Four of the Apocalypse
Steven Hellerstedt | 02/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Three hippies and a brother run away from a bad scene in a lawless town. They meet Charlie Manson in the desert, who turns them onto some peyote. The trip turns into a bummer and Charlie Manson turns cruel.
Only the names were changed, baby. There are four refugees and one requisite Bad Guy in FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE, a rambling yet entertaining spaghetti western from the Italian Lucio Fulci, who is best known for directing such Italian horror classics as A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN and DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING.
The Manson reference comes from something Tomas Milian, who plays the evil Chaco, said. (All bad guys in Italian westerns never have a last name, or much of a first name, either.) Milian said he took a make-up cue from Charles Manson, who had notoriously carved a swastika in his forehead, and drew a blood red cross beneath each eye. Constrained by time and driven by Method, it seemed the thing to do, and it works.
Chaco is a brutal character, and he's involved in a couple of grisly scenes, cut from the original English release, that have been restored with subtitles on the dvd. The scenes may have been a little much for audiences in 1975, but they're unlikely to raise many eyebrows three decades on. A little skin flayed here, a little cannibalism there. Been there, done that, excuse me while I stifle a yawn.
The characters in FOTA, a gambler (Fabio Testi), a prostitute (Lynne Frederick), a town drunk (Michael J Pollard), a mentally challenged mortuary assistant (Harry Baird) and a few plot points may have been ripped from current headlines, but the movie also borrowed heavily, with attribution, from the works of Bret Harte. Most of act three, which is by far the strongest and most coherent section of the movie, is taken directly from Harte's "Luck of the Roaring Camp."
FOTA is cobbled together and not all the pieces fit. As Milian tells us, he was available for only six days of filming, so his character sort of drifts in and out of the movie without undue rhyme or reason.
I liked FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE, even though I feel compelled to admit, sheepishly, that it's not a very good movie. The plot is all over the place and the climatic revenge theme should have been torn down and rebuilt from scratch. On the other hand, the acting was a notch above that found in most spaghetti westerns and I found myself involved with and caring about the characters. Also, from the parched deserts to the snowy mining camp, this movie looked good. With reservations, a moderately strong recommendation.
SOLID ITALIAN WESTERN
Jeffrey Leach | 12/18/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"For it's time (1975) I Quattro dell'Apocalisse (Four of the Apocalypse) was considered so graphically violent that it was banned or shown largely edited in most countries when it was released and was never released in the United States. Now on DVD, it is shown uncut for the first time, and while it is a very violent film, it certainly isn't anything shocking by today's standards. It's a solid spaghetti western though, with some terrific performances by Fabio Testi, the beautiful and doe-eyed Lynne Frederick, and Harry Baird. There's also a typically quirky performance by Michael J. Pollard (probably the only actor in this film most American viewers will recognize), but the show is absolutely stolen by Tomas Milian as Chaco, a brutally sadistic outlaw the four encounter in the wilderness who terrorizes them then leaves them for dead. This is a good solid western, with good performances, some great action sequences, some truly disturbing scenes, and also some very touching ones. The only downside to the film is one sequence where Chaco hunts by shooting birds and rabbits--and it seems to go on FOREVER. Seemed totally unncessessary and cruel and could have been easily cut out of the film. The film would have lost nothing by removing this tasteless scene. The other downside to the film is the soundtrack. The instrumentals work well, but the songs that include vocals are horrid. So bad, in fact, that they nearly ruin the movie. Instead of the moody and ethereal soundtracks associated with most films of this genre, I Quattro dell'Apocalisse has a soundtrack that sounds like something out of a 70s easy listening radio station--just awful. If you can get around that one animal-violence scene and the hideous soundtrack, and you enjoy violent, brooding, thoughtful westerns, I Quattro dell'Apocalisse is one you're sure to enjoy. Tomas Milian's performance alone is worth the price of this DVD. And for Fulci buffs there's a very interesting (though awfully short, only about 17 minutes) extra featuring current day interviews with Fabio Testi and Tomas Milian that is worth seeing. Not great, but a good, solid Italian Western."
A unique Western
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 02/19/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's unusual to see a Western in which an extended sequence is devoted to giving birth. And when you combine that with other scenes that include torture and rape, it's definitely unique. Even so, the torture scene is cheesy (the fake skin and blood are ridiculously obvious), and the rape scene is really not that graphic (the juicy parts are not shown). BUT--now add to this peculiar mixture a serious alcoholic and a total nutjob who cavorts in cemeteries and winds up being a cannibal and you could honestly say there is truly no other Western like this one.Fulci here includes elements much more characteristic of his horror films that were just around the corner, but with the birthing scene--in which all the townsfolk (all men) are genuinely sympathetic and warm--he shows a side of him that no one familiar with his work ever would have suspected.While it's true that the three or four songs in the soundtrack come close to ruining the film--these songs are way beyond cheesy; they're putrid--the presence of Tomas Milian as the evil Chaco does much to counteract the effect of the songs. This character is not one-dimensionally evil. At first he helps the four stragglers (the gambler, the prostitute, the drunk and the nutjob) by shooting oodles of wild game. When he turns bad it's a pleasure to watch, because he does so much more subtly than is usually portrayed in Euro-Westerns.This is a truly curious blending of various elements that set it apart, without question, from any other Western around, Euro or American. If you can get past the terrible songs (at least they don't take up the majority of the soundtrack), this is a film worth seeing."
Better Than Expected!
ravcon | Charlotte, NC United States | 08/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I recently picked up Four Of The Apocalypse as part of Anchor Bay's "Once Upon A Time In Italy" box-set of non-Leone spaghetti westerns. After reading mixed reviews of FOTA, I delayed viewing it until after the other four movies contained. I was surprised to find that I liked it.
My only other experience with director Leo Fulci had been "House By The Cemetery" which my wife and I felt had potential, but was ultimately pretty dreadfully bad. With that in mind, I didn't expect to be impressed with FOTA and was worried that some of the gore I'd been reading about would ruin it for me. Although I'll have to admit that some scenes we're pretty hard to watch, overall the film had a classic spaghetti atmosphere with some fairly macabre moments, and was a step above many I have viewed.
Many people have complained about the score which includes narrative songs with a kind of folksy early period Pink Floyd/Byrds sound which I personally love. In comparison with the more respected film Keoma, which is also included in the OUATI collection, the soundtrack is pure gold! The caterwauling that passed for a score in Keoma virtually made it unwatchable for me.
If you like the genre, and aren't turned off by some of FOTA's non-traditional western elements, you should enjoy it. Recommended.