Sep 26, 2008

The Black Stallion: Reinventing a children's favorite to mild jazz music.

The Adventures of the Black Stallion
Season 1.1: Where There's A Will

So this is the first of my Black Stallion marathon, which would make this the second time I've watched this season this year. Weirdly enough. I decided to go back through it because it proved pretty popular in the online poll here, and what the hell, right?

I should first admit that I haven't read most of the Black Stallion books. I think I mainly determined that they were boring on top of being unrealistic adventures I could never exactly get into completely. In fact, I don't think I've read all of The Black Stallion, but like that matters here. The first thing you need to know about this series is that you don't need to know very much about The Black Stallion, because it reinvents the storyline. For instance, Alec Ramsey is suddenly a teenager in 1990 (instead of the 1940s). Instead of living in New York, he lives somewhere in British Columbia. His parents owned Hopeful Farm before his father died. (I presume this happened during the shipwreck...bringing up some questions about what the Drake was considering this is 1990. A cruise ship, perhaps? What was the Black doing on a cruise ship? Well, whatever.) Hopeful Farm is a showing stable, and this is where the Black is currently training. In a field, I guess. The only thing that still holds true to the original story is that there was a shipwreck, the Black saved Alec's life, and they lived on an island for a while. Afterward they came home and ran into Henry. Then...I'm not really sure where the story goes. It just picks up here, in 1990, in British Columbia.

That said, let's get on with this. I don't know if this is the pilot or whatever aired after the pilot, because if it's the pilot...I have a hard time believing it. It's a really random episode, driven entirely by the fact that Henry (and for the record, I did type Charlie just now and had to delete it...who knows how many times that is going to happen) is OLD. He is, like, decrepit. So he's watching Alec and the Black gallop in a circle in a field (this is their training method) and he has something similar to a heart attack after screaming about how the Black needs a ring bit and everyone comes rushing over to help. They call 911 and rush him to the hospital, resulting in emo!Alec.

After wandering around in the field with the Black for a while, he spends some time cuddling with Henry. Only Henry has to wake up eventually, asking for hot dogs and such. Alec is hesitant to give him any processed meat given that Henry basically had a heart attack (it was something heart related...not that I remember now, and no, it's not that important). The doctors discharge him and Henry goes back to Hopeful Farm so he can be depressed over the fact that he's old and decrepit. He's so old and decrepit, he tells Alec he can't handle training the Black anymore. No one could possibly expect him to drive that giant ass trailer they cart the Black around in, after all. And no kidding. The thing is huge.

I have a feeling that trailer gobbled up the bulk of the show's budget, actually. And that's for hauling around one horse. Maybe two if Napoleon is involved. It must be the most awesome horse trailer ever. I can't remember if it makes its way to France and New Zealand later on (really, this show was very cool. France and New Zealand?), but if it did this show gets bonus points.

Moving on, Alec is upset by Henry's admission that he is no longer going to train the Black. He has a long talk with his mother about Henry's condition, where she assures him that Henry is just scared of living now that he's had his brush with death. He's lost hope that he can live life to the fullest now that he's old and decrepit, you see. It's common, so the doctors have told her. I have a screencap of this scene, just because it involves the Ramsey kitchen, which needs to be documented for posterity.

Yes, those are purple cabinets and counter tops. May this never happen again. I'm not even going to discuss Alec's shirt. I remember fashion in 1990 too well, and if I get into the sheer hideousness of this article of clothing I might have to dredge up my own awful memories of this time period. I mean, this was 1990. This was the era where every television show and movie had that hideous saxophone music playing in the background. Who remembers this? Who wants to just die every time you hear it? This show has plenty of that horrible background music, people. It's earsplitting in its mellow, jazzy way.

So Alec troops out to where Henry has stationed himself in his lawn chair, dutifully waiting for someone to pick him up and take him to a retirement home in Florida. Alec insists that Henry is just waiting to die and tries to motivate him, but it doesn't work and Alec storms off to brood. This results in another chat with his mom (her name is Belle, which I'm sure was not the case in the books) that I also have to screencap.

Yes, she's wearing one earring and yes, it's practically touching her hand. She's going on about how she was feeling (sort of, I can't tell if she just forgot her lines and the director liked it or if she actually wasn't supposed to say anything meaningful) when Alec's dad died, but all I could do was stare at that earring. Alec asks her what they should do with Henry (note: almost typed Charlie again) and she just smiles and they walk off, where I guess they're going to come up with a way to sabotage Henry's Florida dreams.

This happens in the form of Pierre. Pierre is Henry's nemesis. Sort of. In that he is Hopeful Farm's riding instructor and Henry thinks anything that is not racing is a waste of time. Pierre thinks the exact opposite, so they never get along. I was almost always convinced that Pierre and Belle would eventually get married, but since they both disappear when the show moves to France I'll just have to fabricate that story in my head. If I cared, anyway. So Pierre tells Henry that he's going to start training the Black, something that Henry is immediately suspicious of. How dare that French riding instructor take over Henry's job! He's just besides himself as he watches Pierre instruct Alec, who falls off of the Black for seemingly no reason. Henry yells about how they're "doing it all wrong" and that there can only be one trainer and Pierre immediately agrees and walks off, giving Belle a thumbs up. Everyone is thrilled!

And Henry and Alec continue to train the Black to run around in a circle in a pasture. Then they load him into that giant trailer and haul him off somewhere while discussing all the junk food they're going to consume on the road.

  • The guy who is riding the Black is an obvious stunt double, but at one point they use him in a scene where Alec is supposed to be speaking to Catherine (the French girl that is training at Hopeful Farm, but really wants to be a jockey and will disappear after this season), but they're still using the stunt double and trying to sync Alec's words over the image when the double's mouth is not moving. To their credit, I never noticed this before now. And I probably only now noticed it because I'm watching it on a computer. So. Yeah. Anyway.
  • Napoleon is a chestnut in this series. Boo.
  • At one point Alec, in a fit of rage after being unsuccessful in tempting Henry back into his job, throws a water bucket at a wall, upsetting the Black. The Black screams and is upset and Alec just yells, "it's not you!" at him. kidding. You just threw something at the wall next to your horse. I think this kid has anger issues.
So, that's all here. More Black Stallion episodes to come.


Molly said...

I never really liked the books as a kid, except for the first one. I'm not sure why I found them so boring, but I did.

The series was pretty dumb, and had nothing at all to do with the books, but...the horse was so pretty.

I can't wait 'til we get to the episode with the retarded kid. And the one with Lucy Lawless, 'cause...hee.

KayBee said...

Actually, her name was Belle.
"She closed her eyes and made herself think of her husband's words early that morning as they had lain in bed: 'His horse is his world, Belle , and we can't drive it out of him....'" (from Son of the Black Stallion , RANDOM HOUSE 2002 edition, page 24)