming on him, him apparently being under surveillance by unknown characters, carrying on a conversation with a never identified man who talks to him over the phone or via a cassette tape, Parson's shadow disappearing with, again, no explanation, and so on, Fulci throwing any old garbage dredged up from his psyche at the wall in the hope that something would stick. Touch of Death was so bad that it was tempting to reassess even the director's more enjoyable films in the same caustic light, the worst trappings of Italian exploitation laid bare for all to see. Why he thought this was suitable for television is another mystery. Music by Carlo Maria Cordio.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Lucio Fulci  (1927 - 1996)

Italian director whose long career could best be described as patchy, but who was also capable of turning in striking work in the variety of genres he worked in, most notably horror. After working for several years as a screenwriter, he made his debut in 1959 with the comedy The Thieves. Various westerns, musicals and comedies followed, before Fulci courted controversy in his homeland with Beatrice Cenci, a searing attack on the Catholic church.

The 70s and early 80s were marked by slick, hard-hitting thrillers like A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Don't Torture a Duckling and The Smuggler, while Fulci scored his biggest international success in 1979 with the gruesome Zombie Flesh Eaters. Manhattan Baby, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and The House by the Cemetery were atmospheric, bloody slices of Gothic horror, and The New York Ripper set a new standard in misogynistic violence. Fulci's last notable film was the truly unique A Cat in the Brain in 1990, a semi-autobiographical, relentlessly gory comedy in which he also starred. Died in 1996 from a diabetic fit after several years of ill-health.

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