The Four Of The Apocalypse – Lucio Fulci – 1975

Image

In 1975 Fulci wasn’t an outright horror director just yet, but he was warming up to it. In The Four Of The Apocalypse he makes what I would call a horror western, (not his first). The film is basically a journey into hell for a gambler, (Fabio Testi), across the Utah plains.

Just as Stubby arrives to a town to gamble and earn some money he is arrested and thrown in jail with a black man, a drunk and a whore.  The sheriff has put the kibosh on crime in his town and vigilantes kill most of the people in town. The next day these three sinners are set in a wagon across the dessert in exile.

Fulci examines in this film more than almost any other in his cannon just how much he can destroy a single character.  He builds up Stubby, a man used to making his own luck and grinds him into a heartless killer. As the foursome exits the town, they encounter a wagon train of Christians that share fire and food with the outcasts. After this brief purgatory the group meet hell itself in the form of a Mexican bandit named Chaco, (Thomas Milian).

Milian is electric here. Chaco is an incredible screen villain. He is utterly without morality. Worse, he is sadistic. He forces the group to take peyote and rapes the woman. He degrades the drunk and has him behave like a dog. He skins a man for the pleasure of seeing him suffer and ultimately he slays the entire wagon train of Christians.

Stubby must endure this penance. He falls in love with the woman, and even after they separate from Chaco their love grows despite the desperation of the situation. The group enters a ghost town and Bud is excited to speak to the dead here. Clem dies from his bullet wound but not before asking Stubby to marry Bunny. He agrees and proposes to her.

Bud has gone insane from his bullet wound and tries to convince Bunny and Stubby to eat what he has been preparing. They discover Clem’s mutilated body and leave the now cannibalistic Bud behind.

But oh no, the horror show isn’t over yet. In a strange town called Altaville, Bunny, now Stubby’s wife, goes into labor. The town of men, misfits and outcasts themselves are excited by the prospect of a person born in their establishment. Bunny dies during childbirth and Stubby is destroyed.

Even as this cheating, greedy snake learns morality through his trials, Fulci has little sympathy. Stubby eventually agrees to leave Bunny’s boy with the men of Altaville, as he cannot raise a son with such a damaged heart.

He does not set out specifically to find Chaco, but when he does, the scene is not overplayed. It is dark, quick justice. It offers some brief catharsis to a man who has been destroyed by the horrors of the west.

Visually I would rank this film very high among all of Fulci’s films. Unlike many westerns that opt for a washed out, stark high contrast look, this film is all mood lighting and atmosphere. Dusty, foggy landscapes mark the hellish geography of the films world. The music is good, except for a very dated song that sounds more like a late sixties hippie anthem than a compliment to a sadistic western.

The combination of several Bret Harte stories in adaptation is excellent and the performances are dynamite all the way around. If you are in the mood for a soul scorching tale of hell on Earth, look no further.

 

 

Advertisements

One Response to “The Four Of The Apocalypse – Lucio Fulci – 1975”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: