Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Lucio Fulci's Four of the Apocalypse

Four of the Apocalypse made in 1975 was to be the second western Lucio Fulci would direct, appearing between Massacre Time (1966) and Silver Saddle (1978). In comparison with the director's other westerns Apocalypse is far less conventional and easily the best of the three. The story begins in the town of Salt Flat, where the Sheriff (a nice little cameo by Donald O'Brien) decides to clean house of the town's misfits and undesirables. Four strangers are exiled from the town to wander the wilderness in search of a new home. They are Stubby, a card-shark conman, Bunny a pregnant hooker, Clem, a washed-up drunk and Sam, an eccentric African slave. Along the way they meet Chaco a seemingly friendly gunslinger, who provides them with food courtesy of his sharp shooting. But soon things take a darker twist as the gunslinger turns out to be anything but benevolent...

Four of the Apocalypse has long been considered something of a bloodthirsty, savage western with scenes of torture and rape. Even Fulci manages to factor in some cannibalism at one point. But surprisingly Apocalypse turns out to the one of Fulci's most optimistic films, at least in the final bitter sweet act of the film where the birth of a baby brings new hope to a town on the edge of oblivion. Its one of Fulci's most leftfield plot turns considering he rarely allows his characters to get away unscathed before the credits of his films roll. Despite the obvious western genre iconography, Fulci's film could easily be refitted as a post apocalyptic sci-fi drama, with the characters lost in a harsh unforgiving landscape stalked by a sinister scavenger of the wastelands, and carrying with them the promise of a new beginning for a doomed civilization.

Four of the Apocalypse is one of Fulci's most enjoyable films of the 70's. Of the eclectic cast two of the more interesting faces include Lynne Frederick who plays the long suffering Bunny - even through the canned dub she turns in a good, gutsy performance, and Michael J. Pollard playing the bumptious alcoholic Clem is, well Michael J. Pollard. Its the two leads that really deliver here - Fabio Testi playing Stubby with depth and sensitivity, and Tomas Milian playing the sinister gunslinger, his role pitched somewhere between Rasputin and Charles Manson. It’s a leisurely paced film, and Sergio Salvati’s soft focus cinematography further adds to the strange ethereal nature of the film. Worth mentioning also, the soundtrack with its soft pastoral folky rock. Its been known to grate the nerves of some viewers but it’s not nearly as brazen as the music of Keoma or Mannaja.

Anchor Bay's edition of Four of the Apocalypse (later appropriated by Blue Underground) sports a fine presentation of the film, framed around 1.85 and featuring an English audio track which switches to Italian (with English subs) for portions of the film that were not originally dubbed into English. Extras include interviews with Fabio Testi and Tomas Milian. For Fulci fans, the film remains required viewing and for the more adventurous western fan, the film certainly deserves a look.

5 comments:

  1. Speaking of westerns, don't forget Fulci's two White Fang films... supposedly for the kids, but I've got a soft spot for both of them (and I wouldn't let either of my children - 6 and 10 - watch them!)

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  2. Hey thanks Anon... yes, I heard the White Fang movies had their more intense moments. Would you consider these westerns ? I think of them more as adventure movies. I must track these down soon. Thanks for stopping by !

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  3. Wow - need to see this one! I worked with Michael J. Pollard and Tomas Milian (different projects) so that makes me want to see it all the more!

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  4. Craig, who haven't you worked with ? I'm deeply impressed ! Yep this may well be the best of Fulci's westerns, although I hear Massacre Time (1966) is recommended, less so Silver Saddle (1978). I'm not sure if you could strictly call it a western, perhaps adventure film is the best term for it, but his 1973 film White Fang with Franco Nero is a real unsung Fulci classic - well worth seeking out !

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  5. I will take a look for those - and yeah, ten years in the industry did net me some great meets along the way. The story of that decade is slowly making its way into posts over at my blog - which you kindly plugged here - thank you very much!

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