Touch of Death | Varied Celluloid

Touch of Death

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Lester is a well-to-do man with a love and affection for gambling on the races, he also has a love and affection for killing women and hacking them to bits before eating their bodies and feeding the remains to his hogs. So yeah, you could say he’s a pretty adventurous kind of guy! Recently he has devised a plan to seduce rich old widows he finds in the newspapers, convince them to give him a load of money/jewelry and then slaughtering them off. A brilliant plan no doubt! With a little advice from his tape casette player which speaks and has conversations with him – he is off to nab some more widows! The only hitch in the plan though is that now after killing a few girls, it seems that someone else must be following the same plan. Every night on the news he is seeing killings that took place in the exact same fashion that his have, and with the exact same circumstances – but only this other killer is leaving behind evidence. When Lester kills and chops up a body, this other killer leaves it behind. When Lester kills the only witness to his crime, the other killer simply harms them and leaves them to testify that a tall man with a beard and rimmed glasses did it – just like Lester. Things really start to get to ol’ Lester when he makes a bet that goes wrong and becomes $10,000 in debt to the mob – which he has just one week to pay off. Will Lester somehow get out of this predicament?



The Review: The first glimpse I had of Touch of Death was in the classic A Cat in the Brain/Nightmare Concert, a film of new gore scenes and several older ones from Lucio Fulci’s films – namely the chainsaw sequence at the beginning of this film; which stood out to me as one of the gorier moments I had seen in a Fulci film since first viewing Zombie 2 or City of the Living Dead. I have read negative and positive reviews of the film in the past so I knew what to expect, and for the most part everything I had read was correct. Touch of Death is a flawed film overall but features a lot of really great gore FX and is part of Fulci’s last stand as the Godfather of Gore and in that way it’s definitely worth seeing for fans but probably not anything that the non-hardcore fans are going to clamor for. Between the great gore and the plot that just ALMOST works, A Touch of Death turns out more memorable than some others from this point in Fulci’s long career. It truly may have been one of Fulci’s last truly artistic forrays into the horror genre – but only by a slight margin can I say that; because it seems obvious that the film was of course meant to simply turn a profit with fans of the bizarre and disturbing. Although, the entirely odd mix of almost bleakly dark comedy with some of his most brutal death scenes seems as odd a choice as any, and gives the film a fragmented prescence throughout. However, is it a flick that horror fans are going to feel ripped off by? I would say no, if you’re coming into this one as a fan of Fulci’s and you’re simply looking for a good time – if you just let all the right things effect you and block out the bad; Touch of Death is actually a fairly entertaining film and is certainly tolerable at worst. Decent at best.

The mix of comedy amidst the film is probably the biggest detractor with most audiences. Although I wasn’t terribly bothered by it, this is no “Stupid Sheriff” sequence like in Last House on the Left, but the mix of grotesque gore and naive old timey humor go together like peanutbutter and rubbing alcohol. Years later Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi would find a way to introduce the world to gore films with tons of slapstick within them; but here Fulci tries mixing truly brutal sequences like that of a woman having her face beaten in with a giant stick to the next of Lester trying to dispose of the body and the legs being so stiff that they keep popping up out of the trunk. This sort of Shtick style humor simply doesn’t meld very well with the previously bloody and disturbing scenes of death. The Shtick doesn’t stop there either, there are other sequences with Lester driving around with a dead body that just won’t seem to stay in the same position! Oh the wackiness of it all! By the way, in the previous scene Lester was probably either strangling the innocent woman or roasting her head in a microwave. It’s not that the sequences aren’t without humor, I will boldly admit that the sequence with Lester in the car trying to hide the dead woman who keeps falling over from the policeman who has pulled him over was definitely a very humorous segment and definitely made me chuckle. However, on the whole, it just seems to hinder the film more than anything as we go from dark and horrible, to light and fluffy all the way to serious and dramatic. The problems more than likely started in the script faze and this could have simply been Fulci trying to be different from his normal. In that way, at least we get to see a different side of Fulci. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t see that Fulci under a different script. This one just gets lost in all of it’s own plot devices. It could have simply been the English dubbing, but many of the subplots in the film simply seem to come from out of nowhere and leave with little to no resolution. Such as the seperate killer who leaves behind evidence; which I won’t say has no conclusion but it is certainly hard to keep track of during the course of the film. Lester’s reaction to the news broadcasts could have been so much more clear. I didn’t really understand this whole subplot until roughly halfway through the film, you can maybe blame this on the dubbing as I have not seen the subtitled version but I can only give my thoughts and say more than likely the dialogue in any language is going to be more than a little ambiguous..

Touch of Death and whether you want to see it or not all depends on how big a fan of Lucio Fulci you are, and how big of a fan you are of Italian Exploitation. At times it’s dumb, at others it is a fun experience and the gory violence is classic Fulci – but this is far from the directors best work. Amongst his later films however, this may have been one of his brighter moments however; so take that for what it’s worth. I give the film a three ranking, because it delivers the things you would expect of Fulci but unfortunately doesn’t deliver all the great things he is capable of. A bad script and a strange brew that never seems to really take hold – I can only recommend it to Fulci’s diehard fans, for those looking to test the waters for the first time – try The Beyond or Zombie instead.





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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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