Four of the Apocalypse (1975)

Yeah, a Spaghetti Western. I know how much you guys love Spaghetti Westerns, which is to say, not at all. Too bad, this one is worth watching. It’s got cannibalism, rape, blood, and violence. It’s also got Lucio Fulci’s name there on the poster. You owe it to yourself to watch it now.

Stubby Preston is a gambler who shows up in Salt Flats, Utah, only to be immediately arrested and thrown in jail. There, he meets a pregnant prostitute, Bunny, the town drunk, Clem, and a mentally ill man who sees dead people, Bud. That night, a vigilance group arrives and murders everyone in the town bar and casino, while the sheriff doesn’t lift a finger. He waits until morning, leads the four out and shows them the bodies, then sticks them on a wagon with no supplies and sends them out of town. The four decide to head to Sand City and meet up with some kind evangelists who believe Stubby and Bunny are married. The four then meet Chaco, a bandit with crosses drawn under his eyes who is also a crack shot and likes torturing people by flaying them. Chaco gives peyote to the four, then ties down Stubby, Bunny, and Bud while Clem is too drugged out to be of much use. Chaco rapes Bunny, steals Stubby’s possessions, and shoots Clem in the leg when he works up enough mental fortitude to attempt to stop him. Clem frees the others, and they carry him on a stretcher to a ghost town. There, Clem dies, and Bud goes full on insane to the point he feeds the others a part of Clem’s corpse. Stubby and Bunny leave him in the ruins and continue on, where they meet a pastor named Sullivan who is a friend of Stubby’s. Bunny goes into contractions, so Stubby and Reverend Sullivan carry her to a womanless mountain town. She dies in childbirth, but the local men are so taken aback by the miracle of birth, they name the kid Lucky. Stubby leaves Lucky with his new fathers and continues on alone. He finds Chaco, kills his men, and shoots him in his arm. Stubby shaves using the razor that Chaco stole, then slashes the bandit’s face and murders him. As Stubby leaves, he finds a stray dog to come along with him. Thus ends a spectacular Western.

Yeah, the movie definitely has tinges of Acid Western, and while it’s nowhere as symbolic as the likes of El Topo (hey, what is?), it’s still a brilliant piece where a man sees both the best and worst of humanity, finds and loses love, and also finds a reason to commit violence and then releases the need by committing that violence. All of this is set to a self-referential folk rock soundtrack that could have come straight out of Jeremiah Johnson, which if you haven’t seen is another unusual Western completely worth watching. It being Lucio Fulci, there’s also some nasty bloodshed and gore with the cannibalism and torture scenes, though Fulci didn’t go full eye trauma like he would a few years later. Plus, the actor who played Chaco, Tomas Milian, based his performance off Charles Manson. That’s a pretty fucked up way to go about things, and it totally works.

It’s varied, but between the brutal yet beautiful landscapes, the pits and pinnacles of humanity, and the obviously strong feelings between Fabio Testi as Stubby and Lynne Frederick as Bunny, Four of the Apocalypse is an incredible movie, perhaps Fulci’s finest. I say that having come to the man’s filmography through his horror works, but this is a magnificent picture. Track it down if you have any interest in Fulci’s work, even if you’re just here for his horror stuff.

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