Four of the Apocalypse
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2001
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2005
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon August 27, 2004
Spaghetti westerns are, in my opinion, generally the best fictional films about the American West. You can argue that John Wayne made a bunch of great movies about life in the Old West, and you would be right to say so, but for some reason the Italians captured perfectly the specific elements of the era that made their movies seem more realistic. The frontier was a dirty, violent place full of unsavory types trying to get rich quick. Italian westerns capture this mood expertly whereas American films portray characters whose outfits look like they just came back from the dry cleaners. Hollywood films also tend to apply a black and white dichotomy onto their characters, the old "good guys wear white, bad guys wear black" philosophy that obscures the reality of the time and place. Not so in Italian films, where even the good guys often have distinctly unsavory traits. It's too bad spaghetti westerns went the way of the dinosaurs a few decades back; I never tire of watching these films even though I am not an expert on the genre. "Four of the Apocalypse," part of the larger Anchor Bay "Once Upon a Time in Italy" spaghetti western box set, serves as an excellent example of how powerful the genre once was. Too, none other than goremeister Lucio Fulci directed the picture.

Fulci's contribution to the spaghetti western genre contains some of the great cult classic actors of the Italian film era. Fabio Testi, who later teamed up with Fulci again for the mobster picture "Contraband," plays a renegade gambler named Stubby Preston. Testi's character looks the part; he wears the clothing of a dandy, possesses an oily smile that could melt steel, and has four or five decks of marked cards tucked away in his suitcase. Unfortunately for this poker shark, the local sheriff promptly arrests him when he steps off the coach in a small Utah town. It seems the townspeople are weary of dealing with miscreants, so they've taken the step of cleaning up the town the hard way. The process involves waiting until nightfall, donning masks, and gunning down all of the goons. One poor chap takes a header out of a window with a noose around his neck. Bodies litter the street the next morning when the sheriff orders Stubby and three of his fellow detainees to hit the bricks. The four individuals, now traveling companions, form an odd bunch. Besides Stubby, there's a pregnant harridan named Bunny (Lynne Frederick), an alcoholic called Clem (Michael Pollard!), and a scary guy answering to Bud (Harry Baird) who actually says "I see dead people" years before "The Sixth Sense" arrived on the scene. For better or for worse, these four set out across the alkali flats (or is it a desert?) of Utah in search of Sand City, a town full of the vices all four have come to love.

Problems emerge from the get go. First, the four run into a shaggy looking fellow named Chaco (Thomas Milian), a crack sharpshooter with a penchant for violent outbursts, peyote, and whisky. At first, Chaco befriends the group, but at some point he paints crosses under his eyes and turns as mean as a snake. The thug literally skins a prisoner captured in a shootout, then turns his attentions to Stubby's cohorts. He critically wounds Clem and terrorizes poor Bunny before riding off into the mountains with the group's wagon and horses, leaving the four to plod miserably through the blasted climes. It's not long after this incident that the group begins to melt away. By the time Bunny and Stubby arrive in Altaville, a small town peopled by a ragtag bunch of grizzled men, the movie oddly turns into a rather sappy series of scenes about caring for an infant. The conclusion to the film whips "Four of the Apocalypse" right back to where it should be with the obligatory showdown between Stubby and the evil Chaco. I've watched all but one of the films contained in the Anchor Bay boxed set at this point, and Fulci's film is the strangest of the lot.

Odd though it is, the picture is still a lot of fun to view. The performances on the whole stand well above usual Italian film standards. Milian is the one to watch, though. His villainous Chaco ranks as one of the most despicable bad guys I've seen in awhile. The humorous, languid attitude Milian's character exuded in "Companeros" is nowhere apparent here--this guy is just plain evil incarnate. He even overshadows the general weirdness Michael Pollard brings to the Clem character, and that's quite a feat if you're familiar with any character portrayed by Pollard during his lengthy career. Beyond the performances, "Four of the Apocalypse" shows us a hint of the Fulci gore that would become a staple in his later horror films. When bullets strike down guys in this film, the wounds explode like miniature atomic bombs. Then there's that skinning scene. Yep, shades of the grotesqueries of "The Beyond," "The Gates of Hell," and "Zombie" are perceptible in this ultra violent spag western. A series of great prog rock ballads serve as the musical score.

