Hey again, folks. It's been about a year since I started doing this and I realized I haven't been too consistent. So time to give you some extra luv by doing TWO movies this month. I may just do this periodically until I match the amount of months this has been going, but, eh, we'll see. As long as you get good reviews of movies you hopefully like, right?
This time we go back into familiar territory, one with the guy who's only underneath Clint Eastwood for squint factor just because he's not Clint Eastwood. Again for the month of April, gents and ladies (whichever ones are hiding around here), I present to you....!!!!
(just a fair warning, although the film's overall pretty standard, the opening does include a pretty disturbing-yet-subtle "molestation" of a mother and daughter at the hands of bandits - it lasts about a minute or more, with no clothes being ripped completely off, but it still gets even a hardened film-goer like me - FAIR WARNING!)
The Stats: Director: Giulio Petroni Cast: John Phillip Law, Lee Van Cleef, Luigi Pistilli, Anthony Dawson Type: Spaghetti Western Supercool Trivia: Heavy inspiration (which I'll list at the end) for Kill Bill Availability:Amazon US (NOT a good transfer) - Amazon UK (IS a good transfer) - Amazon Germany - Amazon France (same as UK it seems) Overall, the availability of this in GOOD quality depends on whether you have a region-free player.
The Content: Checklist:
DVD has Italian Dub - CHECK! (UK only) Shot in Spain - CHECK! Lee Van Cleef - CHECK! Awesome Gun Tricks - CHECK! Dynamite Explosions - CHECK! Molotovs - CHECK! Saloon Sequence - CHECK! Card Game/Casino Stuff - CHECK! Mexican Village With Downtrodden Villagers - CHECK! Evil People Gaining High Position - CHECK! Robber Betrayal - CHECK! Revenge Plot - CHECK! Fictionalized Western Duel - CHECK! Unique Horse Stunts - CHECK! (loosened saddles) Hero Torture - (kinda) CHECK! (just a few lashes) Exploitation Movie Rape - (kinda) CHECK! (just a few fondles) Inspired Kill Bill - CHECK! (list later) Heroic Duo (where one's Van Cleef) - CHECK!
So I know what you think. You think this is yet another Lee Van Cleef starring vehicle, right? Or even if not, it's your typical team-up of him and say, Tomas Milian (as in The Big Gundown) or Guiliano Gemma (Day of Anger). ENCH! Whereas this film is the idea of teaming up Lee Van Cleef with John Phillip Law (of Danger Diabolik and Space Mutiny fame), the actual result is very interestingly a darker (especially for 67), sometimes symbolic, well-written, and dramatically satisfying film. It's no wonder this heavily inspired Quentin Tarantino and other potential contemporaries. (I know it inspired me, that's for sure!) But without further ado, let's move onto what makes this movie so cool, shall we?
To begin, one thing this film does have in spades is a sense of pace and ambience that is specifically written, directed, and executed. Some spaghetti westerns kind of plod, are cranked out, and sometimes just don't always gel. Navajo Joe, Long Days of Vengeance, and The Big Gundown suffer from issues like that. Sometimes it's the director, sometimes the script is just boring, and sometimes the budget or crew just can't pull it off. But in the case of Death Rides A Horse, we really have something that actually flows damn good. From the beginning heist/family slaying, to the subtle and amazing way Lee Van Cleef is introduced to the audience, to John Phillip Law's first executions of violence and revenge, and it keeps going to the finale of the film - this flick actually has some pretty well connecting stuff to it and it shows that many people involved were happy to be doing the picture.
The plot begins with as mentioned, a heist of a huge lot of money that ends up turning real sour when the nearby ranch is turned into a massacre by four of the bandits. They kill the husband, wife, and daughter - but miraculously, the son survives, brought out of the flames by a mysterious figure. As the boy watches the death, however, he recognizes key elements about every one responsible for his family's destruction. A scar on the face, an earring, a face, and a tattoo of four aces across the chest. At the end of that massacre, the boy is left with a burnt down house and a fallen spur of a specific variety. With this to go on, the boy grows up to be Bill (Law), a mean shot with either a Colt or a Winchester (some of the gun tricks/bits that the actor does in the showcase scene in the beginning of the film are really good, by the way, and goes to show a little style count for a lot).
