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Touch of Death
Lucio Fulci was not a man known for his sense of humour. Those who worked with him throughout his multi-decade spanning career mostly had only negative things to say about the man’s personality. His directorial efforts that followed his career-rejuvenating Dawn of the Dead rip-off called Zombi 2 (or Zombie, or Zombie Flesh Eaters[/i]), were notorious for their ghastly gore and haunting imagery. Throughout the late ‘80s and until his untimely death in 1996, he was mostly known only for the diminishing quality of his productions. What many fans don’t know is that before his gore-hound heyday and untimely downfall, Fulci was a director for hire, successful in many genres, including that of comedy.

Touch of Death
Lester Parson is a lovable psychopath with a gambling problem and a bad luck streak. To feed his habit, Lester has been wining, dining and murdering wealthy socialites. Occasionally he eats a bit of them as well. The money and goods he pries from their cold, dead hands is immediately spent and lost fueling his addiction. Like his bookie says, “Lester could lose a bet in a one horse race that was fixed.” Mr. Parson's rotten luck extends to his private life as well. Though he meticulously disposes of his victims, a copycat killer is not doing such an immaculate job. The culprit of these sloppy crimes seems to be implicating Lester as the lead suspect. In a cruel twist of cosmic irony, Lester is the suspect in his own copycat’s killings. Before you can say ‘Tyler Durden’, his doppelganger’s true ambitions begin to come into focus.

I can state in all honesty that Touch of Death was a truly amusing little motion picture. Originally filmed for Italian television, it still carries all the late Lucio’s trademarks of copious sex and violence. Within the first five minutes we are treated to Lester eating a bit of juicy steak, which is apparently actually a bit of dead woman’s bum. While watching video of his latest victim dancing in the nude he feeds a few bits of lady-flesh to his mangy cat. Then he proceeds to the basement where he chops up her rotting corpse with a chainsaw while humming opera to himself gleefully.

What ends up making this rather routine bit of sadism work is the infusion of 1950s level gallows humour. Though the grue is more graphic than that found in the era, every joke could have easily been substituted from any number of Roger Corman's various genre quickies, and if filmed in England or Hollywood, Vincent Price could have very easily played Lester. Each of Lester’s socialite victims has some sort of hideous physical defect (hairy upper-lips, facial scars) or overtly obnoxious character trait (singing loudly during sex), making Lester’s dirty work seem almost admirable in hindsight. Amusement is ours to behold as our hero attempts to kiss the mole and hair covered body of a gleefully squirming fifty-something, knowing that within minutes he is going to brutally murder her.

Touch of Death
Unfortunately, Touch of Death (alternately titled When Alice Broke the Looking Glass, which makes even less sense) is basically an overlong episode of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt with a lower production budget, making it hard to recommend it to anyone but the Fulci elite. Yes, it is miles better than our favourite fuzzy Italian director’s other late-in-life work (like Zombi 3 and Demonia), but not enough to suggest that those unfamiliar with the maestro’s work will be impressed. This one’s for the fans only, though even they might be turned off by the low production value and general lack of creativity on Lucio’s part.

It’s pretty obvious from the outset that Touch of Death was filmed for television. The picture is framed in the TV friendly 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and the film quality is, at best, lacking. I’d have sworn it was filmed on video had it not been for the bountiful artefacting found on this transfer. The fuzzy, washed out image is indicative of a late 1980s Italian tele-cast, perhaps taped on SLP speed and passed around online from fan to fan. In other words, though rather grimy, this really is the only way to view a hard to find, zero budget, Italian made for TV gore-comedy. Videophiles will not be happy, but those actually interested in watching the film will be ecstatic that they can make out anything at all.

Touch of Death
The expected lo-fi video is complimented by an equally lo-fi mono audio track. For most of the film dialogue is muddled but understandable. The music tends to distort a bit on higher volume levels and there is palpable audio popping throughout. Towards the finale, volume levels begin to drop and my system had to be turned up to potentially dangerous levels, leaving me no choice but to drop the film's audio score to below average.

Instead of the usual commentary track, which would be difficult considering the director has been dead for nearly a decade; Media Blasters has instead supplied a ‘rare’ audio interview with the maestro. This is a more enjoyable way to enjoy a lengthy audio only interview, as the film playing gives one something to look at while listening, but the contrast of the two mediums creates some distraction. The special features are rounded out with interviews with star/victim Zora Kerova and Fulci historian (cushy job indeed) Paolo Albiero, a video cover gallery, and various trailers for Touch of Death and other Shriek Show label releases. The interviews are both short but informative, and non-fans should discover some insight into Fulci’s craft.

Touch of Death
Probably not for anyone not devoted to seeing The Godfather of Gore’s entire filmography (no small feat), Touch of Death is entertaining nontheless. Surprisingly funny and expectedly sleazy, this is a film that will most likely not be high on everyone’s must see list.

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