This Pack of Misfit Outlaws Aren’t as bad as all That.
DIRECTED BY E.B. CLUCHER (aka ENZO BARBONI)/1970
STREET DATE: JANUARY 10, 2017/KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
Cue the music: the soft yet perky refrains of the main theme of The Unholy Four isn’t what one might expect, considering the film’s title and blu-ray cover art, promising tough-as-nails anti-heroes we’d come to expect from post-Sergio Leone Westerns.
Welcome to the spaghetti West, passed its prime but still well flavored: When a Dodge City “Mental Prison” burns, four inmates escape, with vicious pursuers in tow. Cue the music, again!
Seriously, the same music. This theme would be more at home in any number of early 1970s children’s movies… Maybe this is stock library music, acquired on the cheap…? Nope, original compositions by Riz Ortolani, 229 such IMDb credits to his name.
Despite the film’s title, no one ever refers to them as “The Unholy Four”. They’re actually markedly non-Satanic, one of them (“Woody”, played by the iconic Woody Strode) is even a devoutly religious guy. The worst of them cheats at cards (Peter Martell). And of course they all must kill their vile pursuers, or be killed. Once more with the theme music!
For the love of…! This music is going to be stuck in my head for the next week and a half. Variation might be nice, Riz…
The Unholy Four looks pretty fantastic. For a lesser known spaghetti Western from 1970, great care appears to have been taken in maintaining a pristine look in terms of color and damage.
The Unholy Four is a good movie that nonetheless suffers from over-direction and a dearth of wildly strange filmmaking choices. Crazy editing, distracting camera moves and, yes, bizarre musical choices mar the film, but on the other hand, when it works, it works. When amusing, over-the-top filmmaking nuttiness is the biggest miss on the table, things are definitely not as bad as they could be. The story is compelling and the action clips along. The blood, still bright red, is lessened from the more visceral and violent sub-genre efforts that preceded this in the 1960s. For spaghetti Western fans, this release is not to be overlooked.
It must be said that The Unholy Four is at interesting cross purposes when it comes to its main character, the confused amnesiac Chuck Mool (a clunky phonetic English carryover of “Ciakmull”, played by Leonard Mann). With his name all he knows about himself, he spends the film in search of his identity and former life. Villains plot against him, posing as his family. His real family is kicking around in the periphery, but can they be trusted, either?
Mool is intended to be both a badass spaghetti Western gunfighter, but also bears a James Franco-type sensitivity (the resemblance is undeniable). This level of unabashed emo protagonist nearly welling up repeatedly is a good forty years ahead of its time, that’s for sure. Cue… other music! (Finally!!)
Although not touting itself as a restoration or 4K remaster or anything of the like, The Unholy Four looks pretty fantastic. For a lesser known spaghetti Western from 1970, great care appears to have been taken in maintaining a pristine look in terms of color and damage. If anything, purists may complain that it’s too “scrubbed” of its film grain in places, appearing too crisp and saturated. But film grain is still evident for the most part, and being unfamiliar with the film until now, I must say it looks and sounds astonishingly good. The only extras are a few other spaghetti Western trailers, but in this case, the main course is satisfaction enough.
Cue the music…
The images in this review are not representative of the actual Blu-ray’s image quality, and are included only to represent the film itself.