Death Rides a Horse

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Death Rides a Horse
Death rides a horse.jpg
American poster for Death Rides a Horse
Directed by Giulio Petroni
Produced by Henryk Chrosicki and Alfonso Sansone
Written by Luciano Vincenzoni
Starring Lee Van Cleef
John Phillip Law
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Carlo Carlini Technicolor, Techniscope
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Distributed by United Artists (US)
Release date(s) 1967
9 July 1969 (US)
Running time 120 min (Italy),
114 min (US)
Country Italy
Language Italian

Death Rides a Horse (aka Da uomo a uomo, or As Man to Man) is a 1967 spaghetti western directed by Giulio Petroni, written by Luciano Vincenzoni, and starring Lee Van Cleef and John Phillip Law.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Bill (John Phillip Law), a boy whose father was killed and mother and sister were raped and murdered in front of him by a gang, sets out 15 years later to exact revenge, having used the time to become an expert marksman with a gun.

Each of the outlaws bears a characteristic that Bill memorized while watching his family slaughtered. One has a tattoo of four aces on his chest, another a scar, one a distinctive earring and one a necklace bearing a skull.

As he begins his journey, a gunfighter named Ryan (Lee Van Cleef) is released from a prison after serving 15 years there. He was framed for an armed robbery by the very men who murdered Bill's family.

When they meet along the way, Ryan gets the better of Bill, who is blinded by vengeance, but he does Bill no harm. When the tables are turned later, Bill reciprocates, helping Ryan escape from a jail. But even though Bill has successfully killed the man with the aces tattoo, the more experienced Ryan insists on tracking the other outlaws alone. An equally determined Bill sets out ahead of him.

Bill is captured by the outlaws, beaten and buried alive from the neck down. Left to die in the hot sun, he is rescued by Ryan, who shoots several men standing guard. Preparing for the gang's return, Bill notices that Ryan is wearing a necklace with a skull. Ryan admits he was present during the murders. He gives his word that once the outlaws have been dealt with, he will remain to face whatever justice Bill seeks.

In a final shootout during a sand storm, the last remaining man who killed Bill's family has him dead to rights, only to be killed by Ryan's thrown knife. Bill nonetheless insists on revenge. Ryan's gun is empty, so Bill tosses a bullet to him. He has just one bullet left now himself. Ryan turns his back and walks away, daring Bill to shoot him in the back. Bill fires, but it is only to kill a surviving outlaw. A grateful Ryan then watches him ride away.

Cast[edit]

Releases[edit]

Wild East released this in its uncut theatrical version on a limited edition R0 NTSC DVD in 2011.

Reception[edit]

In his investigation of narrative structures in Spaghetti Western films, Fridlund ranges Death Rides a Horse, together with Day of Anger as prime examples of a "tutorship variation" that further develops the play on age/experience between the protagonists in For a Few Dollars More, with Lee Van Cleef playing the older partner in all three films. In the "Tutorship" films, a younger protagonist seeks the more or less reluctant partnership of an older one, but differences of motivation eventually bring them into conflict.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

  • There are several influences from and references of Death Rides a Horse in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill:
    • Just like whenever the angered hero of Death Rides a Horse encounters one of the bandits who wronged him and killed his family, footage of the original wrong which is being avenged is superimposed over the hero's face; the same thing happens in Kill Bill whenever The Bride confronts one of the Deadly Vipers.
    • The main theme of Death Rides a Horse is used in Kill Bill. It is the trilling flute and mixed choral piece played when The Bride calls out O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguards at the House of Blue Leaves.
    • The scene where the main character, Bill, watches his family being murdered is, in part, reenacted in the animated scene of Kill Bill. Here the skull necklace is depicted as a skull ring, worn by the man who kills O-Ren's father.
    • Bill, taken captive by someone he is out to kill, is buried alive and left to die. The same thing happens in Kill Bill to The Bride.
  • "Death Rides a Horse" is a 1970 reggae single from the Hippy Boys. It appears on the B-side of Max Romeos single "melting pot" on the Pama Unity label

Bibliography[edit]

  • Fridlund, Bert (2006). The Spaghetti Western. A Thematic Analysis. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company Inc. ISBN 978-0786425075. 
  • Hughes, Howard (2010). Spaghetti Westerns. Harpenden: Kamera Books. ISBN 978-1-84243-303-4. 

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hughes, p.82
  2. ^ Friedlund, p.165ff

External links[edit]