I never saw Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) back the day. I’m not even sure if I’d ever heard of it. I was a fan of films like Zombi (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) AKA The Gates of Hell (as I first knew it), which I rented on Beta pretty early on in my video store days. Later I made of point of buying any Fulci movies that I came across on VHS. I also tracked down and watched a few obscure titles online, once that became possible. Still, Touch of Death remained unknown to me – and unseen.
Recently, I came across a Raro Vdeo Blu-ray of Touch of Death, and I was quite amazed that it was a Fulci film that I did not know. The back of the box claimed that it was from 1972, which made it even more amazing that I’d never heard of it – as that had been a pretty good year for Fulci (Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972) is one of my all time favourites). Needless to say, I immediately bought it.
It turns out that Touch of Death is not from 1972, but from 1988 – and it was made for the direct-to-home-video market. I was a bit disappointed to discover this, but it was still a Lucio Fulci film that I’d never seen, so I had to watch it sooner or later. So why not on Friday night? After all, what says “home drive-in” more than a direct-to-video piece o’ crap my friends and I might have watched on an old VCR back in 1988?
I know it’s generally believed that Fulci peaked and did his best work between about 1979 and 1982. After that point, it’s often said that Fulci went downhill, and made some downright bad movies – or at least some mediocre ones. I definitely saw a couple that I could take or leave from those years. I fully expected Touch of Death to be a prime example of this side of Fulci.
Much to my surprise, I loved this lost Fulci film. It’s a very dark comedy of sorts, and is at times hilarious. There are a few over-the-top gore gags, which fans of Fulci will appreciate (as those moments are often not there in his later work). There is also a bit of tasteless sleaze, which is often a welcome addition to a Fulci masterpiece (The New York Ripper (1982) being a primo example).
Don’t get me wrong. Touch of Death is not as extreme, or as good, as Fulci’s best movies. Some might dismiss it as a lesser work. I, on the other hand, found it to be a delightful surprise, and am very glad the I bought it. I would speculate that Fulci had a good time making this film and, as a result, I had a good time watching it.
The movie stars Brett Halsey, who was “one of Hollywood’s busiest and handsomest actors of the mid-to-late ’50s and early ’60s” according to his bio on the IMDb. This might explain why he was the perfect choice to play Lester Parson, a middle aged gigolo who seduces and murders a variety of rich widows in Touch of Death. He guest starred on just about every TV show from my childhood – including The Love Boat (1977-1987) and Fantasy Island (1977-1984), which I was just talking about it my last post.
His victims include Zora Kerova, who was in Fulci’s The New York Ripper, as well as Cannibal Ferox (1981) and Anthropophagus: The Grim Reaper (1980), and Sacha Darwin, who was in Fulci’s final film as a director, Voices from Beyond (1994).
Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death (1988) is a lost gem of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that should be seen by all hardcore fans of Fulci’s work. It may not be his best, but it’s an entertaining late-period film that deserves to be better known. I for one will be happy to see it again on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.