Genre: Spaghetti Western/ Action/ Comedy
Director: Lucio Fulci
WORTH A LOOK
At the center of Massacre Time is an old chestnut of a Western story.
Tom Corbett (Franco Nero) has been away for awhile (in this case panning for gold in California), when a family friend tells him to come home. When he gets there, he finds out that the town has been taken over by ruthless businessman Mr. Scott (Giuseppe Addobbati) and his loony son Junior (Nino Castelnuovo). It’s up to Tom to set things right.
Screenwriter Fernando Di Leo (who wrote plenty of screenplays in many genres, in addition to directing some of the better Italian crime movies) adds a few wrinkles. For example, Tom’s brother Jeffrey (George Hilton), who stayed behind, has become a drunk.
Now, many good movies have been made from this basic material, but Massacre Time isn’t one of them. I was surprised to see that Fernando Di Leo wrote this movie because he’s usually better with plot and character. One of the twists, which I won’t reveal, makes no sense at all. And it’s ridiculous for Jeffrey to be able to do trick riding on a horse and shoot with pinpoint accuracy when he’s dead drunk on Tequila.
In fact, Jeffrey’s behavior makes no sense at all. If Jeffrey has become so beaten down by the goings on in town that he became a drunk, why does he provoke a fight with Scott’s men? Why does he, after refusing to help Tom, all of a sudden murder a dozen gunfighters guarding the road to Scott’s ranch, in order to clear the way for Tom?
These non sequiturs are a shame because they cast a shadow on some genuinely well-written scenes, like the one in which Junior bullwhips Tom or the one in which Scott’s men confront a family which is leaving town.
It’s doubly a shame because director Lucio Fulci handles the violence very well. The fights have snap for the time and the gunfights are downright innovative. As many have pointed out, the flipping through the air while firing, firing multiple times into a prone body, and other innovations were probably copied by John Woo in the late 80s. I also appreciated the relatively realistic bullet wounds and whip scars.
But while I enjoyed the action aspects, the fun was limited because I didn’t believe in the story I was being told. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t insist on realism, but I insist on believability within the confines of a genre and style.
All of that makes Massacre Time an interesting failure. But if action is more important to you than story, character and believability, Massacre Time is probably worth checking out.
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