• Kelly M. Hudson

One of These Days, Alice...

Remember when Alice broke the mirror? You probably don’t, even if you’re as big a fan of Lucio Fulci as I am. That was the original title of this 1988 horror shocker, re-titled Touch of Death here in America. It was a lost film, stuck in limbo, not shown before being dumped onto Italian TV. Considered by many to be one of his lesser works, the product of a talent that was on the decline, with very little budget and no distribution, I think Touch of Death needs to be reassessed. This is classic, playful Fulci.

Lester Parson (Brett Halsey) has a couple of big problems. One of them is gambling, and he’s not very good at it. The other is killing women, and he’s really good at that. Middle-aged, smart but bumbling, Lester finds lonely widows, seduces them, gets all their money to fuel his gambling debts, and then kills them, often in very gruesome ways. Sometimes he’ll eat some of their flesh, too, as the film opens with him jauntily cooking a steak made from the thigh of his latest victim. Eventually, the police catch on to what is happening, and he has to keep changing his appearance to stay one step ahead of them. Meanwhile, he continues losing money gambling and he keeps knocking off oddball widows to pay for his addiction. Eventually, he runs into the wrong lady, and justice is served.

Touch of Death is brutally violent in parts. If you like gory Fulci you’ve got a lot to see in this one. Lester chops up a body into pieces using a chainsaw, in graphic, up-close detail, and that’s just the start of the film. Bludgeoning and cruel murder await the women caught up in his gigolo trance. So on this level, it definitely delivers like old school Fulci. Yes, the budget is very low and it shows, but it doesn’t hinder anything. The acting by Halsey is terrific, borderline genius. I don’t think many people get that because they see this as ham-fisted and silly, but that’s the point I think nearly everyone misses: this is a comedy. A horror comedy, to be sure, but this film is filled with hilarious gag after hilarious gag. Talk about old school Fulci, it doesn’t get any older school than him returning to his comedy movie roots. If you take this seriously you’ll hate it but how could anyone? It’s very obviously designed to be funny, and not “look at how bad this is” funny. The sequence with Lester hauling a fresh corpse in his car is a dead giveaway as to what’s going on here. It is pure comedic gold and if they remade this film, Will Farrell would be perfect in the bumbling role of Lester. I was laughing one minute, clapping with glee at the gore the next.

This isn’t the Fulci from the late 70’s/early 80’s. This isn’t a film drenched in surrealism and the creepy, groovy scores of Fabio Frizzi. This isn’t unrelenting horror that goes too far. This is a horror comedy, this is Fulci relaxing and having some fun. Come for the blood and gore, ‘cause there’s lots of it, but stick around for the laughs. It’s a highly entertaining and thoroughly underrated latter-day offering by the Maestro.

Three and a Half Stars out of Four

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