THE UNHOLY FOUR are four men who escape from an asylum for the criminally insane when it’s set fire as a distraction by a gang of outlaws to cover them hitting a stage as it arrives with a hundred thousand in gold aboard. Hondo(George Eastman, billed as Luca Montefiori), Silver(Pietro Martellanza, billed as Peter Martell), Woody(the western stalwart Woody Strode), and the man known as Dummy(Leonard Mann). He has no memory of his past, only the three years he spent in the asylum. This film falls into the sub-genre of spaghetti westerns known informally as the autumnal films. That is, instead of hot desert terrain, they take place in dark forested areas in the fall of course.
Amid guns firing as the gang hits the stage, the four men are backed against the asylum wall as the gang ride swiftly past them. A guard’s lucky shot catches the last man in the back and he tumbles off his horse at the four’s feet. He glances up at Dummy and says, “Chuck Mool,” trying to bring his gun up he collapses. The now named Chuck Mool tries to learn more from the dying man about who he is, but the fellow passes quickly.
The four race off then.
The town seems more worried about the four than they are about the stolen gold. They decry the sheriff for not riding out after them, but when he asks for volunteers for a posse, no one accepts. Fortunately there are five bounty hunters that agree to go after them. One hundred dollars apiece, alive only, and an extra fifty each if they bring them back today.
This sets up a well done sequence where the four unarmed men, having the advantage of being wanted alive, take down the five bounty hunters.
Earlier, we see the gang dividing the spoils, with half going to the man who planned the job, a mysterious fellow. A double cross is set up as the gang leaves and the gold they were paid retrieved by this unknown man and his own gang.
Our four heroes come across the bodies of the gang, recognize them, and start following the trail. It leads them to a town where two families are warring for supremacy. The Caldwells, headed by Joe(Helmuth Schneider), a man still fast with a gun, his son Alan(Alain Daya) and the Udos, Tom(Lucio Rosata) and his son(Giuseppe Lauricella), never actually identified by name, but happens to be the double crosser in the stage hold-up.
Chuck and his friends spread out through town and questions are asked about Chuck Mool. No one seems to know him until an incident in the saloon. Chuck is seated at a table having a drink when Woody and Silver, the closest of the four men and the lightest in demeanor, enter. A man insults Woody, using that N word, which gets him a shove. When the man goes for his gun, Silver springs into action, flipping a knife expertly to pin the sleeve on his gun arm to the bar. When the man beside reaches his gun, Chuck warns him. The man gets the macho up until Chuck stands and faces him. It’s obvious he recognizes Chuck, backing down and claiming it was all a joke, the pair exiting the saloon as if a fire was lit under them.
When the Udos learn, Chuck Mool is alive, they set out to learn why he didn’t recognize the man. They use Woody, a religious man who visits the church to play the pipe organ, quite well, though his hymn singing is sketchy, to grab him, take him to the Udo basement and question him quite vigorously, learning of Chuck’s loss of memory and use it to try to kill Joe Caldwell.
The Udo family is painted in a bad light from the very beginning. Robbers, double-crossers, rustlers, even the brother having an unholy fascination with his sister, Sheila(Ida Galli, billed as Ewelin Stewart), who we learn was in love with Chuck, actually a Caldwell, and he with her before he lost his memory. Brother even threatens to kill her if she doesn’t go along and pretend to be Chuck’s sister. She doesn’t give in that easy.
In the final, well choreographed shoot-out, Chuck learns why he lost his memory, who was responsible, and an unpleasant truth about his family.
A few thoughts on the film. First time director Enzo Barboni, billed here as E. B. Clucher, went on to lasting fame in the spaghetti western genre as director of the Trinity films starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. The writers were Mario di Nardo and Franco Rosetti, as well as an uncredited George Eastman.
Actors George Eastman and Peter Martell are reunited after a previous western, THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO, which I posted on earlier this month. The actress who played the sister, the love interst of Chuck Mool, played his mother in a previous movie.
Not the best spaghetti I’ve seen, but pretty good anyway.