Oh man, Massacre Time was exciting. I’m serious! I get all fired up about westerns sometimes; I think it was because I was a man in a previous life and had a spirit of adventure, or because I have spent my whole life this incarnation in the South and haven’t been to the desert, or maybe it’s because I am a lady who likes to see handsome men dressed up as manly cowboys. Just like with kung fu movies, a good western can make me yell at the TV like I was watching SEC football! Anyway, my husband came home about 22 minutes before the end of Massacre Time and I proceeded to tell him the whole plot up til then, and how glad I was that he was home to catch the showdown sequence, “it’s massacre time” if you will! And he just laughed at me and said I was a dork. Oh well.
Franco Nero-rhymes-with-hero plays a prospector whose mother asked him to leave home years ago for reasons not disclosed; his brother, played by George Hilton, got the land and house and the family would send money to Nero. Not that they were mad at him, it was probably for his protection from something I will not spoil for you. Anyway, one day Hero Nero is out prospecting, well, more to the point he is eating something unidentifiable from a tin plate when a guy from his hometown shows up and begs him to come back home. Only it wasn’t Nero’s family that sent for him, it was some other guy for reasons we also don’t know. And the guy who delivers the message refuses to go back with him!
So our hero goes home to find that his family’s house and land belongs now to a Mr. Scott, who is a lot like Brad Wesley in Road House. (Which proves that Road House is just a modern western.) Everyone is afraid of Mr. Scott, including George Hilton’s character who drinks all day, and the local Chinese blacksmith/undertaker who charges Nero TWENTY CENTS for information on Mr. Scott! And Mr. Scott’s son is even more terrifying, a fact he shows us by always going around with his head tilted to one side, and by killing a guy just for trying to move to another town. Even Scott is scared of his mad son.
Anyway, Franco Nero has had enough, and George Hilton his brother is being mean to him, so Nero decides to go up to Mr. Scott’s house, at which point Hilton reveals that he is the best shooter in the whole wide world and kills all the guards without even aiming, even sometimes while hanging off the side of his horse like a rodeo rider! And then, in the second most interesting scene of the film, Nero shows up at Mr. Scott’s house and there is this huge party going on like something out of The Great Gatsby! Everyone is wearing white and being really snobby, and they act like the great Franco Nero is a cockroach covered in poop. And here is what got me really excited…
Now, I had never seen one of Lucio Fulci’s non-horror movies until I saw Massacre Time, but I had always read about how he was a great director outside the genre, and this party scene proves to me that Fulci had a lot more going on than a girl vomiting her intestines and a flying zombie head. As Nero walks into the party, the camera does a closeup, not one of those ridiculous closeups, but a close up on this woman who says, as part of the conversation she’s having that we enter in media res, “And there I was in the middle of the whole situation, not knowing what would happen.” And that’s exactly what Nero’s character is feeling, and of course something pretty terrible which I will not reveal here DOES happen to him, but I thought having a background character make a statement like that was very artistic; Fulci also pans around the party picking up snatches of conversation here and there like he was Robert Altman or Woody Allen or something! It was like a new wave scene, honestly, until a fight broke out.
The other thing that really excited me was at the end, when it was massacre time to open a can of whup ass, a character fell to his death from a very high place, and instead of seeing his body go splat, we see a bunch of white birds fly up in the air from where it is suggested that he fell, as if to suggest his soul taking flight from his body. It was very classy.
So basically, I highly recommend Massacre Time for Fulci fans, spaghetti western fans, and obviously, fans of Nero and Hilton. Perhaps most exciting of all for me is that I was able to confirm what I had always suspected: George Hilton used to have a regular man’s nose, and you can see it here in this film, unlike the tiny weird nose he is sporting by the time all those films he made with Edwige Fenech came along. So there’s that to see in Massacre Time too.
I only have one complaint to make, and that is that the dubbing actors all speak in this ridiculous drawl, like fake southerners rather than fake westerners, but I realize that complaining about bad dubbing in Italian movies is like complaining that it’s hot here in Georgia in the summer, so it shouldn’t ruin the film for you.
What about you? Have you seen any of Fulci’s earlier work? What do you recommend, and what spaghetti westerns do you enjoy? I plan to watch Four of the Apocalypse next, and this is a genre I’m looking forward to exploring.