Death Rides a Horse (Da Uomo a Uomo) (1968)

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Released 14-Nov-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Scene Selection Animation
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1968
Running Time 110:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Giulio Petroni
Studio
Distributor

MGM
Starring Lee Van Cleef
John Phillip Law
Mario Brega
Luigi Pistilli
Anthony Dawson
Josť Torres
Franco Balducci
Bruno Corazzari
Felicita Fanny
Ignazio Leone
Carlo Pisacane
Angelo Susani
Guglielmo Spoletini
Case ?
RPI ? Music Ennio Morricone


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††††Clint Eastwood wasn't the only expatriate American actor riding the ranges in Spain in the so-called spaghetti westerns in the 1960s; Lee Van Cleef, who had co-starred with Eastwood as Colonel Mortimer in For a Few Dollars More and as Angel Eyes/The Bad in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly stars as the mysterious Ryan in Death Rides a Horse (1968). He comes into conflict with Bill Meceita, played by John Phillip Law (most famous as Pygar in Barbarella), when the two cross paths in their separate pursuits of revenge. When Bill was but a child a band of ruthless outlaws murdered his father and raped and killed his mother and sister in front of his eyes. Now a young man, he has spent his time practising to become an expert pistoleer with the sole intention of exacting revenge on those who destroyed his life. Meanwhile, Ryan is released from prison after 15 years of hard labour and pays an incognito visit to Bill's homestead before heading off in search of those who betrayed him and sold him out to the law many years before.

††† In many ways Death Rides a Horse is very reminiscent of For a Few Dollars More with Van Cleef again playing the role of mentor to the younger and rash shootist. This is not so surprising as the screenplay was written by Luciano Vincenzoni, the screenwriter of For a Few Dollars More as well as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Although their relationship becomes antagonistic when they realise they are chasing the same prey, there is a certain camaraderie and jocularity in their confrontations. Even when Ryan has the drop on Bill, which is most times, he always offers safe advice instead of bullets; instead of shooting the young man, he leaves him horseless, but still armed with his pistol.

††† Ryan's relationship with Walcott is more strained and it is obvious there will be no quarter given in their confrontation. As Walcott, Luigi Pistilli is also recognizable from For a Few Dollars More as Groggy, one of Indio's henchmen, and as Tuco's brother, Father Pablo Ramirez in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The theft of a $200,000 cashbox, 15 years previously, is what has allowed Walcott to establish a respectable life in politics, whilst maintaining his band of outlaws. He has invested and planned wisely, but the fulfilment of his machinations will require a careful evasion of Ryan and the enigmatic Bill. All will come to a violent confrontation set against the sprawling and barren vistas of the Spanish landscape.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† This is a sharp transfer for a film which has seen close to 40 years. It is presented at 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced, preserving its original Techniscope ratio. The shadow detail is only average, but that is often the case with these old spaghetti westerns, and their washed out look. This also applies to the colour with its muted palette, giving the wide Spanish vistas a sun-drenched feel. Low level noise is a problem, probably caused by being compressed onto one layer.

††† There is a minor problem of pixelization and posterization, noticeable on faces and clouds in the sky, however the real problem is a recurring problem with macro blocking. There are two prominent sequences involving fire, at the start and during the climax, where the fire in the foreground is chronically plagued with macro blocking: see 7:30 - 8:50 and 100:44 - 100:55. Although the sequences are relatively short the problem does stand out. I didn't notice problems with film-to-video artefacts, such as aliasing, although there is some telecine wobble.

††† As an old and unrestored print it is no surprise there are plenty of film artefacts in this film. There are a number of occasions where a persistent white mark appears, spanning multiple shots and scenes, suggesting an old problem with the print. For example, at 4:08 - 9:50 there is a small whitish mark in the upper right, although this is the longest sustained period such a mark appears. Also at 54:33 there is a bright orange/red blemish in the middle-left which is very obvious for the split second it is on screen.

††† Subtitles are very accurate.

††† As a single layer disc there is no layer change to disturb you.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† There are five audio tracks: English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Each is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s). There is a language/country option when the disc is inserted, and it defaulted to the English track because I selected Australia.

††† As with all spaghetti westerns, made by Italian filmmakers in Spain, the cast is usually a mixed bag of Europeans and the occasional American B-grade actor. This means that most of the dialogue is done by ADR, and is typically very noticeable when applied to the non-English speaking actors. Van Cleef's and Law's audio sync tends to be much more accurate than their Italian co-stars who have been dubbed.

††† Having said that, the audio quality is quite good and very clear. There is a strange hollow feeling that comes from the soundtrack of a spaghetti western: there is a sharp immediacy to the Foley effects, whether it is the almost high pitched gun shots or the spur-clad footsteps; the dialogue feels disembodied; and the scores are bombastic and operatic.

††† It wouldn't be a real spaghetti western without a musical contribution from Ennio Morricone. Justly famous for his work with Sergio Leone, Morricone has provided a relatively conservative score in Death Rides a Horse, although it does include the great track, From Man to Man. Tarantino used this track in Kill Bill, Vol 1, however he only used it once; in Death Rides a Horse it is used about five times and really starts to wear out its welcome.

††† Although there is no surround or subwoofer activity, I am not one to complain or to lament the absence of a 5.1 mix - this is how a spaghetti western should sound, and this one sounds pretty good.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† Unfortunately, you must suffer through the anti-piracy clip. Thankfully it is less than a minute long.

Menu

††† The menu is 16x9 and is not accompanied by music. As with other MGM titles, there are generic symbols on the menu instead of labels to indicate 'play', 'chapters', 'audio', 'subtitles', and 'return' (which will return you to the initial language selection page that loads automatically on disc insertion). Considering this is a no-frills, single layer disc, it is nice to see the individual chapters are small loops of footage.

Censorship

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R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† This film has been released on DVD in Region 1 and Region 2, and was previously released in Region 4. According to reviews, the Region 1 (released 1 December 1999)† is an abysmal full frame pan and scan transfer with rotten audio. I could find no reviews of the previous Region 4 release, but it was apparently 4x3, and perhaps the same transfer as the Region 1. As far as extras go, the Region 1 includes a biography of Lee Van Cleef, an interactive menu, a trivia quiz, and a critic's review.

††† The Region 2 (released 15 August 2005) is probably the same as the new local release. It has the same running time, a single layer 16x9 transfer in a 2.35:1 ratio and Dolby Digital Mono audio. Descriptions of the menu and anti-piracy clip match what is on our disc. When released the Region 4 will be relatively cheap, so the local disc wins this contest.

Summary

††††Death Rides a Horse is a pretty good example of a solid spaghetti western; it's not up to the standards of Sergio Leone, but it is still entertaining value.

††† The video quality is only average, and suffers from being compressed onto a single layer.

††† The audio quality is much better than the video; although only a mono soundtrack, it very clear and doesn't suffer from distortions.

††† There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Cohen (read my bio)
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPhilips 860, using RGB output
DisplaySony 76cm FD Trinitron WEGA KV-HX32 M31. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationSherwood
SpeakersSherwood

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Re, previous R4 release - AndyM (read my bio)