Death Rides a Horse
Directed by Giulio Petroni
BAMcinématek, November 23 through 25
BAM is dishing out spaghetti (westerns) for Thanksgiving and, no turkey this, the main course is a new print of Giulio Petroni’s 1967 Da Uomo a Uomo [From Man to Man], released here as Death Rides a Horse.
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.
Death Rides a Horse is screening Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; Saturday’s film is the 1973 spaghetti comedy My Name Is Nobody, produced by Sergio Leone; Sunday’s is Sergio Sollima’s 1966 magnum opus The Big Gundown, one of the more politically engaged examples of the genre, also with Van Cleef. The Monday offering is new to me: Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe, an apparent lo mein western starring Klaus Kinski and Chen Lee.