Sunday, December 26, 2004

Death Rides a Horse (1968)

"Hey, look it's a white horse just like the Bible said it would be!"

Genre: Western (Italy)

Starring: Lee Van Cleef (Escape From New York; God's Gun), John Phillip Law (Barbarella; Diabolik)

Directed By: Giulio Petroni

Overview: The bad guys got a double load of trouble. A classic tale of vengeance times two.

Acting: Well I'm partial to Lee Van Cleef, who got his fame from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (he was "The Bad"). His acting style is a little two-dimensional at times but he's got a great sneer and he's a good tough guy. The other badder unwashed evil people in the story of course were a little over the top, but not as much as you'd expect for a Spaghetti Western (so named because they were usually made by Italian Directors and were about as hard to produce as a plate of spaghetti). The acting by Cleef was better than Law's, who seemed to have one emotion, but seething rage is a pretty good thing to watch, so this won't distract, at least not nearly as much as the overdubbing of the original Italian.
Rating: 6

Script: I was pleasantly surprised! Which such great dialogue as:

"Well? Take the dough and beat it!"
"I never leave without finishing my drink…"

before the big bar brawl, you can't go wrong. This movie is FILLED with lines that made me laugh out loud, just seething with Spaghetti Western mentality. Grrrrrr!!!
Rating: 8

Cinematography:The editing in the version I watched was choppy, and I'm guessing the original version had a few more seconds here and there. It looked like someone was literally doing a reel change-over, it was that bad. A great scene in the bar as well as the use of Classic Western Flashbacks worked great. The shootout scenes all have good action, there's a great windstorm during the climax that adds a wonderful element of nervous suspense, but a touch less than professional.
Rating: 6

Plot: You can't go wrong with this one. The protagonist just gets out of 15 years in jail, looking for revenge on the people who sold him out. This other kid whose family was raped and slaughtered is also looking for vengeance on the same people, in the vein of The Crow. The two hook up and there's some great twists and unexpected events that keeps this film outside of the boring predictable easy tale of "Got You Back".
Rating: 8

Mood: Lots of great music in this movie. I tend not to notice that sort of thing, but the score just kept me in the zone. This is a classic Western filled with desert scenes, shootout duels, ambushes and maidens in distress, not forgetting of course the fancy stunts as dudes got shot off roofs and down stairs. This was perfect for its genre. Really fun.
Rating: 7

"Oh Jesus! No! Don't... Oh, phew it's just a gun!"

Overall Rating: 70% (Good Movie)

Aftertaste: Lee says in this movie "I heard somewhere that revenge is a dish that you eat cold." To hell with the Klingons, Quentin, someone musta said it before them. Anyways this movie was truly entertaining and with a great title like Death Rides a Horse, this movie will actually stick around as one of those movies that was innovative enough not to lower the bar on Westerns. Good movie, great ending.