Thursday, November 21, 2013

Touch of Death (Lucio Fulci, 1988)

You have all heard the expression, "beat them off with a stick," right? Well, in Lucio Fulci's darkly humourous Touch of Death (a.k.a. Alice Broke the Mirror) the lead character takes the expression one step further. A veritable ladies man (his burly stench brings all the gorgeous, mole-covered chicks to the yard), Lester Parson (Brett Halsey) literally has to beat them off with a stick. I don't know what it is about the shape of his jib, but the women in this film definitely like the cut of it. Anyway, you wanna know where keeps his stick? You do? Why aren't we inquisitive this morning/this evening. He keeps it hidden behind a potted plant. Isn't that fascinating? I don't want to contradict you mid-tangent, but I think you're taking the expression "beat them off with a stick" too literally. No, I'm not. He literally beats one of the many shapely goddesses who desperately want to feel his manly testicles gently knocking against their chins and anuses with a scrotum-based pitter-patter with a stick. I don't care if my interpretation of the idiom's original definition is incorrect, I decide what words mean. And it's clear, judging by my steely gaze, that I've decided to change the meaning of the semi-popular expression, "beat them off with a stick" to fit my own needs. Since his milf-beating stick doesn't have a name, what should we call it? How 'bout the widowmaker? That doesn't make any sense. Yeah, but not making sense is your thing, isn't it? Very funny. If the stick was used to beat the husbands of the mature babes that populate this movie, than, yes, the widowmaker would be an excellent name. However, since the steady concourse of hot older women that prance, frolic and gambol their beautiful, probably misshapen asses throughout this film are already widows, the name doesn't really fit.

First of all, I think you're focusing too much on Lester's stick; it's only used once, and even then, it doesn't really get the job done. And secondly, you already named the stick. I did? You sure did. Take a quick glance at the paragraph you just typed. Okay, I'll do that. Well, do you see it? Milf-beating stick? Bingo! Milf-beating stick. Milf-beating stick. It's a tad crass. But you know what? I like it.

Even though the milf-beating stick fails to accomplish the very business in which it was designed to carry out, and that is, beat milfs to death, it does cause arterial spray to vomit violently from the victim's forehead. Wait, I thought arterial spray could only erupt from parts of the body where arteries are located? Oh, you silly tosser. This is Lucio Fulci film. So? So?!? Blood sprays from everywhere. Duh.

Cleft lips, mustaches, hairy moles, mutton chops, belly chains, scabs, craniofacial deformities, opera-based somniloquy (it's when people sing opera in their sleep), taxidermy swans, and pot bellies, the women of Touch of Death have got it all. Now, when most people use the language I've been using to describe the various ladies who were kind enough to grace us with their presence, they're either being sarcastic or snide. I, on the other hand, am being completely sincere when I state that I adored the women--warts and all--who appear in this film.

We meet the object of the women in this film's affection in the opening scene. Cooking a piece of meat for himself, Lester Parson sits down in front of the television to watch some homemade milf porn. Turning it off just as the curly-haired babe with the growth on her face was about to remove her panties, Lester heads downstairs to conduct some important business.

What could be more important than watching homemade milf porn while eating meat? Oh, you'll see. Holy crap! Isn't the naked woman lying on a slab in Lester's basement the same woman from the homemade milf porn video he was just watching? It sure is. Grabbing a chainsaw, Lester proceeds to cut off her arms, her legs, and her head. For good measure, he bifurcates her as well. Taking a bucket of her guts outside, Lester feeds them to his pigs.

From where I was sitting, it doesn't look like Lester lives on a farm. However, it makes sense for Lester to have pigs, as it makes the line, "She found her future in pork bellies," all the more creepy and all more groan-worthy. By the way, if you're wondering who Lester said this pithy line to, every now and then, he consults his boombox for advice. Pressing play on the cassette player, the voice on the tape, which sounds an awfully lot like Lester, helps the middle-aged Lothario whenever he finds himself in a jam.

It didn't take long, but Lester went from being a rather harmless fellow who likes steak, listening to horse races being called on the radio, feeding his cat Reginald scraps of food, and watching homemade milf porn, to a deranged psychopath who dismembers women with a chainsaw in his laboratory-like basement; don't forget, he feeds their entrails to pigs. He's also a degenerate gambler, and, like I said, has deep and meaningful conversations with his boombox.

Since he blew his chance to extort any money from the curly-haired woman with the growth on her face (he found out she was a rich widow after he killed her), Lester plans to lure another rich widow to his layer. Answering personal ad, one that was looking for a wise and mature man to have a "lusty" relationship with, Lester finds himself face-to-face with the hirsute tit moles that pepper the chest area belonging to Margie MacDonald (Sacha Darwin), a...I don't want to call a "bearded woman," as she only has a mustache and mutton chops. I know, let's call her mildly hirsute.