Meanwhile, Ryan (Van Cleef) is released from prison after being in for 15 years. He takes off his dark black gloves of shame, prison, and his old ways and throws them aside as he heads off into a new life. However, not long after being out, he realizes he's being followed by a pair of strangers. After crossing paths with Bill already Ryan is forced to kill these two men in black in self-defense. The sheriff, however, notices something and goes to talk to Bill.
The sheriff reveals to Bill that he's found two more spurs exactly like the one on Bill's mantel, coming off the boots of one of the men in black who attacked Ryan the previous night. Bill heads off on horseback to follow Ryan and try to get to the bottom of what's occurring.
To reveal anymore would be criminal, but the two do start up the unusual friendship (and the interesting aspect of Van Cleef looking at Law as a bit of a surrogate son given the young man's heroic personality and determination) and begin hunting down the rest of the bad guys responsible for the death of Bill's family and the betrayal of Ryan.
There's a few slow spots here and there, but the film is overall pretty well-paced, every beat of action appreciated and fun, with never a dull or "repeated" camera angle. The action itself overall is very clever, with a lot of great gags that make you laugh, smile, and sometimes widen your eyes a bit with their ingenuity. They're not overtly complicated, but it's not stuff you're used to seeing. The buddy gunfight at the end of the movie is particularly awesome for this very reason. It's not wall-to-wall action like Sabata, but what's there is quite good.
The overall look of the film helps guide you through the story, as well. The director of photography, Carlo Carlini, also did The Big Gundown (which makes me want to get that secret fan-made special edition even more) and his talents are put to amazing use in the landscapes and sets of the film. The production design and shots also seem to be very in tune with eachother, where you'll notice some very dynamic and stylish compositions due to the intentional set building. (that or they found some left-overs that worked real good on Carlo's inspiration ) The look is also VERY dusty and dry, so much so I suggest you get a bottled water or soda to keep you company and quench your thirst. (this also may have to do with one scene in particular I won't spoil) So as far as spaghetti westerns go, it had some much better production values and good crew in this respect, too.
And to end, since this is one of the best and biggest elements of the film (I'm staying mum on the performances since I was a bit zonked to focus on'em this time around) - THE MUSiC! Ennio Morricone pumps out the tunes as well as always, even if he does use a couple of tracks from For A Few Dollars More, with a theme that's varied and flourishing with energy and subtle strength. The overall vibe has a choir/choral sense in most of the pieces that give it this mythical and somewhat "Biblical" quality (which works well as the film deals thematically with redemption, good and evil, and even at one point the idea of a savior), which is something that was sometimes attempted but never succeeded as well as this film's music does. Tis a fine piece of work in this respect and one of the best aspects of the flick, helping to round out and fill the picture with a good emotion.
All in all, the film comes together well, even if there's a few bits that drag (like a shot here or there). It's the kinda flick you point to when you want to say, "See?! Spaghetti Westerns rocked!"
And remember, try to get your hands on the UK release, the transfer is GREAT.
The Kill Bill References
I've added this here to list at least a few of the things that Kill Bill takes inspiration/pays homage/downright steals from this film. It's pretty obvious QT dug it.
#1. The shot of the four bad guys going to the house (it's pictured above) - used in KB Vol 2's Church Scene #2. The Family Massacre flavor - Oren Ishii's anime sequence memory (down to the eye close-ups, recognizing aspects, and setting the place on fire in the same way. (this one is uncanny) #3. Vengeance Flashbacks - red hue, close-up, super-imposed image, same as The Bride's when Ironside plays in KB. #4. Van Cleef's shirt/pants - Snake-charmer Bill's pants/shirt in KB Vol 2's finale #5. (paraphrased) Trailer's Line: "The bandits who killed five defenseless people made one big mistake - They should have killed six!" - The Bride's line of Oren Ishii "and in an El Paso church, she had a hand in the murders of 9 people, including my unborn daughter. But on that day she made one big mistake. She should have killed ten."
That's all I can remember now. Real tired. >_>
Okay, folks, that's it! Phew. What a doozy.
