I know, I know…I said October would be the month of terror. But I just HAVE to put this one in; it’s one of my all-time favorite movies. I know a few people will agree with me (maybe not my readers on the blog, but they’re out there).
Tom Burlinson as Jim Craig
Kirk Douglas as Harrison
Kirk Douglas as Spur
Sigrid Thornton as Jessica Harrison
Jack Thompson as Clancy
Based on the works of A.B. “Banjo” Patterson
Synopsis: Jim Craig, the son of an Australian mountain man, is forced to look for work in the low country following an accident that takes everything from him. As he works to prove himself man enough to move back up to his family home, he meets some interesting characters who challenge his ability to do what he needs to do; mainly, the daughter of the cattle baron he works for.
There are so few movies that can convey depth of spirit and determination, and Snowy River is one of them. Jim’s experiences as he struggles to prove his manhood (oh, so archaic, but great fodder for a story!) build him up to be the ideal hero. He makes his own choices, some of which are not the popular options, but they create a strong character, moving from a young man with plans, to a young man with nothing, and finally a man with the world at his feet. You really can’t do much but respect Jim, because he learns from his mistakes and grows up into the kind of man any mother would be proud of.
So what are the keys to this film?
1. Kirk Douglas’ dual role. He’s a great mentor as Spur, and a great challenge as Harrison. Both teach Jim so much on his way to being a man. Spur’s sarcasm and limp perfectly counter Harrison’s no-nonsense, no back-talk attitude. I was pretty disappointed when he was replaced in the second film, because he’s such a hard-ass (even though Brian Dennehy gave a solid performance). Must be from all the arguing he did with John Wayne earlier in his career.
2. Location, location, location. Absolutely STUNNING. I love the harshness of the mountains.
3. The music. Every scene is perfectly scored. I tear up (big surprise) every time I hear Jessica’s Theme (how ironic, right?); I can actually play a simple version on the piano, and would love to get my hands on the original piece.
4. The horses. They’re the crux of this film. It’s like the first version of the Horse Whisperer. Never seen anything like it. Now, I may be a bit biased, since I spent most of my years growing up on my grandparent’s ranch, riding whenever I could, but there’s not many members of the animal kingdom that have such a majestic presence. Denny’s my favorite. (Don’t watch the second one if you’re bothered by animal cruelty. Just sayin’.) And the way the men ride just blows my mind. The best scene in the movie is when Jim takes on the Brumbies alone. Spectacular.
Weepy Meter: 6/10 If you’re moved by scenery, music, and a damn good heroic story, you’ll tear up.
Man Meter: 6/10 He’ll definitely watch with you if he appreciates some history and good, old-fashioned man-making efforts by boys. It’ll help if he likes westerns, too.
Overall Rating: 10/10 It’s on my list of all-time favorites, as I said before. I really can’t think of a single thing that detracts from this movie. Even the chickens play a solid role. And Tom Burlinson’s REALLY cute.