Anchor Bay presents
Four of the Apocalypse (I Quattro dell' Apocalisse) (1975)
"I don't know anything about heroes."- Stubby Preston (Fabio Testi)
Stars: Fabio Testi, Lynne Frederick, Michael J. Pollard, Harry Baird, Adolfo Lastretti
Other Stars: Tomas Milian
Director: Lucio Fulci
Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore, language, nudity, rape, apparently real animal killing, drug use, cannibalism, torture and mutilation)
Run Time: 01h:44m:06s
Release Date: 2001-12-18
DVD ReviewDirector Lucio Fulci is best known for over the top gorefests such as Zombie and The Beyond. However, he made different kinds of film before specializing in the horror genre, including mysteries and westerns. One of the latter is presented here as part of Anchor Bay's Spaghetti Western collection, and it helps put a brutal, grotesque exclamation point on the genre. It was, together with Keoma, one of the last noteworthy gasps of the field. Gambler Stubby Preston (Italian heartthrob Fabio Testi) comes to the town of Salt Flat and is promptly locked up by the sheriff. This proves lucky, however, for masked vigilantes raid the town that night and kill dozens of apparent lawbreakers and ruffians in an effort to clean up the town. Only Stubby and his three cellmates are spared, for reasons that aren't quite clear. Sent off into the desert with a horse and buckboard, Stubby, pregnant prostitute Bunny (Lynne Frederick), drunkard Clem (Michael J. Pollard) and nutcase Butt (Harry Baird), who claims he sees dead people (where have I heard that before?), must try to make it to safety elsewhere. Along the way they run into the sociopathic bandit Chaco, who briefly joins them before leaving mayhem in his wake. It's said that Fulci was first looked at as a horror director after making this picture, and it's not surprising. The blood is copious, and the restored Italian sequence of Chaco skinning a sheriff alive is nauseating even to a confirmed gorehound like me. The brutality and nastiness quotient is hard to believe, but the endless parade of horrors up in the dOc's rating box is really just a sampling. Schizophrenically, there are segments of the film that are placid and even heartwarming. Most notably, when Bunny reaches a town for her confinement, the miners initially react with distrust, if not hatred, and gradually become accustomed to the idea of a woman and a baby in their camp. Loosely based on the stories of Bret Harte, of all things (I noted Outcasts of Poker Flat and Luck of Roaring Camp right off the top of my head, but there may be more), one can hardly call this a faithful adaptation. Fulci's West is a far more bitter and relentless place than Harte's ever was, even if one scrapes off the veneer of Victorian sentimentality. Fabio Testi makes a fine leading man, and he has a very believable chemistry with Lynne Frederick (best known as Peter Sellers' wife). Michael J. Pollard does a good job with the role of Clem, playing the alcoholic's desperation in a credible but slightly underplayed manner. But Tomas Milian really steals the show as the vicious Chaco. Despite brief screen time, his psychopathic killer/torturer is an unforgettable piece of work, ranking with Hannibal Lecter. Even visually he's impressive, with daggerlike crosses etched under his eyes in a deliberate evocation of the swastikas Charles Manson and his followers carved in their foreheads. You can tell at a glance that he's capable of absolutely anything, and he doesn't disappoint in the least. Fulci has a fairly mobile camera, but doesn't use it in a flashy manner. He simply makes his point with the lens and moves on. The editing heightens the sense of irony, making this a film to be savored if you can get past the nasty elements. The one drawback is a set of syrupy folk-pop ballads that accompanies the picture. I was pretty thoroughly irritated with this score by the end of the running time. Still, that's par for the course in Eurocult, so it doesn't detract too badly from the final scores. Anchor Bay restores two brief clips that were never in an English-language release. As they did with similar portions of Deep Red, these segments are presented in Italian, with English subtitles. The excision of the skinning sequence is easy to understand; the other cut seems questionable at best. But it's nice to have them restored to the picture.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen image is surprisingly good. Fulci uses a great deal of soft focus intentionally, so lack of detail can't really be considered a criticism here. Colors are decent for a medium-budget import such as this, and aside from occasional nicks the source material is in first-rate condition. Colors are quite good, and shadow detail is above average. I detected no obvious differences in picture quality between the restored segments and the remainder of the film.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: 2.0 mono tracks are provided in both English and Italian. Since, as is usual in Italian film, all of the dialogue is dubbed, and half of the cast is saying their lines in English and half in Italian, it's hard to say which is the proper audio track. Both sound acceptable for a dubbed mono track. The English dialogue is clear throughout; the Italian is less so, with a more distant sound to the dubbing. The folky score has some occasional minor distortion, but nothing terrible.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English (partial only) with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:34s
Extras Review: Anchor Bay provides an oddball trailer in anamorphic 1.85:1. The text is in Italian, but the trailer has an English voiceover. I suspect that this may be a composite of several trailers, and would have much preferred seeing an English-language and an Italian-language trailer presented as separate items, if this is in fact the case. It is, however, in very nice condition. Lengthy talent bios for Fulci, Testi and Milian are included; Anchor Bay has commendably been doing more extensive bios than most other studios and deserves plaudits for more than the bare one-screen bio that is usually provided.The best extra, however, is a 17m:03s set of 2001 interviews with Testi and Melian. Testi speaks in Italian (subtitled), while Melian does fine in English. They have plenty of interesting comments and insights into Fulci and working with him. Although they respect him, it's clear that neither of them much liked him, making for a more honest assessment than one usually finds in these type of pieces. Melian is a particularly engaging character, with an enormous ego but the ability to laugh at it as well.Chaptering is good overall. The layer change is very slow and awkward, though not badly placed. Infuriatingly, Anchor Bay provides English subtitles only during the two restored segments that have Italian dialogue only. What is the sense of putting out a disc with the Italian language track and not including English subtitles? As far as most US viewers are concerned, they could just as well not have bothered with the Italian track. In a hidden easter egg (2m:20s), Melian tells a funny story about riding on film for the first time. It's hidden away no doubt because it has nothing to do with Fulci or this movie--indeed, Melian can't remember at the end why he launched into the tale!
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsA brutally vicious picture gets a respectful restoration and a few decent extras. Fans of the Spaghetti Western will definitely want this one in their collections, but it may be a bit hard to take for the easily queasy.
Mark Zimmer 2002-01-25