Rider of the Skulls (aka El Charro de las Calaveras) (1965, Alfredo Salazar)

posted in: Duane, Jocelyn, Joint Review, Review | 0

Rider of the Skulls poster

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After bandits murder his family a man vows revenge & swears to abolish evil in all forms by becoming….The Rider of the Skulls!

Jocelyn:  First of all, this was packaged as a Mexi-horror-western & while that’s partially true, this is NOT a movie. This seems to be episodes of a serial that someone decided to glue together & sell as a film. Every review that I’ve stumbled upon people keep jacking off all over it because it’s quirky, poorly made & apparently it’s really trendy to love things that are awful. (Can we all just collectively decide to put that bullshit to bed?) If you approach this as they were intended – 3 separate shorts – taking them one at a time they’re enjoyable in their own unique way. Imagine the gumption & ineptitude of Ed Wood showcased in a Mexican quickie where a cowboy-esque hero prevails over incompetent villains who take the form of a werewolf, a vampire and a headless horseman. It’s not bad, but it’s no Plan 9.COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00011

Duane: Agreed. It was kind of a fun film, but would have been a lot easier to take in the smaller doses. You’re absolutely right about it seeming like a serial, especially since the Rider’s mask changes drastically after the werewolf episode which left me a bit bewildered. It seems kind of obvious that it was shot at several different times rather than being a singular production.COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00006

The werewolf segment was my favorite, if you squint real hard and are slightly challenged it’s like a Mexican Lone Ranger meets Paul Naschy. The weird way they had the werewolf transform back and forth, first turning into a skeleton then into either man or beast was inventive if nothing else. The werewolf makeup/mask/whatever was pretty cool looking too, I have to admit. He was so angry!COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00013

J:  I’m pretty sure that Rider is played by a totally different person in the Vampire segment. He’s suddenly taller & thinner than in the werewolf episode. I liked how they attempted continuity by explaining that Perico (the boy Rider adopts in the first bit) was in school but they still throw in some random kid to take his place. I guess he didn’t deserve an education. My favorite was probably the vampire; although the flannel werewolf was a very close second. The guy morphs into what is obviously a rubber bat that lingers on screen for what feels like hours. There’s just a bat on a string shaking in front of the window for 20 minutes; why is he not cutting?! Oh, Salazar, you magnificent prick! It was interesting that their take on a vampire was a man with the face of a bat vs. the more romantic representations. Honestly, I can feel nothing but adoration for a man who unapologetically shoots during the day but tells us that it’s nighttime. I love that level of blunt simple-mindedness. When the vampire gives his speech about having to get back to his lair before sunrise in broad daylight, a little piece of my heart couldn’t help but sing.COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00015

D: I dug the horrific/retarded face of the vampire too, and that was my second favorite episode. By the time the horseman bit reared its ugly head (sorry) I was starting to peter out, but the film just got so tedious. I liked how terrible the paper mache severed head looked, and when it spoke to the chick I couldn’t help but laugh. I was impressed that they kept the fucked up head when it was reunited with his body rather than try and emulate the way it looked with makeup. The proportions for the horseman were all messed up but you really have to applaud their efforts. And all of a sudden the Rider decides to fight him with his machete? What machete? He tells the kid so matter-of-factly to get it for him I couldn’t help but flash back to those old Hercules cartoons where he always had what he needed stashed into that goddamn tree trunk. Oh, if only there were an annoying centaur child in Rider of the Skulls

J: Ugh. Yes. I was half-past give-a-fuck by the time the headless horseman came on the scene. While the scaredy-cat comic-relief guy was cute sometimes; his shtick got old really fast. I did love that he kept calling Rider “Daddy” though. Unless I’m missing something (inconceivable!) this isn’t a movie so it’s really hard to review it as one despite it being packaged as such. If you take them as separate stories; they’re a good time – but watching them all at once without the use of drugs or alcohol? It really became a test of my patience.  Machetes should be standard issue, though.  I can’t count the number of times the ability to hack some rude cocksucker’s face off would have enriched my life.COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00032

D: The Headless Horseman should have been pissed that even though he was the star his two amigos looked way cooler than he did with their awesome skull faces.

The comic relief guy got on my nerves fast.  After the bit where he kept going on and on about how “macho” he is and clearly playing it up I was ready for him to meet his end. The “Daddy” thing was just weird. And then there’s the scene where the Rider decides to unmask himself for the benefit of the boy and the “funny” guy – he looks like a normal dude then he puts the mask back on and that’s the end of it. I can’t think of a film that has more head-scratching elements; it’s certainly unique.COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00036

The fact that The Rider was supposed to be this big bad gunfighter that instead ended up wrestling all the monsters added another fun wrinkle to appreciate. And maybe it was it just me, but the skull and crossbones that The Rider was sporting on his coat looked an awful like the logo for The Dwarves. Once I saw that I couldn’t unsee it no matter how hard I tried.COSDS - Rider of the Skulls00039

J/D: While this is not devoid of charm, it also manages to be a bit taxing unless you’re properly prepared. It would be best enjoyed with some droogs over a few bong hits & your spirit of choice.

Official COSDS Nunspank Rating: NS-2_half

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Jocelyn lives on 35 acres of woodland in an undisclosed Appalachian location. When not boozing it up or fighting the power she's tending her organic garden or collecting punk/soundtrack albums. Her best friends walk on 4 legs. She does not own a cell phone.

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