Every day seems to be an oddball holiday of some sort. Like Cheeseburger Day (christened, I'm sure, by a Hakari elder of bovine extraction) or Pinata Day (christened, I'm sure, by a Valenzuela elder of equestrian extraction). Well, I hereby decree May 10th to be Spanish Western/Horror Serial Day OR Spanish Western/Horror Abandoned Pilot Day. I'll level with you, amigo; I don't know what production house The Rider of the Skulls crawled from. I don't even know what it was supposed to be. There is scant information available on the web. Signs point to this vaquero* vehicle being a cross-stitch of serial segments. Was the serial ever completed? Are there other chapters curdling and corroding in a warehouse somewhere?
Don't ask me. For all I know, Rider could be a dense anthology. The film is episodic in nature. It follows a poor man's Zorro as he battles a werewolf, a vampire and a headless horseman (!). In that order. The lycanthrope seems to be targeting an orphan and his legal guardians. I'll get to the fanged fleabag in a minute, but I want to establish the fact that The Rider adopts the orphan. He also adopts the orphan's odious, obnoxious caretaker, himself an orphan. Literally. This fat guy refers to our black-clad hero as "Dad" and "Daddy" throughout the rest of the picture. It's fucking weird. It's fucking annoying.
Okay, back to the wuhrwolf. The budget was extremely low, but I have to hand it to the effects crew. The monster masks are wicked in their own beleaguered way. After disposing of Monster #1 (via monkey flips and arm drags), The Rider encounters Monster #2 in...um, a different town. It's a vampire with bat wings for ears! Did I mention that Rider also employs the faculties of a witch, a zombie and two grim reapers? Because it totally does. It was induced in 1965, so writer/director Alfredo Salazar wasn't granted access to gnarly prosthetics or advanced gore. Can you imagine how dope this shit would have been in 1985? It would have been Mexico's rejoinder to Spookies.
Monster #3? The Headless Horseman. A woman finds a bandit's severed noggin in a coffer, and the fucking thing - halfway decomposed - instructs her to reattach it to the host body. She is understandably shaken. Of course, the problem is resolved with violence, but not before Beheaded Billy (shut up, that's my name for him) sasses God. Let's just say that God wins the argument. As you can surmise, The Rider of the Skulls is a buggy, fluky b-wonder. I'm not married to my rating. Honestly, I'm not sure how much I dig this butternut, but I know that I dig it. When it comes to vigilantes whose parents were murdered, Batman is near the top of the list.
*Spanish for "cowboy" or "herdsman."
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 7:29 PM