Can someone explain to me how they got the horse's head into Woltz's bed?

This is not so much, how did they do it without him knowing (as there is always that possibility that he was a heavy sleeper), my question relates more to how did they get Corleone's men onto the premises so that they could cut off the head and plant it in the bed without being noticed?

Or was it the usual case in those days of 'do what the mafia says or become a casualty'?
Was there any backstory to this?

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    relevant... :P youtube.com/watch?v=ESrtX53Kc8Q
    – Skooba
    Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 13:57
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    I suspect the conversation with the night guards was "You let us in, you get a nice little bonus. You refuse us, we arrange a little 'accident' for you. You cross the cosa nostra, you get whacked - capiche?"
    – Pharap
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 7:41
  • Remember when Woltz told Tom Hagen "A man in my position can't afford to look ridiculous"? If word got out that an obscure importer of Italian olive oil so arrogantly defied his power, hr'd have been the laughing stock of Hollywood! Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 4:11
  • This is one of the mission in the Godfather video game: youtube.com/watch?v=0HCqugT_Vh4
    – zmike
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 20:50

4 Answers 4


There are two parts to your question.

  1. my question relates more to how did they get Corleone's men onto the premises so that they could cut off the head and plant it in the bed without being noticed?

This scene was one of the major scenes where Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola wanted to give their readers/audience a sense of the Godfather's powers. Woltz was a movie maker, though wealthy, it would not be a stretch to imagine the Godfather's men were able to overpower Woltz’s security.

Francis Ford Coppola never shows or mentions in his interviews why he doesn't show the process. The scene was intended for us to fathom the feats Don Corleone was capable of if his offer was refused.

Secondly, from the scene where Don sends Luca Brasi to the Tattaglia’s to say he is not happy with the Corleone family, it leads us to think the Don is well versed in such plots and had the capacity to buy Woltz's security too.

Two main themes we identify in this scene are violence and punishment. The way Mr Woltz is portrayed suggests to the audience that he is not a nice man, and we draw this from his incredible wealth, and the fact that he sleeps alone and has no one to share it with. From this we conclude that what is done to him is a punishment. And we know that those who punished have a violent ruthless nature, from the extremity of the punishment. Other themes are Italy and rivalry. The Italian music is a giveaway, to those who haven’t seen the whole film, that the story may be based in or about Italian culture, and the severed horses head suggests mafia involvement.

Woltzs’ character is hard to analyse in this short scene as we don’t see much of his action. However, from what we are told, we get the sense that he is a materialistic money obsessed man. He has an obscenely big house, which, from what we can tell, he doesn’t share, based on the fact he sleeps alone. We draw from this the fact he is a cold hearted business man. Source: The Godfather - Horse head scene analysis

  1. Or was it the usual case in those days of 'do what the mafia says or become a casualty'? Was there any backstory to this?

The answer is YES:

They used a real horse head in the infamous bed scene. The production designer made arrangements with a dog food manufacturer that used old horses to give them the head of a horse that had been scheduled to be killed. One day it arrived packed in dry ice and they had to scramble to film the scene. -

Source: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About “The Godfather” Including the Horse’s Head Was Real!

  • One of the missions in the Godfather video game shows how the horse's head was placed in Woltz's bed: youtube.com/watch?v=0HCqugT_Vh4. But of course, the video game is not canon, so make what you will of it.
    – zmike
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 4:32

The movie does not explain it explicitly

..but the novel offers some clues.

He had been profoundly shocked. What kind of man could destroy an animal worth six hundred thousand dollars? Without a word of warning. Without any negotiation to have the act, its order, countermanded. The ruthlessness, the sheer disregard for any values, implied a man who considered himself completely his own law, even his own God. And a man who backed up this kind of will with the power and cunning that held his own stable security force of no account. For by this time Woltz had learned that the horse’s body had obviously been heavily drugged before someone leisurely hacked the huge triangular head off with an ax. The men on night duty claimed that they had heard nothing. To Woltz this seemed impossible. They could be made to talk. They had been bought off and they could be made to tell who had done the buying.

The Godfather - Mario Puzo


In universe: I always assumed that both Woltz and the horse had been at some stage drugged. It would be very difficult to hide a horse's head in someone's bed without waking them up, or to neatly saw off the head of a conscious racehorse.

Either way, as other posters have highlighted, the key aspect is that people within Woltz' employment could be bribed or blackmailed to carry out at least part of this activity. While it would have been easier to simply kill Woltz, it wouldn't have accomplished much.

As to why it isn't shown on-screen: I assume it is meant to surprise the audience as much as Woltz, and to highlight exactly how out-of-the-loop Woltz had been in his assessment of the Godfather's power (the rising score and Woltz' impotent screams don't leave much ambiguity).

  • There was then the initial, visceral horror that Woltz felt as any human would have and then the intellectual realization that his vast wealth counted for nothing against such men, that he was vulnerable and could not trust anyone around him. I would guess that he probably had a major change of staff. The Godfather relied on personal relationships and blood relatives; all Woltz had was money. I would bet he started wondering if he could find people, nephews, cousins instead of strangers whom he paid. It probably shook him for the rest of his life and left him under Vito's control forever.
    – releseabe
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 11:13

I haven't read the novels. But if you watch closely in the film, when Hagen is being yelled at by Woltz at dinner, he glances over at the maid. In my opinion, that's the signal to her to let Tony, the horse's trainer, for Tony to take care of business. I can't imagine that too many trainers would be willing to do this messy thing, so the maid, Tony, and a couple of other people would have to be paid mighty hefty sums to manage this. So I was guessing 10k or so back in those days. But this is the Godfather's Godson to be set for life. So that's not so much is it?

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    Hi Mellissa, this sounds more like opining than trying to give a definitive answer. Note that Movies & TV, as most of the rest of the Stack Exchange Network, is a Q&A platform, not a forum. Please take the Tour to get yourself acquainted with it. Welcome to M&TV! :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Apr 25, 2021 at 10:06

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