Most people of a certain age remember this film with fondness. It was originally released in 1979 and based on the novel by Walter Farley. A story about a bond between a boy and a horse and dreams versus reality. A heartwarming and emotional watch.
The film, directed by Carroll Ballard (Never Cry Wolf, Fly Away Home), begins with the first part of the film feeling like a dream. A good dream. The cinematography by Caleb Deschanel (Jack Reacher, The Passion of Christ) is a real treat for the eyes and the precious few words uttered by the young actor totally lends to the dreamlike atmosphere. Capturing the beginning of the relationship between boy and horse is totally accomplished. For the scenes of the two on the deserted island you get some beautiful shots of beaches in Sardina, Italy. Glorious. Sound is also a very important factor of the story. Excellent microphone positioning allows you to hear the horse’s heavy breathing and realize the effort being made during the race. To top all this excellence off the score by Carmine Coppolla (The Godfather, The Outsiders) is also wonderful and adds a depth to the images during the long periods of no dialogue.
Despite the excellence technically of the film and the fact that it is a story that is going to appeal to all ages the people behind it were not convinced of what they had so were going to let it gather dust in the vault. It was only when Francis Ford Coppolla insisted that it be released and came on board as an executive producer that it found an audience.
Off the coast of Africa a young boy named Alec (played by Kelly Reno) and his father (played by Hoyt Axton) are travelling by ship. It is not very exciting for the boy to be on the ship so he spends his time wandering around. On one such occasion he sees a group of men trying to tame a black stallion. The boy becomes intrigued and attached to the horse right away even feeding it sugar cubes.
There is a big storm and the ship catches fire. Everyone has to jump into the water in order to avoid certain death. Alec finds the beautiful horse and the two make their way to shore surviving the freezing water together. They are alone on a deserted island. Soon boy and hore learn to trust one another. After quite a while alone together Italian fishermen find them and return Alec home.
Alec is reunited with his mother (played by Teri Garr) and he convinces her to keep the horse, which begins to live in their tiny backyard. The horse is frightened by a noise one day and runs off to a ranch owned by Henry (played by Mickey Rooney). Luck would have it that Henry is a retired horse jockey and sees some potential in the stallion. Using his connections, despite the fact that they have no papers for the horse Henry manages to get the Black Stallion in a race with Alec as the jockey.
The magic of the film comes through in its illustration of the bond between human and animal. It is a film that will move you to smiles and tears, but mostly touch your heart.
Special Features: Pigs!, The Perils of Priscilla, Rodeo, Seems Like Only Yesterday, Crystallization, Conversation Between Ballard and Film Critic Scott Foundas, New Interview with Deschanel, Mary Ellen Mark Discussing Her Photograph’s From the Film’s Set, Trailer, An Essay by Film Critic Michael Sragow