Four of the Apocalypse (1975)

I Quattro dell'apocalisse

four of the apocalypse poster

Ok, Tuesday night I took a break from living in perpetual fear of terrorists, as mandated by our President, to watch another spaghetti western, this time it was Lucio Fulci’s ‘Four of the Apocalypse’, from 1975. It starred Italian mega-star Fabio Testi, well-known American character actor Michael J. Pollard (when you see him, you’ll know him), the unbelievably beautiful Lynne Frederick, and Spag-western regular Tomas Milian.

Some background… in ‘75, the Italian western genre was winding down, having had a pretty successful 10 year run. When reading up on the genre, very few movies from that late time period get mentioned, except for this one, Keoma, and Mannaja: A Man Called Blade . Now, the other tidbit for you: director Lucio Fulci also directed the schlocky horror gore-fest, ‘The Beyond’, which, I shit you not, holds the distinction of being the absolutely worst movie I have ever seen in my life. Seriously. Fulci was best known for his over-the-top super gory movies, such as Zombie, and The Gates of Hell. Apparently, crapness aside, there was an artist under there who, from what I’ve read and heard, never quite met his full potential. ‘Four of the Apocalypse’ was made between Fulci’s giallo crime drama phase and his gore years, and through the B-movieness, you can still see that Fulci did indeed have some talent. He also directed two other westerns, Massacre Time and Silver Saddle.

So, how was it? Surprisingly entertaining. Now, as I’ve said before, in the genre there are the Sergio Leone films, in a class by themselves, true cinematic masterpieces, and there is the the rest of the genre, B to Z grademovies of varying quality, with some gems such as Damiano’s ‘A Bullet for the General’ or Petroni’s ‘Death Rides a Horse’ at the top end. ‘F.O.T.A.’ is somewhere in the middle.

The story involves a card shark named Stubby (Testi) who is thrown into jail within moments of arriving in the town of Sand Flats. In the jail cell with him is a drunk named Clem (Pollard), a pregnant hooker named Bunny (Frederick), and a crazy black guy named Bud, who says he talks to dead people. Over the course of the evening, the town is surrounded, and a massacre ensues, curiously leaving the sheriff and his jail alone. The next day he turns the four free, and they decide to go to a nearby town. Along the way, they meet a bandit named Chaco (Milian). He initially befriends them, hunts them food and such. Something’s not right though, because when some lawmen attack, Chaco not only kills them, he slices a lot of skin off of one of them (in typical gory Fulci fashion). Later, at camp, he passes out some peyote, getting everyone into a stupor, gets the drunkard Clem to help tie them up, and ends up raping Bunny in front of Stubby. He shoots Clem in the leg before taking off.

Tomas Milian as Chaco

When they get free, they head out, Clem takes a turn for the worse, Bud stays behind to talk to his buddies in the graveyard, Bunny ends up going into labor in a strange snow-covered town with no women, dies in childbirth and eventually Stubby catches up to Chaco and gets his revenge.

So, it wasn’t your typical Spag western plot… peyote? Babies being born? There’s even a bit of cannibalism in here. Overall, I found it entertaining. The cinematography from Sergio Salvati was amazing, with wide desert landscapes (Almeria?) and such, as well as a rather interesting part where Bunny and Stubby are leaving Bud behind in an abandoned town, and the camera pokes through the various places in which Bud might be hiding and watching them. The acting was ok, Frederick and Pollard were great, Milian was over the top, as usual. His Chaco was a pretty brutal mofo, he did it well. Testi was ok, but it’s hard to tell because of the overdubbing. I suspect a lot of this was actually filmed in English, because the lip-syching was really good. I try to watch these in Italian with subtitles whenever possible but couldn’t get it to work.

The transfer to DVD was great, although there’s scenes with the soft-focus technique that was popular then, it looks really good, and the sound isn’t bad. The soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi is quite strange, with this Pink Floydish/Byrdsish sounding vocal thing that sings about what’s going on on the screen at the time(“Moooooving on, through the desert guided by the sun, four friends..”). Strange, but not distracting or annoying. There’s a few extras on the disc, including a trailer (never watch the trailer first, it gives away everything), and a featurette on Fulci, with interviews with Testi and Milian (who, as usual,is incredibly full of himself - you’d think he was as famous as DeNiro or Brando by the way he talks). Not a bad late-era film.

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