Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seen It: Death Rides A Horse (1967)

It's that sixth of five defenseless people you kill that always grows up to be a good shot and hunt you down...

After watching one too many killer hillbilly movies (one set in Europe, no less!), I recently sought to cleanse my visual pallet with a good ol' fashioned Spaghetti Western. This is not always an easy thing to do on Netflix--especially if you don't already have a title in mind. Following a few clumsy minutes "searching" around on the que (via my X-Box), I decided to re-watch a previously viewed classic, Death Rides a Horse (1967).

Though directed by Giulio Petroni, it is the twin "presences" of star Lee Van Cleef and composer Ennio Morricone that make Death Rides A Horse a clear thematic (and visual and musical) follow-up to Leone's Man With No Name trilogy. In the Eastwood-role is John Phillip Law, later of Barbarella (1968) fame, as Bill Meceita, a man whose family was murdered in front of him as a child by a gang, who 15 years later sets out to exact revenge.

Van Cleef plays Ryan, a recently released from prison gunfighter on his own quest for vengeance, who knows more than he says about Bill's tragedy (a plot point revealed early on when Ryan turns up at the Meceita homestead burial ground soon after getting out of the hoosegow.

Because this film lapsed into public domain years ago, it has been widely viewed via YouTube and any number of inexpensive Spaghetti Western DVD/Blueray collections (I actually have it in two seperate collections alone--though the transfer quality is poor).

Despite lacking the name recognition of the Eastwood/Leone films among the mainstream US moviegoer, among film geeks, it is stands as a classic of sorts. Movie-geek god Quentin Tarentino used many of the motifs, scenes, as well as some of Morricone's score, to great effect in his Kill Bill (2003/2004) films. It is with a film aficionados eye (and ear) that Death Rides a Horse is perhaps best viewed as it pales greatly by comparison to the Eastwood/Leone movies htough Van Cleef is never boring and always brings the "bad-a**" to the rodeo.

Still, as far as "cool" Netflix Westerns (NOT an oxymoron!) go, you could do much worse on a cold winter's day. For a more in depth consideration of Death Rides A Horse, I would strongly suggest the Spaghetti Western Data base's film page here.

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