Violent Spaghetti Western gem The Unholy Four is a rollicking delight
Frank Henenlotter said of sexploitation films that, after decades of sifting through them as one half of the Something Weird team, he just couldn’t tell them apart. How much more could one man take of boobs, bums and silliness before it all blended together? I have as of late felt the same way about Italian Westerns and yet, despite the dozens upon dozens of Leone and Corbucci rip-offs I have seen, one that I have missed will always eventually pop up to remind me why I love the genre so very much. The Unholy Four (aka Chuck Mool, Ciakmull) is one such picture. The 1970 Enzo Barboni-directed Spaghetti Western is a breezy, vibrant and narratively engrossing piece of rough and violent pulp fiction weirdness that gripped me hard and refused to let me go.
The Spaghetti Western will forever be tied to the horror genre, because the same talent that made and acted in these dusty oaters also were responsible for birthing the Italian Giallo and Gothic film and all of these pictures are alive with the same operatic sense of style, sensuality, violence and absurdity. In the case of The Unholy Four, we have the presence of veteran Eurosploitation actors like Peter Martell (Death Walks at Midnight), Leonard Mann (Deodato’s Cut and Run) and Luigi Montefiori (billed here as Luca Montefiori) who is best know to horror fans as George Eastman, the self-cannibalizing brute in Anthropophagus and a myriad other erotic and violent Joe D’Amato films. Throw in American actor Woody Strode (Kingdom of the Spiders) and you have one helluva cast. And Barboni (credited here as E.B.Clutcher), who would later go on to make the Terrence Hill “Trinity” films, delivers one helluva movie.
The Unholy Four stars Mann as an amnesiac prisoner doing hard time in the slammer for some sort of gunlsinging offense that he cannot recall when, after a robbery close to the jail ends in chaos, he and three other cons escape, steal some horses and ride off into the sunset. Mann learns that his name is Chuck Mool (hilariously anglicized from the Italian Ciakmull) and, accompanied by his pals, heads back to his home town to find out who he is and what exactly led him to his fate as a convict. Along the way, the “Unholy” four (though they are actually really quite nice) get into all manner of violent adventure, some comical, some brutal and, when they finally get to Chuck’s town, they get ensnared in a cutthroat feud between two feuding and manipulative ranchers who want to use the dizzy gunslinger as a pawn in their battle. Meanwhile, the impossibly beautiful Evelyn Stewart watches from the sidelines, quietly pining for old Chuck, her lover long lost.
This is a glorious entertainment, made even more wonderful by the stunning, shimmering 1080p HD transfer that Kino Lorber have blasted onto their Blu-ray release. Those used to seeing the film via bootleg DVD, YouTube link or washed out VHS are in for a treat. Also of note is the rousing score by the great Riz Ortalani (House by the Edge of the Park, Cannibal Holocaust) that, although repetitive at times, has a refrain that will stay in your head for days. Kino presents the film in English and Italian with alternate subtitles and offers no extras related to the film at all, which is a drag, but doesn’t detract from the experience of just enjoying the movie itself. Highly recommended.