All in all, I'd say this film is one of the best I've seen from Fulci. Heck, the guy even forgoes the usual eye zoom shots so prevalent in his later work. A big round of applause should go to Anchor Bay for bringing us this flick on DVD. Even better, they added in the gory scenes cut out of prior releases, and even throw in a seventeen-minute documentary containing interviews with Fabio Testi and Thomas Milian. You also get talent biographies, a trailer, and an easter egg accessible from the extras screen. Spaghetti western fans will want to add this one to the collection. So will fans of Fulci in general.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2002
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2004
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 2, 2008
Lucio Fulci, Italian gore meister, shocked me with "Four of the Apocalypse." Except for the scene where Chaco is slicing a patch of skin from his captive's stomach, this movie isn't as gory as I suspected it would be. I don't understand why it was never released in America. It is a very emotional movie starring Italian hunk Fabio Testi who starred in one of my favorite Italian gialli, "What Have You Done to Solange?" It also has British beauty Lynne Frederick of Pete Walker's "Schizo" and Hammer Production's "Vampire Circus" - one of my favorite Hammer films.

Testi and Frederick are locked together in the town jail when the good people decide to massacre everyone in a nearby saloon. They are freed, along with two others, and head across the desert towards another town. They are befriended by Chaco who betrays, tortures, and leaves them to die in the hot desert sun. They do manage to survive the attack, but they have no food, water, or transportation. Testi, a gambler, vows to obtain revenge against Chaco.

"Four of the Apocalypse" is a violent, emotionally packed tour de force of betrayal and revenge. I became emotionally attached to the four friends who struggle to survive. There are several scenes where I cried. I felt their pain. Their loss was my loss. I was very glad when Testi got his revenge!!

A beautifully filmed movie, "Four of the Apocalypse," has grandiose scenes of breathtaking mountains and deserts. I especially enjoyed the snow falling on the mountain village. (During filming, Testi caught a bad flu and was bedridden for several days.) The pop 70's music was great; there were several songs I wanted to sing along with. Great direction was provided by Lucio Fulci who has proved that he was a great film director of all genres.

