Massacre Time

George Hilton and Franco Nero in Massacre Time
George Hilton and Franco Nero in Massacre Time

Aka The Brute and the Beast (US, unconf), Le colt cantarono la morte e fu… tempo di massacro (Italy), Massacre Time (US), Django Sein Gesangbüch war der Colt (WG)
1966
Italy
Oreste Coltellacci for Colt Prod. Cin.che, Mega Film, L. F. Prod. Cin.che
Director: Lucio Fulci
Story & Screenplay: Fernando Di Leo
Cinematography: Riccardo Pallottini{Cromoscope – Eastmancolour}
Music: Lallo [Coriolano] Gori, ‘Back Home Someday (A Man Alone)’ by Bardotti, Fulci and Endrigo, sung by Sergio Endrigo
Editor: Ornella Micheli
Set design: Sergio Canevari
Cameraman: Gastone Di Giovanni
Release information: Registered 04.08.66. Italy (10.08.66, 83 mins), France (27.07.67 – 80′), Germany (12.05.67 – 86′), US (1968 – 85′)
Cast: Franco Nero (Tom Corbett), George Hilton (Jeff Corbett), Lynn Shayne (Brady), John M. Douglas [Giuseppe Addobbati] (Mr Scott), Nino Castelnuovo (Junior Scott), Tom [Tommasso] Felleghy, Franco Morici, Rina Franchetti (Mercedes), Yu Tchang, Aysanoa Runachagua (Sonko)
Uncredited: Attilio Severini (older Scott henchman), Mario Dionisi, Romano Puppo (taller Scott henchman), Roberto Alessandri (Scott henchman), Salvatore Borgese (shorter Scott henchman), Janos Bartha (Carradine)

Massacre Time
Massacre Time

A damned fine Spaghetti Western, Massacre Time contains all of the best ingredients to be found in the genre: machismo than teeters on the brim of absurdity, peculiar dubbing, bizarre characters, elliptical dialogue and a casual disregard for human life. There’s also an absolutely fantastic score (complete with compulsory inappropriate title song) and enough singular touches to raise it into the highest class of it’s type.

Franco Nero stars as Tom, a prospector who returns home after receiving a strange message from an old friend of the family. Upon arrival, he finds out that the whole place has been taken over by Scott (Giuseppe Addobati) and his loony-tune offspring, Junior (Nino Castelnuovo). Now these two have a very strange relationship. Much given to sharing tender moments playing horrific dirges on a whiny organ (“Can you remember, Daddy…? You loved this piece!”) it’s quite obvious that the younger man is completely out of the control of his father. He also likes the usual round of activities that please maturing young psychopaths in these films. You know, pursuing Mexicans to their death with hounds, random slaughter of entire families etc, etc.

Tom soon finds that his brother Jeff (George Hilton) has become a hopeless alcoholic, who cares only about where he is going to find his next bottle of tequila. He also seems severely underwhelmed by the re-appearance of his kinsman, and strives to make our hero as unwelcome as possible. This is accomplished by a bravura display of coarse eating, overstated belching and plain rudeness.

It, of course, turns out that there is a very good reason for this hostility, and it also becomes clear that rather than being hindered by such a gargantuan capacity to consume alcoholic beverages, Jeff is in fact helped by it. This is a viewpoint to warm the heart of everyone who is sick to death of seeing the usual parade of incompetent drunks – especially as the imbibing of a number of cool ones is a virtual necessity for the full appreciation of your average Euro-trash film.

Prior to this film, Lucio Fulci had mainly helmed successful if inconsequential comedies, often starring the omnipresent Franco and Ciccio. That doesn’t stop him from driving everything along with a fine sense of pacing and managing to mix in a subtle tang of subversive symbolism. The villain, for example, wears white while the hero wears black – a neat reversal of the Hollywood cliché. Granted, this can be taken a bit too far – Junior dies in a dovecote, natch – but at times it elevates proceedings into territory not too far removed from the traditional domain of the art movie.

George Hilton channels Captain Haddock in Massacre Time
George Hilton channels Captain Haddock in Massacre Time

There’s one particularly fine sequence in which Tom stumbles into a banquet at the Scott’s ranch, where the revolting guests preen around a table overburdened with food in their extravagant clothes. This brings back memories of the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland, or the wedding-tale from Neil Jordan’s fantastic Company of Wolves (84)- but neither of these end with a protracted and brutal whipping (aah, don’t you just love that singular Fulci touch!)

The best thing about Massacre Time, however, is the performances. During this period in the mid-sixties Franco Nero was the epitome of cool (even more so than Clint Eastwood), but even he is here outshone by his two main co-stars. For an example of how charismatic are the actors involved, just compare them to the similar roles in Ferdinando Baldi’s suspiciously similar Texas Addio (66) from the same year, in which Nero blew everyone else off the screen. This was the role that made George Hilton’s name, and he went on to capitalize on it by appearing in a number of other Westerns. Admittedly, at times he does seem to have modeled his performance on Captain Haddock from the Tintin cartoons but, hell, no one liked Tintin in those anyway. Nino Castelnuovo gives the most outrageous performance of all as a gurning loon (with a menagerie of similarly gurning sidekicks), and overacts to such an extent that he could almost be Klaus Kinski. Or Richard Burton.

About Matt Blake 873 Articles
The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.

2 Comments

  1. Nice to see you return to reviewing a western amigo. One of the better films of the genre it does cover all the bases. For me the main theme song fits in perfectly much like “A Rope and a Colt” in Cemetery Without Crosses”. It kicks off the film to a rousing start and then we see the character development and the animosity rise between brothers. Castelnuovo plays one of the creepiest villains of the genre which only adds to the desire to see him get his just due. Continued best wishes on the website and hope you are working on more books.

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