It occurs to me that B-Westerns like this might be a better example to study for independent filmmakers than classics like Red River and Stagecoach. After all, the work of Hawks and Ford is often impenetrable, easy to admire from afar but not simple to go out and replicate. The B-Westerns like Rider on a Dead Horse present the kind of low-budget efforts we can breakdown and emulate.
The focus is character and story. There aren’t any fancy chase sequences or wild shootouts. It’s basically four characters, three men and one woman, and a handful of locations. Director Herbert L. Strock even shows how to effectively use the same coverage of Apaches on horseback over and over again. It’s all very simple with an alright script and it hinges on the performances. However, if Western filmmakers used movies like this as their model, I feel like their movies would be a hell of a lot better.
This was programmed by the Criterion Channel because of the role Asian actress Lisa Lu plays and she remains the best part of the film. Her defiant, tough but tender Chinese immigrant character stands out among any other depiction of Chinese women I’ve seen in the Western genre. She steals the show and makes Rider on a Dead Horse one to watch.
Watched on Criterion Channel.