Synopsis: A stirring, riveting, courageous adventure
tale of "a ship-wrecked boy, the horse that rescues him
and the victory that awaits them both."
Considered by many to be the best children and
family film since the Wizard of Oz, "The Black Stallion,"
through its marvelous cinematography, music, direction, terrific
script, talented cast, wonderful editing, and glorious production
values, brings to life in an entertaining fashion, powerful
statements about the relationship between trust and friendship
and personal strength. It is about the powerful bond between
friends; a boy and his horse, man and boy, a wild horse and
human beings. The resulting trust and faith in one another becomes
instilled beyond words and definitions, which empowers all the
lonely characters in the script, helping them to find the personal
courage to conquer personal fears and problems through each
other and through courses of action that are hard to do.
This story starts off with 10 year old Alec
Ramsey (Kelly Reno) and his father (Hoyt Axton) who have a close,
father-son relationship, vacationing on a cruise ship off the
coast of Africa, in the time period of the late forties. While
his father is busy playing poker, Alec makes friends with a
wild, Arabian stallion, whom he calls "The Black."
This powerful stallion is the property of a rather nasty master
(Dogmi Lardi) who catches Alec giving the horse sugar cubes,
scaring him away. Then, in the middle of the night, the ship
catches fire, while in the middle of a storm, and Alec finds
himself overboard in the cold water and in big trouble. While
the horse swims by him and he was able to grab hold of the rope,
his beloved father and the rest of the passengers all die when
the ship sinks suddenly. Thus, begins the beautifully filmed,
well done first half of the movie, that shows the adventures
of Alex and The Black, and their developing bond of trust and
friendship on the island, which heart broken Alex needs after
losing his father, and which the horse needs and enjoys, after
finally finding a supportive bond to a trustworthy, loving human
The film's messages about the importance of
trust and friendship, which empowers us with strength and courage
in our lives, are further developed when Alec and The Black
return to civilization. After Alec and the stallion are rescued
from the island by fishermen, they both come back to civilization
with new challenges to overcome.
The Black, who was at first kept in Alex's backyard,
is startled by the garbage men one morning, who have the misfortune
of looking too much like his nasty old master. The Black consequently
escapes the backyard, and winds up on the large farm of an ex-horse
trainer, Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney). Daily, at one time, was
a successful horse trainer, but now lives by himself out on
his farm alone, without any prospects of future success, becoming
a lonely, old has-been.
The Black and Alec offer Henry a chance to change
his life. When the boy finds The Black, he becomes friends with
Henry, and the two of them not only provide each other with
much needed company and support, but unite to hatch a secret
plan to first of all train Alec to be a jockey, cajole The Black
to wear a bridle and saddle, and then somehow get the horse
into a legitimate race. Henry must put his belief in the horse
and the boy on the line, muster up his courage to try again
his hand at training, and get the horse into a race, trying
to use old connections one more time.
If the plan develops as planned, and he succeeds
in becoming a jockey good enough to ride in a race, then Alex
must muster up his personal courage and try to convince his
mother to let him race the horse, which is no small problem.
Alec's newly widowed mother,(Teri Garr) while overjoyed at getting
her son back, grieves for her husband, and is afraid of losing
Alec once again.
Caleb Deschanel's cinematography is "simply
breathtaking, visual banquet" a crowning achievement in
his career, which rivals such classics as "2001, A Space
Odyssey." It is one of the greatest examples of what can
be done using 35 mm film. For nearly the first hour, not more
than a few pages of dialogue are spoken. Yet the camera is able,
from the beginning of the film, to tell a complicated story
as well as evoke powerful emotions with nothing but pure visuals,
that are enhanced by Carmine Coppola's musical score that really
reflects every "change in mood and feeling in every filmed
scene" as their island adventure progresses. Many feel
that the first half of the film could stand alone as a complete
This highest quality of camera work, enhanced
by a great musical score, continues into the second half of
the film, working with the rest of the elements that make up
a great film; a talented cast, screenplay, direction, pacing,
editing and production values.
The entire cast, under the fine direction of
Carroll Ballard, did a great job in both their ensemble work
and individual parts. The inspiring screenplay, by Melissa Mathison,
Jeanne Rosenberg, and William D. Wittliff, based on the novel
by Walter Farley, gives everyone involved in this production
great material to work with.
Kelly Reno, does an absolutely marvelous job
playing Alec, and performs some incredible stunt work with the
horse. He more than carries the movie, as he is in every scene.
Mickey Rooney is at his best as Henry, and gives
a heart-felt performance, that earned him a best supporting
Terry Garr is great as Alec's Mom, a woman dealing
with not only the loss of her husband, but with her changed
son's behavior, his love and devotion for a wild, black stallion,
and his attachment to Henry, his sort of father substitute.
Favorite, specific scenes include the emergency
situation on the ship, and the boy's rescue by the horse, the
island adventure scenes, the horse training montage, and the
final horse race, beginning when a rather wild Black is paraded
into the arena before the race, on his way to the gates.
Directed by: Carroll Ballard Based on the novel
by Walter Farley - Screenplay by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg,
and William D. Wittliff. Director of Photography: Caleb Deschanel.
Executive Producer: Francis Coppola - Zoetrope Studios.
"The Black Stallion" is highly recommended
Based on the novel by Walter Farley - Screenplay
by Melissa Mathison, Jeanne Rosenberg, and William D. Wittliff.