April 5, 2005

The Man from Snowy River (1982)
Grade: 37/100

Director: George Miller
Stars: Tom Burlinson, Kirk Douglas, Sigrid Thornton

What it's about. A western coming of age tall tale, young Jim (Tom Burlinson) arrives with meager pedigree at the wealthy ranch of cattleman Harrison (Kirk Douglas). In short order, he wins the heart of Harrison's fiery and comely daughter Jessica (Sigrid Thornton), much to the displeasure of her father. But guess who is the hero when troubles come a knockin'? Could it be young Jim? Could it not be?

How others will see it. A moderately competent exercise in Horatio Alger storytelling, fit for family viewing but likely to be of only mild interest to even its target audience, which apparently consists of fourteen year old males.

How I felt about it. When did I give up all hope for this well-intentioned but rather preposterous western epic? Was it when the contemptuous ranch hand did nothing when horse manure was dumped on his boot? Minutes later, when the same antagonist attempts to copy a fancy rope knot? With Jim all smug about it?

Yes, all hope for this half-hearted horse opera was gone before Jessica storms off into bad weather and the mountains, in response to daddy's stern threat to put her in boarding school.

The next morning, she wakes up on a ledge of a cliff? "How the hell did I get here," she must have been thinking. A helicopter would have had trouble placing her there. Never fear, even though twenty hired hands are looking for her, it's our hero Jim who will rescue her, from the most precarious perch imaginable, yet predictable. It wouldn't be romantic, otherwise.

I did like the affected, mettlesome character of Ms. Hume (Lorraine Bayly), brought into the Harrison household to serve as the female alter ego in instructing headstrong Jessica for high society, or what exists of it in Snowy River.

Screen legend Kirk Douglas has a dual role, also playing Spur, the good-natured mountain man brother of Harrison. Their characters are night and day different. Harrison is forceful, wealthy, mannered, and healthy. Spur is helpful, poor, disheveled, and lame.

The young folks who allegedly will watch this film are supposed to observe the good and evil twins, and determine that character and not wealth or appearance makes the man.

As if. Kiddies, you've been lied to. Your character exists as a credit score maintained by soulless corporations, and since failed miner Spur has no credit score, his evil twin triumphs again.