Death Rides a Horse
Dir. Giulio Petroni
Starring: LEE VAN CLEEF, John Phillip Law, Mario Brega
PEC [production company? - that's all I have is the initials]
With the All-American badass Lee Van Cleef
Wow, first, a side note. The quality of the available print, to be frank, sucks, at least the one I watched on Amazon Instant Video. The colors were somewhat washed out, there were lots of scratches, the sound at the beginning was so muffled it was difficult to hear what they were saying. Sad but there it is. This movie is only ten years older than I am, I sincerely hope there are better prints out there. It’s strange to think that a thousand years from now, people may be able to read what we said about movies, they may not be able to see those movies that we loved to write about. That being said, try not to let the quality of the print affect your enjoyment of the movie.
The movie starts, as Snoopy would say, on a dark and stormy night. An outlaw western gang closes in on a house in the night, slowly eliminating anybody who would stop them. The gang then gets to the door and kicks it in to find a family – father, mother, son and daughter – at the dining table. The father tries to resist but is shot down when he goes for his gun. The young boy runs to hide and ends up watching as his mother and sister are brutally raped in a surprising scene and then shot by the gang. The boy looks at the features of the men – their faces, eyes, scars, tattoos and, in one case, a skull on a chain, which implant themselves in his head, making for lasting memories.
Next we see Lee Van Cleef being taken out of his chain gang chains on a rock-breaking detail. We learn that his character, named Ryan, has been in prison for fifteen years and today is the day of his release. He gets his $83, his gun back and buys a horse to set out to find the men that double crossed him fifteen years ago.
Next, we see the boy, named Bill by the way, grown up and practicing his shooting. As he shows us, again and again and again, he is a hell of a good shot, landing each bullet exactly where he wants it to go. And then he shoots a hundred more times.
As you might have guessed, Ryan and Bill cross paths quite a bit over the course of the movie, as they find out that they are both after THE SAME GROUP OF OUTLAWS! What a coincidence, right? Bill is the young and impetuous, acting with his heart on his sleeve whereas Ryan is the cool, calm, calculated man out for revenge with a gun sight for an eye and a cobra for a trigger finger. While the two are after the same group of outlaws, they are also competing with each other, as both of them want to get first crack at the rapscallions. Deserts, run-down towns, horses, six-shooters, braless Mexican women, banditos, cowboy hats and playing cards are all here in their wonderful spaghetti western glory. It’s, on the whole, better than average for the genre, though not as good as the best.
All in all a solid spaghetti western and definitely worth watching, especially if you’re a sucker for spaghetti westerns, though don’t expect HD.
Entertaining – 3.5, Serious Movie – 3.5, Goofy, campy silly – 1.5
Available on Amazon Instant Video