Last edited by EvilFutsin on Wed May 07, 2008 1:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
I actually own the German version, which has all kind of languages to chose from and seems to be essentially the UK version with a different default sound track ... and if it wouldn't be so late right now I would almost pop it in right now ... And yes, there are a few scenes - at least one - which are worth not being spoiled !
There is only one thing, which I can take the opportunity to comment on now: the notorious copy protection nagging at the beginning and the end. And, on the other side, no nothing extra inside the box: no inlay, no transparent cover to use the backside of the outside cover, not even ads, just the disc. I mean, if it was a nice box with a booklet or such, then I would accept some nagging about the copy protection. But the overall impression is not very customer friendly. Anyway, this is almost too much distraction from a really good spaghetti western.
First of all, another great review that compells me to rent or buy the movie! Secondly, including a youtube trailer is a fantastic idea! Having a real preview handy like this is a very nice touch. Just a sec.....AHA! My buddy on TS just added Death Rides a Horse to his netflix cue. I'll get to watch this sooner than expected! I guess I should really consider trying netflix myself. They carry a heck of a lot more westerns than my crappy local video store would ever dream of.
EDIT: With Futsin's approval, I've updated all previous MOTM reviews to include trailers where available. I suggest you go back & look at previous movie reviews. Also, huge props to Lethal for making post editing functions so darn easy.
Last edited by ReD NeCKersoN on Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
I found it! In a Walmart bargain bin in a four-pack called Western Heroes. Maybe not the Euro version, but should be OK. It came with Beyond the Law, God's Gun and Cry Blood Apache. Should be fun! Chain
Well...Mr. Chain Blue Lightnin' hisself..heh, heh!
Psst, Deadman - you may wanna use the Edit function before the admins show up. ^_^
But yeah, you're right, totally forgot to mention that one (keep in mind I stayed up until 4AM writing that review - kinda silly of me), they do play the theme for Death Rides A Horse when Sofie's arm (well, the first one if you're watching the uncut version) gets hacked off. Kerthwackle-splurt.
I still haven't seen every movie that Tarantino took music from for KB though. I've seen Death, Fistful of Dollars, obviously there's The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Il Tramento when Sentenza approaches the farmhouse at the beginning is used when the audience first officially meets "Bill"), and I did see Long Days of Vengeance (which I oughta review given I keep talking about the damn thing so much). But I haven't seen The Mercenary (where L'Arena comes from), The Grand Duel, or Day of Anger. Hm. I got some searching of my own to do.
Fantastic review Evil one. That looks like my kind of film. I never knew so many were out there with the Cleefster. I, for some odd reason, dig the spaghetti style sound effects from the gun shots... ricochetting and all.
Perhaps this one would deserve a special batch of Red Neckerson's famous Habernero Chili and some cold ones. Can't wait to watch it. Loved the You Tube trailer addition as well. ~Hasta
EvilFutsin wrote:And remember, try to get your hands on the UK release, the transfer is GREAT.
Not sure what release Ten Beers rented from Netflix, but it wasn't a great transfer. The audio in particular kinda sucked in the beginning, but got a little better as the film went on. However, this is a spaghetti western that delivers! Great film & it kept me more than interested throughout. John Phillip Law's performance could have been a little better (very similar to his "iffy at times" performance in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) but Lee Van Cleef didn't disappoint in the least. Ennio Morricone's soundtrack topped it off nicely & there were no attempts at being overly "cute" by the director that I could detect. Rough, tough & full of stuff. Lot's of classic scenes that remind me of Leone's work. A permanent part of my collection now & a film that I will watch many times over. Hey Chico, habenero chilli indeed for this one! And mucho gracias to Ten Beers for the hook-up. Get your hands on this one folks. This is as "spaghetti western" as it gets.
As Futsin said, the awful first part sets up the mood for wanting these bad guys dealt with! It feels much like the classics, "Fistfull..",etc. to me in a way, though it never made the big time. I recognized the same beautiful Spanish? desert area used in Fistfull of Dollars on the rides to "the small house". They really let the guys who get shot ham it up in this! Twitchin' and writhin'! My Walmart version is a bit pixely on my 42" HDTV. Could be my DVD player. Good movie!
Well...Mr. Chain Blue Lightnin' hisself..heh, heh!