Behold a Pale Horse (1964): Zinnemann’s Political Melodrama of Spanish Civil War, Starring Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif

Fred Zinnemann’s Behold a Pale Horse, a Spanish Civil War drama, is loosely based on the life of Spanish anarchist guerrilla, Francesc Sabate Llopart.

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

Behold a Pale Horse
Behold A Pale Horse.jpg

Original theatrical poster

Adapted from the novel by Emeric Pressburger (who’s better known as a director), “Killing a Mouse on Sunday,” the movie miscasts Gregory Peck as Manuel Artiguez, an aging, stubbornly committed war veteran, who continues to wage a one-man offensive, decades after the hostilities had officially ceased.

Exiled to France, Artiguez is lured back to Spain by a vengeful police officer, Captain Vinolas (Anthony Quinn).

Meanwhile, father Francisco (Omar Sharif) advises him that he’s tricked, but Artiguek is determined to return to Spain in order to bid farewell to his dying mother (Mildred Dunnock).

Halfway through, the film bogs down into a ponderous preachifying and moralizing tale.

Met with mixed to negative reviews, Behold a Pale Horse failed at the box-office.  Director Zinnemann held that the Spanish Civil War faded from memory, while Time magazine critic summed it up as “a bad film by a good director.”

In 1966, Behold a Pale Horse was scheduled to be telecast on a major TV network, but it was cancelled at the last minute, at the request of the Spanish government.



Gregory Peck as Manuel Artiguez

Anthony Quinn as Capt. Vinolas

Omar Sharif as Father Francisco

Raymond Pellegrin as Carlos

Paolo Stoppa as Pedro

Mildred Dunnock as Pilar


Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Zinnemann and Gregory Peck
Written by JP Miller, based on Emeric Pressburger 1961 novel, Killing a Mouse on Sunday
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Jean Badal
Edited by Walter Thompson
Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: August 14, 1964

Running time: 121 minutes
Budget $3.9 million
Box office est. $3.0 million