Hot and Cool
Robert Buchanan | Wisconsin | 05/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This minor Spaghetti Western features all of the genre's requisite elements: dynamic cinematography, brutal violence, gunplay galore, quirky black humor, goofy dialogue, sloppy dubbing, a double-digit body count and the Tabernas Desert substituting for the U.S.-Mexico border region. Fans of Leone's and Castellari's contributions to the genre will find a lot to enjoy in Giulio Petroni's dark, cunningly plotted effort.
As usual, Lee Van Cleef is perfect in the lead, portraying a former convict bearing a murderous longstanding grudge with his sly trademark arrogance. John Philip Law's performance is adequate, but superficial; the cult actor clearly hadn't yet found his niche. Their characters are separately in pursuit of the same gang of aging SOBs, and they function as both partners and rivals in revenge - while Law's hotheaded young desperado only intends to settle the score in a series of duels, Van Cleef's experienced gunslinger is willing to subdue his malice for the opportunity to turn a profit. Most of the villains are played by the genre's familiar thugs, and Mario Brega and José Torres are as sleazy here as they ever were. Anthony Dawson is particularly revolting as a bandit turned two-bit casino owner.
Like so many of his early scores, Ennio Morricone's music is vital, rousing, chaotic and altogether thrilling. Although the film's composition is somewhat haphazard, the vibrant Technicolor stock yields at least a few beautiful scenes.
Even by Digiview's standards, the A/V quality of this disc is terrible. The picture is plagued by relatively few compression artifacts, but it's taken from a very rough print, and the 1.33:1 pan & scan formatting very nearly ruins a few scenes in which shoddy editing is utilized as a poor alternative for the movie's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Far worse than the picture is the sound, which is unbearably loud and crude; at its worst, the dialogue of the soundtrack is unintelligible. Video thumbnails provide access to numerous scenes.
Because it's in the public domain, "Death Rides A Horse" has been released on numerous budget DVDs like this one, most of which are reportedly of similar quality. This is worth the dollar that one might pay for it at a thrift, dollar or department store, but if you have a DVD burner, there's no reason why you can't just download it from one of the many sites on which it's available. What this movie deserves is a digitally remastered edition in its theatrical aspect ratio, but unfortunately, its present status has ensured that such a release will surely be unprofitable, and therefore unlikely."
Dancing Ganesha | Bangalore, India | 02/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Lee Van Cleef is awesome. He was never a "pretty" actor in any way, shape, or form, but his charisma was quite palpable. I will watch anything with Lee Van Cleef in it merely because he's such a strong actor and can put spice and an element of danger in almost anything he portays.
"Death Rides A Horse" (yeah, goofy title, I know), is a great film that deals with the theme of vengeance, which always works well for the average Spaghetti Western. Add to this a great soundtrack by the most prolific man of film music (Ennio Morricone) and you've got yourself a true classic."