If Touch of Death was simply the poster filmed for 70 minutes, it’d be such a better movie than what I just watched.
Lester (Brett Halsey, Demonia) is a cannibal serial killer who meets, dates and eats various women, sometimes giving parts of them to his pigs. He also talks to a tape recording of his own voice and has plenty of gambling debts that Randy (Al Cliver, Zombi 2, The Beyond) is ready to collect.
There’s a long scene that involves Maggie, a woman he marries. She’s an oversexed, overweight, overmustached woman that is such a caricature, it reduces the film to pure comedy. He tries to kill her several times with poison, which she thinks is just a love game. Then, Lester bashes her brains in — literally — with a stick, leading to her eyeball popping out and rolling down the hallway. If you thought The New York Ripper was too restrained, Fulci is ready for you. Because she isn’t dead, which means Lester has to repeatedly punch her and then cooks her head in the microwave, where we watch the flesh melt off her face. Then, in a moment of absurdity, her body can’t fit into his trunk, so he has to saw her legs off.
I don’t want to see Fulci be a second-rate Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Lester is caught by a homeless man (who has the mark of Eibon on his forehead), who he runs over and leaves for dead. He doesn’t have any follow-through, because the man shares his description, which means he has to shave and get contacts.
His next wife is a woman who likes to sing opera during sex, who he strangles to death with some stockings. Even after getting pulled over by a cop — with the body in the front seat — Lester gets away. He tries to sell her jewelry, but it’s all fake. And now, the cops know what he looks like — again — so he dyes his hair and puts on glasses.
Depressed at home — and with even more gambling debts — Lester gets a phone call from Virgina (Zora Ulla Kesler, Anthropophagus, The New York Ripper), who is like all of his victims, except much younger. She’s DTF for Lester, but he is grossed out by her facial scar and decides to kill her and steal everything she has.
Meeting her for dinner, she pulls a gun before he can kill her. She recognized him from the news and Lester barely makes it out of her apartment. As he has a conversation with his other self, now a shadow on the wall, he merges with this second voice. Then, he dies.
Also known as When Alice Broke the Looking Glass, this film is everything Fulci detractors accuse him of being — misogynist, leering, obsessed with gore and slapdash. It was an effort to even finish it — as I love his movies. Up until now, even with Ripper, it felt as if there was a balance of art and bloody organs being severed and smashed. Touch of Death’s 81 minutes of screen time feels like 81 hours.
Postscript: I did not care for the scene where the killer kicks a cat, at all. Yes, I was not upset by a woman’s head smashed with a stick and more peeved at an orange cat being booted.