Anyway, after doing the nasty with Margie, Lester concocts a convoluted scheme to drug her. This goes on for quite some time, as every attempt to drug her seems to go awry at the last minute. I thought to myself as he tried to drug her, this seems like a lot of work.

When all else fails, hit her with your milf-stick. Hit her! Hit her! Je t'adore, ich liebe dich. Hit her! Hit her! Hit her! Hit her with your milf-stick. Hit her slowly, hit her quick.

Lying in a heap, her tan pantyhose stretched to the breaking point thanks to her beefy thighs, Margie's left cheek is busted open, one of her eyes falls out, and her forehead is gushing blood as a direct result of Lester's milf-beating stick. You don't think something as trivial a missing cheek, an errant eyeball and the loss of copious amounts of forehead blood are going stop a gal like Margie, do you?

The only way to truly stop Margie is to knock her unconscious and shove her head in an oversize industrial microwave, and Lester would never do a thing like that. Well wouldn't you know, he's doing just that.

Tormenting him even in death, Lester is about to get ride of her body, but Margie's feet won't stay inside the trunk of his car. This scene, like the drugging scene, is played for laughs, as the manner in which Margie's foot kept popping out of the trunk right before Lester is about to close it is quite comical.

Unfortunately, all of Margie's jewelry turns out to be worthless. So, Lester decides to seek out another milfy widow. This time he sets his sights on Alice (Ria De Simone), a soprano seeking a tenor. Singing opera in the top half of a frilly Little Bo Peep-style costume (the lower half of her ensemble consists of nothing but a belly chain and a pair of awkwardly skimpy white panties), Alice is clearly getting on Lester's nerves. After taking turns exchanging some whimsical slaps to the face, Alice and Lester go to bed. The fact that Alice sings in her sleep seems to push Lester over the edge, so he strangles her with a whip.

Unlike his previous attempt to bilk rich widows of their money, Lester manages to get some money out of Alice; which, of course, he blows at the poker table. You know what that means? It's time to find another milfy widow. Only this time, the milfy widow contacts Lester.

Having seen Zora Kerova in a handful of movies (Cannibal Ferox and The New York Ripper), I kind of knew what to expect. However, what I didn't expect was a thoughtful and engrossing performance. Playing Virginia Field, the sexy widow with the scarred lip, Zora Kerova is wonderful as the final milfy widow; I loved how her character has a thing for swans, shrubbery and dresses with puffy sleeves. I mean, talk about well-rounded.

You know how I said all the milfy widows in Touch of Death were attractive? Well, I wasn't being entirely honest. You see, Zora Kerova's milfy widow is only one I can safely label as attractive while still managing to maintain a straight face. Don't get me wrong, the others had their pluses. It's just that Zora Kerova and her scarred upper lip was so darned appealing. Of course, Lester doesn't see things this way (he is clearly repulsed by her wonky upper lip), and plans on swindling her of a large sum of money and killing her with a lobster cracker.

A weird amalgam of Eating Raoul, Beyond the Darkness, Weekend at Bernies, and Sex, Lies and Videotape, Touch of Death is a jet black dark comedy with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, which, in case you didn't know, has been obliterated by a heartily swung milf-beating stick.


  1. A difficult film to recommend to normal people though. This is one, that would find any date backing away, towards the door. Then again, I suspect a lot comes down to viewers too often missing any social commentary and intended irony on the part of the director and not realising that this is not a film where the director is not wallowing the extreme misogynistic violence but instead condemning it. The clue lies in Lester: he is not a character with whom we sympathise as such but one we pity. Even there, as far as we are allowed to identify with him it is as far as to get to this truism: despite tabloid attempts to paint them otherwise, serial killers are not monsters they are people. This is how they manage to get away with what they do for so long. In all this I feel Lucio has made another intelligent film, possibly more so than the out-and-out gorehounds deserve. Because, lets face it, there are plenty who wallow in the filth while missing completely what social message underlies all this stuff. And, sometimes, there is a message of sorts.

    One thing that does bother me, I was defrosting a chicken in the microwave and said to my wife: "how come isn't it melting?". After all, if a human head melts in a microwave then how come doesn't chicken or other types of meat. Lucio had medical training at some point and a lot has been made of how this has had an effect on his horror work. Surely he must have known that a microwave will not melt heads. Not that I have tried it of course!

  2. I found this for a couple of bucks in a used bin a few years back, WHAT A STEAL. Great comedy, great deaths, and oddly wonderful acting.

    To me, t's one of his better later pictures.

  3. @Nigel: Yeah, "normal people" should definitely steer clear of this clear of this movie.

    In Lucio's defence, isn't the microwave used in T.O.D. an industrial-strength microwave? Meaning, it's perfect for melting hirsute human heads. ;)

    Hey, it says here you're from Wales. My father's from Bangor. Woo-hoo! Welshmen!

    @Kev D.: No fair. All I ever come across while browsing for used DVDs is countless copies of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Raising Helen.