Tom Doty Times Columnist
January 24, 2014
A quartet of adventurers face all manner of catastrophe in this Spaghetti Western that was “saddled” with a science fiction-sounding title.
The film charts the bizarre and often violent adventures of a cowpoke named Stubby Preston (strange name). He is played by Italian star Fabio Testi (wow, an even stranger name). No sooner does the Stub-meister arrive in Salt Flats, Utah, he is arrested. Since when was having a goofy name a crime?
He is promptly lodged in a cell with three other undesirables. First, there is the village loony, who can talk to dead people long before there ever was a Haley Joel Osmet. Next, you get the town hussy, played by English actress Lynne Frederick (who survived being married to Peter Sellers). Finally, there is that Old West staple, the town drunk (played by American character actor extraordinaire Michael J. Pollard).
They are miraculously freed when a gang of black-hooded thugs attack the town. The event gets them out of jail, but you never find out what the gang was up to and this intriguing plot point is soon forgotten. Our intrepid band of misfits hits the road and winds up travelling together and sharing offbeat adventures until things take a nasty turn.
They run afoul of a brutal killer (played by the charismatic Tomas Milian of “Traffic”). This guy’s train has jumped even further off the track than our band of misfit toys. He assaults the group and leaves them for dead. Big mistake.
The group has to put off revenge a tad in order to survive a harsh Utah snow event. Still nursing their wounds, they seek shelter to wait out the storm, but learn that fate has dealt them a cruel hand. It seems one of them is a cannibal and all of them are on the menu. Looks like their revenge will be a bonus if they can even survive their own group.
This is lurid stuff. It is a western that keeps turning into a shocking horror flick. There is a good reason for the mix. The director turns out to be Lucio Fulci, the godfather of gory Spaghetti Horror cinema.
Fulci cut his teeth directing gore soaked terror flicks like “Don’t Torture a Duckling” and the infamous “Zombie.” Fulci’s West is a hellhole filled with eerie imagery that will linger long after you have ejected this effort from your viewing device of choice. This is definitely worth a look and should appeal to fans of Italian westerns as well the horror crowd. Check it out if you have a strong stomach.
Fulci gets some good performances out of his international cast, and the veil of dread he weaves throughout is thicker than London fog. The settings are realistic and the gooey make-up effects leave no doubt where the budget went. It is unrated but consider it a hard “R” for violence. It is available solo or as part of a western three-pack that includes two other Spaghetti oaters.
Best line: “You know, once, when I was in school, I ate a whole pencil.”