"Four of the Apocalypse" is a must have for all fans of Lucio Fulci. I will have to view other Westerns that he directed. I bought "Four of the Apocalypse" for my dad who is a fan of the Western genre. Even though he enjoyed this movie, I'm going to have to keep it for my own Lucio Fulci collection. I'm only joking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2008
This being a Lucio Fulci movie, i obviously expected to see a ton of graphic violence and i did, but he didn't offer just some cool bloody western with this film. Actually it was much more than just that. The film was brutal, it was sad, it was beautiful. It had some many excellent moments all throughout it and the score was brilliant and completely set the tone for the film. This was a very emotional picture and it seems to be a really personal from Fulci. It really had some moments that were truly heart breaking, these characters were totally likable. And to see what the characters went through, you really felt bad. I think that this film could definitely go as far as being one of the greatest spaghetti westerns that i'd ever seen. And that comes from a great genre with a ton of great pictures under it's belt. If you're a fan of Fulci's but have not seen this you'll most likely be very pleasantly surprised as i was. Two thumbs up!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Fulci's always gonna be remembered for his horror flicks, but his films outside the genre are worth checking out. Usually they're just downright silly like Conquest and Contraband(though I have to admit that I found them both quite entertaining). Fulci's stab at a western isn't all that bad. It's not gonna rank among the best westerns of all time, but it's decent and shows that Fulci had potential in this genre. The always reliable Fabio Testi is a snooty, selfish card shark that, through a twist of fate, hooks up with a drunk, a looney "I see dead people" guy and the required prostitiute with a heart of gold(pregnant of course). Basically they're all just trying to get to a town 200 miles away, but get delayed when Tomas Milian stops them in the desert, drugs them, rapes the girl, cripples the drunk and steals their stuff. A long trek follows, Fabio vows to kill Milian and falls in love with the chick. Fabio spends 90% of the film without a gun, but when he gets one he kicks it into badass mode. Milian as usual, is great(a damn shame he isn't known in America), and though you may not recognize the name, you'll recognize Michael Pollard. This was made before Fulci discovered that sticking splinters in peoples' eyes could pack a theater, so don't go into this expecting Fulci gore. Sure, it's bloody in some spots and was considered extreme for the day, but pretty lightweight compared to what Fulci would eventually do with his horror flicks. A good film. It's a little slow, but it's got decent performances, it's well shot, and Fulci even gives us a scene with a baby that manages to conjure up some emotion(!). But I'm sure this film wouldn't fly in America. It may be a western, but it certainly comes across as European though. The average John Wayne fan's probably not gonna dig this much. I'd strongly suggest it for diehard Fulci and spaghetti western fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2003
This isn't your typical spaghetti western - you know the sort - lot's of glowering faces, silly dialogue and violent action that crops up every five minutes or so. This operates on a slower, more pretentious level. The dialogue is still silly, the glowering faces are still there, but instead of numerous action sequences, Fulci gives us a slow, pretentious - almost dreamlike - affair. It's supposed to be one of his personal favourites, and it does have that air of "the director doing his thing" about it. Lots of "meaningful" but somehow unrelated sequences strung together to give an incoherant whole. The violence, when it comes, is pretty strong stuff: there's an opening massacre that has no bearing on the plot whatsoever, a scene where a sherrif gets skinned alive (while the heroes stand by doing nothing, for some strange reason), a rape, cannabalism and torture. But it's not the stuff of westerns - it belongs more in the realm of horror films or thrillers (in fact, compare this film with Fulci's earlier western, Massacre Time, and you can see that Apocalypse is really a precursor to his ultra-bloody and silly horror flicks of the 80s, where long bouts of inactivity and inane dialogue are punctuated by extreme gore). Apparently, in order to woo audiences back to a dying genre, the spaghetti westerns became increasingly explicit in their depiction of violence (it didn't work - this was one of the last westerns made). For a better example, check out Majanna. So why 3 stars? Well, it is a strangely haunting film. Maybe it;'s the cinemaphotography, or Tomas Milian's over-the-top performance as Chaco (the DVD features a great interview with him and Fabio Testi), or even the out-of-place 70s style soundtrack. Or maybe it's a combination of all the above (and the gore, of course). But be warned. If you like your spaghettis fast and furious, stay away.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2007
Although by standard genre conventions, I Quattro dell'apocalisse (Four of the Apocalypse) is definitely a (spaghetti) western, in many ways it is just as terrifying as any of director Lucio Fulci's more famous horror flicks.

The story centers on four people who end up together by happenstance--they are all jailed in a small Utah town. After most of the town is massacred, the four are set free and try to make their way together to a city 200 miles distant. Although adapted from two Bret Harte stories, "The Luck of Roaring Camp" and "The Outcasts of Poker Flat", Fulci and screenwriter Ennio De Concini amped up the violence, added a character, Chaco (Tomas Milian) probably influenced by Charles Manson (and prescient of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow portrayal in a way that must be more than happenstance), and embedded the Biblical "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" connection.

In the Bible, the four horsemen represent the destructive phenomena of pestilence, famine, war and death. Here, there's more of a "seven deadly sins" flavor, as the four main characters represent greed/gambling, prostitution, alcoholism and insanity. Adding Chaco to the mix flips traditional morality on its head, as the four protagonists must bond as they try to help each other survive.

The penultimate act is subtly mystical--it's almost as if the remaining protagonists have been temporarily transported to heaven, although the greatest tragedy occurs in this setting, too. Fulci slyly transforms the environment during this section, a change that actually begins to occur during the previous act, with a heavily symbolic downpour.
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