Sep 29, 2008

The Phantom Stallion plus Russell Crowe equals The Silver Stallion

The Silver Stallion (1993)
aka The Silver Brumby

So I went to the library because they had the first season of McLeod's Daughters waiting for me (I know, but I'm watching The Black Stallion...I don't know why I keep insisting on requesting things all at once), and randomly The Silver Stallion was sitting there with it. So, here we are with another movie to revisit.
The magic of the mountain. The obsession of a man. The beauty of the Silver Brumby.

Deep in the heart of the highest and most remote mountain range are the home and hiding place for the legendary Silver Stallion. The ranchers tell stories about the Silver Ghost Horse, that has led them on wild chases, half seen but never captured. For one man, the desire to capture the Silver Stallion has become an obsession, and he will stop at nothing to tame the wild beast. Told through the words of a mother as she writes page-by-page entertainment for her horse-crazy daughter.

The concept for this movie goes along nicely up until that last sentence, because that's where this movie hits a wall. I've never read The Silver Brumby, or any of Elyne Mitchell's novels for that matter, mainly because they're both ridiculously hard to find and expensive. So I'm not sure exactly what's going on, or how true it is to the book, but I do have a hard time believing she wrote herself into her story. This is unfortunate, because it's a beautiful movie and it has a young Russell Crowe in it (so how can it be bad, right?), but then it has to go stumble over itself with this mom and her daughter who spends her time looking down her nose at the men who gather up the brumbies and break them for auction. many stories like this do we need?

Apparently there is an unrelenting demand for these stories. Who am I kidding? Anyway, our movie begins somewhere in Australia. Out in the bush, or whatever. It's raining and the kid, Indi, can't sleep because of the storm. In the middle of the night, some men visit the house to tell Indi's mom, Elyne, that they patched up a fence for her while her husband is out of town. One of these men is The Man (Russell Crowe). Elyne thanks them and then goes back inside to get Indi back in bed and tell her a bedtime story about Thowra, the silver stallion.

Elyne gets all involved in her story, and so she starts to type it up after Indi has gone to sleep. The rest of the story about Thowra will be told with great amount of voice over from Elyne for the remainder of the movie, which is just about all of it. Thowra is born to this palomino mare, Bel-Bel, who is apparently the most independent mare that ever existed, because you don't see her herd for at least half of Thowra's first year. Until he runs into the Brulga, a gray stallion that Elyne has a lot of bad things to say about, along with describing him as ugly, while I think he's probably the most gorgeous horse on the set. I mean, how can you not like a dark, dappled gray? So there's the Brulga, Bel-Bel, Throwa, and Yarroman, Thowra's dad, who is constantly getting into fights with the Brulga.

(Although for the record, Thowra is the cutest foal ever right here.)

Eventually Thowra wanders across the Man, instigating Russell Crowe's obsession with capturing and taming him.

(Okay, so this shot is mainly gratuitous. Whatever.)

There he is! Russell Crowe, with his dog and his black horse. All three Elyne tries to demonize at some point, and it doesn't really work out well for her. We all know Elyne and Indi are morally superior. It's that irritating quality about horse story main characters that makes me want to punch every author of these plots in the face repeatedly. Indi at least is a rude brat, considering how she fails to speak to any man who rides a black horse because of the book her mother has been writing (which, for all she knows, is totally fictional). Although she figures it out at one point that Thowra is real, which means the Man is real, so Indi can go be somewhat justified in hating everyone who rides black horses. Really, the Man isn't evil at all. He loves the horse just as much as Indi does, he just has a different way of going about putting that love to productive use. So given all of this, I found Elyne and Indi a total waste of my time. If they'd just shut up and moved to Melbourne so Russell Crowe could get on with his story of love and obsession everyone would have been better off.

That all said, the man is getting fed up with trying to chase the horse down. So he finds himself a pretty palomino mare to buy. He names her Golden and he trains her responsibly. Observe:

This scene is only important because we're supposed to see how different the Man is compared to the other guys who just jump on any horse and beat it when they get thrown. But at this point, the Brulga has killed Yarroman and stolen all of his mares, including Thowra's mom, so Thowra is feeling his Oedipus complex pretty hard, and wants Golden for himself. He comes down and steals Golden, knocks her up, and Golden, in a state of confusion over suddenly being free, heads back to the Man to have her baby.

Of course, Thowra's all pissed that Golden has the audacity to leave his splendorous presence, so he has to go back down and get the Man to chase him around while the elements converge and lightning shatters the paddock Golden is in so she and her filly can escape...again. Seriously, that's where the story goes insane. The Man is pissed again. He's not having this, people.

Thowra takes a time out to defeat the Brulga and take all his father's mares back, including his mom, so he can stop obsessing over her. Then the Man and his friend launch Operation Obtain That Damn Stallion, which results in Throwa throwing himself off a cliff.

So he dies in the end. Elyne and Indi have their moment of tearful solitude when they hear about this, but then they hear the stallion's voice on the wind because he's a ghost now and happy or something, so they are happy too. Frankly, the Man also sort of cries on his way back from the cliff, and his reaction was way more satisfying. In that he actually had some contact and relationship with the damn stallion. Shut it, Elyne and Indi.

  • This is a really gorgeous movie, but it spends a little too much time on the scenery after a while. Add in all of Elyne's narration and it gets really slow. So eventually you can just fast forward through a lot of the movie, since there's more narration than dialogue anyway.
  • During the whole episode with Golden and her foal, Thowra comes off as an abusive boyfriend.
  • Again, I watched this on my computer and was amused that I could see the tips of the helicopter blades during some of those grand panorama shots. Oops.
  • There was also some side plot going on with Indi, Elyne, a kangaroo, and listening to the bush. I've decided to ignore this because Elyne and Indi are generally annoying.
I think I first saw this in 1994. It was a while back, and I think I enjoyed it more then. I guess I'm becoming increasingly impatient with characters like Indi, but really, they're so holier than thou anyone would be irritated with them after 93 minutes.


sundae_mourning said...

oh man, i love this movie. i loved it so much that i even named one of my Breyer horses Thowra. and i rewatched it when i was about 21 and still loved it, so that should say something to me. though i do recall being slightly confused about what was the story and what was supposed to be real.

Fear Street said...

I have no idea what's going on with this one, but Russell Crowe looks grrreat.

Jo said...

This is the best thing I've ever read about this movie! Way to go! I've seen it several times, liking both horses and Russell but definitely not in that order, and have found the mother and daughter totally unrequired and fast forward through them, watching only the horses and Russell but again definitely not in that order. Just mainly wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading what you wrote and you not only made me smile but chuckle out loud...which is a good thing and to be appreciated. So...thank you.