Day 14 of the Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge is Westerns. Hats and boots are a must on this trail, y’all. Yeehaw! I chose Lucio Fulci’s Four of the Apocalypse…, which was made years before he became known as the Godfather of Gore.
Salt Flats, Utah. 1873. Professional gambler Stubby Preston (Fabio Testi, Contraband) is arrested the moment he steps off the stagecoach, thwarting his plans to win money from the town’s casino. It turns out that he’s actually lucky, because the town has become a vigilante mob that burns that den of iniquity to the ground, leaving only Stubby and three other criminals alive: Bunny (Lynne Frederick, Phase IV), a pregnant prostitute, a black man named Bud and the alcoholic Clem (Michael J. Pollard, Bonnie and Clyde).
The four are given safe passage out of town by the sheriff, who gives them a wagon and horses for all of their remaining money and possessions. Soon, they are traveling with a Mexican gunman named Chaco (Tomas Milian, Don’t Torture a Duckling) who saves the group from lawmen, only to torture one of the remaining lawmen in front of the group.
Nevertheless, everyone agrees to take peyote together. The four wake up tied up as Chaco (Milian claims he based his performance on Manson) taunts and beats them, shooting Clem and raping Bunny in front of the entire group.
There have been rumors for decades that Frederick and Testi were having an affair during this film. Testi was dating Ursula Andress at the time, who was incredibly jealous. Some evidence is that even when Frederick’s scenes were all wrapped, the two actors improvised scenes that would include the two of them, including a love scene that has been lost. During the aforementioned rape scene, Milian was so into character and so rough that Testi’s reaction in that scene is real.
The four manage to get the gravely injured Clem onto a makeshift stretcher and follow Chaco and his gang as they kill everything in their path. Finally, they find a ghost town where Clem dies, Bud loses his mind and Stubby and Bunny admit that they love one another — just in time for her to die in childbirth and Stubby to leave her son to a town made up of only men.
Stubby hunts down Chaco, learning that the sheriff set up the events of the entire movie. Enraged, he murders every single person there, leaving Cacho alive so that he can torture him. When Chaco reminds him that he raped Bunny, Stubby shoots him without a word, as he walks into the sunset with only a stray dog as a companion.
Four of the Apocalypse… is influenced by Easy Rider and attempts to offer up a journey of redemption, but you have to understand that Fulci is at the helm. That means that as soon as you have a tender, feel-good moment, you’re going to be given moments of pure gore, like people skinned alive or used for food. Yet there’s also art to be found, thanks to Fulci’s first of ten collaborations with cinematographer Sergio Salvati. It’s also the first time Fulci would work with Fabio Frizzi on the soundtrack. The result is unlike anything you’ve heard in a spaghetti western.