the colonial theatre marquee

Death Rides a Horse

Directed by Giulio Petroni. Italy. 1967. R. 114 minutes. Private Collector. 35mm.
Fri., November 16, 2012

“It’s a Gothic title and the movie opens like a horror film, with a graphic mass murder on a dark and exceedingly stormy night. These killings constitute a prologue to what follows. Like many Italian westerns, Death Rides a Horse is a revenge story. It’s also a perverse buddy film in which a traumatized young gunslinger (John Phillip Law) and a mysterious older one (spaghetti axiom Lee Van Cleef, never better) compete with each other to wreak vengeance on the same gang of criminals. Petroni’s direction is crude but effective. Replete with baroque torture and acid flashbacks, Death Rides a Horse unfolds in a starkly primitive world—if not a desert on the planet Mars. The obligatory Ennio Morricone score (quoted in the magpie assemblage that is Kill Bill) is among the maestro’s most striking, full of choral chanting and pounding kettle drums.” (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice)