Archive for franco nero

Massacre Time – Lucio Fulci – 1966

Posted in 60's with tags , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by bookofdread

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The first thing I want to say is Sergio Endrigo’s song, (that is used brilliantly as the theme of the score), Come Back Home Someday, is fucking awesome. I want to listen to this song all day long, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it or some variation of it from the score in the upcoming Django Unchained. Anyway, now that I have that out of the way, on with the analysis.

Fulci’s films are personal hells, endured by his characters until their eventual absolution or damnation. That he made so many films with both types of endings is a testament to his even-handedness or his own personal conflict with being an optimistic or a cynical individual. Massacre Time is a spaghetti western dark with ominous figures and scenes that ultimately ends in vindication and revenge.

The film begins on a sinister note as a man, slave or more likely a simple townsperson, is let go to run across a field before a team of blood-thirsty dogs is set loose upon him. A cruel man with a handsome face in a white suit is seen orchestrating the action and this scene is worthy introduction to the junior Scott, who is the films villain. This man is hate filled and thoughtless and the joy he takes from seeing the dogs devour the man in the midst of a river is a great characterization. Fulci stages this death with typical glee; it is, frankly, fucked up. But hey, it’s a Fulci film, and he tries to always get a dog in there somewhere!

Unlike Django, Franco Nero’s character here is not a complete badass, rather he is a man seeking just compensation for what is rightfully his families property, namely, the ranch seized by Mr. Scott. When Tom, (Nero), returns from New Mexico, he finds a hellish landscape before him where once stood his childhood home. Fires burn, livestock and pigs run about unattended and scummy goons intimidate him into leaving.

The town is now branded on all shops by a giant symbol, a cattle brand that is an S stamped over a J. Even though this is a western, this “seal” has much more of a horror film connotation. Usually we would see symbols like this in horror films as denotation of a cult or witchcraft. Fulci is having a little fun with the iconography of both genres and creating a tasty blend of Horror/Western. Much like Four Of The Apocalypse, Fulci abandons the washed-out look of popular Westerns at the time, instead going for an overcast, gloomy feel that make the desert surroundings of “Texas”, dreadful and hopeless.

There is an awful scene where some farmers try to move out of town. Mr. Scott, (the man in the white suit), shoots their oldest son dead in the street and reminds them of what can happen if they try to leave. Fulci shows here the petulance of youth born into aristocracy. This man holds no value for human life at all and instead values the fear he can breed into his subjects. Power is currency in the old west.

I love the Chinese character. He is blacksmith, undertaker, bar pianist and so much more to Laramie Town. I viewed this guy as a type of tormenting demon, pulling strings all over town, if not simply presiding over the looming hell. At each turn he appears to take pleasure in the lamentations and evils of the village.

The second act of the film is a bit slow, with a few bar fights and shoot-outs thrown in. Tom is trying to figure out the identity of the Scotts, and how to get to them. Pretty standard stuff, but Fulci’s eye is golden and the proceedings are delivered with grace and terror. The “whip-fight” scene must be seen to be believed.  Before long Tom and his drunken sharp-shooting brother Jeff are set to go lay waste to the Scotts Rolling Thunder style.

On the way to the Scott ranch, Scott Sr. appears and tells Tom that he is his father. What a twist! This is the proto- Empire Strikes Back? Junior is Tom’s half brother gone mad with wealth and power. This is why Tom’s mother never wanted him to return, he too might have ended up spoiled, or learn the truth about his beginnings, that he came from the roots of evil. She thought that by hiding that truth from him he might have grown up untarnished by the atrocities of his fathers. In hell, there is nothing but truth, and the truth will always find you, even in a place as large as the West.

Yet, as dark and brutal as this film is, righteousness wins the day. Tom and Jeff, (Who hilariously exclaims before he kills men, “Excuse me gentlemen!”), win the day and kill all the bad guys in a long and glorious gun battle. I recommend this to anyone who loves westerns, or Fulci, or whip-fights.

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