• Unholy Four, The



    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: January 10th, 2017.
    Director: Enzo Barboni (as E.B.Clucher)
    Cast: Leonard Mann, Woody Strode, Peter Martell, George Eastman
    Year: 1970
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Enzo Barboni (as E.B.Clucher) in 1970 in the days when the popularity of the Spaghetti Western was starting to wane, The Unholy Four introduces us to a man named Chuck Mool (Leonard Mann). When the movie begins, we learn he's an amnesiac, but this doesn't stop him from escaping the mental hospital he's been interred in with three other men - Woody (Woody Strode), Silver (Pietro Martellanza as Peter Martell) and Hondo (George Eastman!).

    Chuck's goal here is to figure out who he is and where he's from. As the four men travel, chased at one point by a well-armed posse on horseback, bits and pieces of his memory come back. When they arrive in a small town where two families are at war over who should be running the show, Chuck's recognized. It turns out that at one point not that long ago he was the best gunslinger around, and that he's been paid to kill a man who claims he is his father. As the story progresses, the warring factions each tug at Chuck to try to win them over to their side - while Chuck tries to figure out who, if anyone, in this mess is actually related to him.

    The Unholy Four has definitely got some elements working in its favor. The movie is really nicely shot using some great widescreen photography to capture some impressive scenery and throwing in some tense close-ups during the action set pieces to help build tension and suspense. The film also benefits from a good cast, with Woody Strode really standing out here and providing some unexpected but welcome comic relief (the best example of that being a scene where he insists the reverend of the local church sing a hymn with him - the look on the reverend's face is one of sheer exhaustion). George Eastman is also fun to watch here, getting right into his part and infusing his character with plenty of enthusiasm. The movie is paced nicely, it features some great, gritty locations and it builds to an effectively dark and tense conclusion.

    The biggest problem with the picture? It rips off Django. A lot. Chuck Mool may start off as his own man but as the story progresses Barboni and company start to change Leonard Mann into a Franco Nero clone. There is a natural resemblance between the two men but once he's decked out in that blue jacket with the hat pulled down just so, the intentions are obvious. Barboni even stages one of the film's best set pieces in the later part of the picture in a cemetery, similar to how Sergio Corbucci staged a scene four years prior in the original Django film.

    Originality issues aside, the movie's score is also, at times at least, out of place. Composer Riz Ortolani contributed loads of fantastic work over the course of his career but his light, bouncy, jazzy work for The Unholy Four stands in fairly stark contrast to its otherwise dark subject matter.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Unholy Four debuts on Blu-ray from Kino's Studio Classics line on a 25GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. While there is some obvious scanner noise here, this is otherwise a pretty decent looking image. There isn't any gregarious DNR applied and the image is pretty clean save for some minor white speckling here and there. Colors look good and black levels are decent aside from a few scenes where there is some minor crush. Not a reference quality image but a decent one.

    The audio is presented in both Italian and English language DTS-HD Mono tracks, with subtitles provided in English only that appear to match the English dialogue. Both tracks sound fine, featuring good balance and decent range. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the periodically out of place sounding score sounds pretty decent here.

    Aside from static menus and chapter stops we get bonus trailers for Sabata and Navajo Joe (but no trailer for the feature itself).

    The Final Word:

    The Unholy Four is a decent later era Spaghetti Western made with an interesting cast and featuring some pretty solid action set pieces. That fact that it cribs so heavily from Django towards the end means it isn't going to win any points for originality, but it's entertaining enough. Kino's Blu-ray is light on extras but it looks and sounds alright. Not an essential purchase for casual fans, but Spaghetti Western die-hards will want to snag this one.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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