Plot: Having witnessed the brutal murder of his entire family by bandits at the age of 5, Bill Meceita (John Phillip Law) has spent 15 years planning his vengeance. Finding a kindred spirit in Ryan (Lee Van Cleef), an experienced gunslinger seeking his own revenge on those who framed him, the two team up to find and kill Walcott (Luigi Pistilli), a fearsome bandit on the loose. But Bill soon discovers that Ryan may know more about his tragic past than he has let on.

Review: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that I’m pretty sure there is no one cooler than Lee Van Cleef in today’s cinema; the only people who could rival him would have been Bronson or Eastwood. He just had this quiet badassery where he wouldn’t say much but he wouldn’t need to. With his steely gaze he could come across as cold and detached which made him the perfect choice as a gunslinger in the many Westerns he starred in.

Death Rides a Horse is one of my absolute favourite Spaghetti Westerns and after a blistering opening 10 minutes with a family being brutalized and slaughtered we move on 15 years to an older Bill Meceita who is hungry for vengeance. When he meets up with Ryan he discovers the two of them have a similar goal; to kill the gang who A) killed Bill’s family and B) betrayed Ryan leaving him to rot in prison for 15 years.

What ensues is actually similar to a buddy movie with the two men constantly trying to one up each other to see who is more badass. Ryan is more of a mentor as he tries to convince Bill that he has too much anger in him which can ruin his focus on the task at hand. So throughout the movie the two of them keep saving each other’s lives as they messily take out the crew who ruined their lives. 

John Phillip Law had charisma and it’s easy to see why he was cast in the lead role; he has an icy gaze that is reminiscent of Franco Nero from the Django movies. This is still Van Cleef’s show though as he (mostly) outsmarts and outguns his opponents.

There are shoot-outs aplenty and the plot moves along quickly so it’s never dull for a second. The bad guys are suitably hateful and misogynistic as they ride around abusing people and especially women so watching them get what they deserve is satisfying.

When Bill finds out that Ryan isn’t all that innocent it complicates things giving us a tension filled finale.

Ennio Morricone is on scoring duties so as you can imagine the music is fitting although it’s maybe not quite as memorable as the Dollars Trilogy.

Overall, Death Rides a Horse is one of my favourite movies and if you enjoy Spaghetti Westerns then you should definitely check it out; Lee Van Cleef is as cool as always and John Phillip Law is a sympathetic lead.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel

I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it’s a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.