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The Black Stallion Movie Review

Reviewed by Jeffrey Rolo

Walter Farley's perennial horse novel, The Black Stallion, has remained a favorite among horse lovers since the year of its release. And for good reason! The story in many ways plays out like a modern-day fairytale where a boy and a wild, untamed steed strike up an unlikely friendship and proceed to "conquer" the world and any detractors.

The plot is well known among most horse lovers, but just in case you haven't yet had the opportunity to read the novel or watch the film here's a simple rundown:

Alec Ramsey (played by Kelly Reno) and his father are traveling aboard an ocean cruiser. While exploring the ship one day Alec takes notice of some men trying to herd an absolutely unmanageable black Arabian stallion named Shitan into a room/stall. The boy is instantly drawn to the horse, but the horse has an unyielding spirit and a deep mistrust of people.

Disaster strikes when a fire erupts on the ship. The passengers are forced to leap overboard into the unknown midst of the ocean, as does Alec. But before he bails, Alec frees the wild stallion from his stall so that the horse doesn't perish with the ship.

The two are eventually washed up on a sandy island that is anything but a tropical paradise; the only source of food for young Alec is a healthy quantity of seaweed. The stallion, who Alec comes to call Black, races about the island, keeping a wide berth from Alec. But despite his initial mistrust of Alec, the stallion slowly develops a friendship with the fellow castaway.

Eventually the two are rescued and brought back to America, but while Black is fiercely loyal and protective of Alec, his spirit is such that suburban life is too constraining for him. The owner of a nearby farm, Henry Dailey (played by Mickey Rooney), offers his barn and pastures for Alec's horse. Alec comes to learn that his new friend and mentor was a former racehorse trainer, and succeeds in sparking the old fire that once raged within Henry.

Black and Alec prove to be a formidable racing pair, so formidable in fact that two racing champions agree to challenge this mysterious black horse. Can Alec and the Black Stallion beat these champions against all odds?

The Black Stallion is a family film, but it's not a kid's film. I distinguish the two because although this is a wonderful movie for kids of all ages, it is a film that will equally captivate adult viewers. The story is rather simple, but the execution is almost flawless.

Director Carroll Ballard truly had an eye for beauty, because the cinematography is absolutely spellbinding. The first half of the film ranks among the finest cinematic works I have ever seen (and being an avid movie fan, I've seen a lot) everything from the ill-fated cruiser sequence to the isolation of the abandoned island drips with atmosphere and awe-inspiring scenes.

Sometimes horse movies can try a little too hard to trigger the viewer's emotions through exaggerated actions or speech. The Black Stallion takes the opposite approach, and can actually be considered downright sparse at times; for example, not one word is uttered for a long length of time while Alec and Black are on the island. This subtle approach serves the movie very well because the viewer isn't distracted by needless verbal exposition and can instead focus on the beauty of the horse, story and surroundings.

The second half of The Black Stallion is not nearly as powerful as the island scenes, but it's perfectly serviceable as an underdog/racehorse flick. While it doesn't capture the heart like the first half did, we still emphatically cheer on Alec and his proud steed.

If you possess a fondness for horses then chances are you've already seen this film or read the book, but if by chance you haven't already watched this movie I strongly encourage you to do so. The Black Stallion is a near-flawless adaptation of the original novel and an essential movie for all horse lovers.

Rating: A+



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