Released to home video in the United States with very little fanfare, THE SILVER STALLION is, quite simply, one of the most spellbinding children's films ever made, transcending the genre to hold both grownups and youngsters transfixed. More's the pity that except for scattered film
festivals, Americans had no chance to enjoy this visionary treat on a big screen.
In its native Australia the 1993 feature was released as THE SILVER BRUMBY, that being Down Under slang for the type of wild horse that roams the mountain country of Victoria. Author Elyne Mitchell created the "Silver Brumby" stories and is personified on screen by actress Caroline Goodall
(SCHINDLER'S LIST). Ranchbound while her husband is away, Mrs. Mitchell types out the pages of her first Silver Brumby tale, which daughter Indy (Ami Daemion) reads eagerly. In the little girl's mind the story unfolds: one dark and stormy night the great horse Thowra is born, the son of the leader
of the herd. But soon the Brolga, another horse, challenges the equine king to a battle for dominance. Seldom do such contests end in death, narrates Mrs. Mitchell, but after an epic clash of teeth and hooves that lasts well into the night, Thowra is left both fatherless and exiled by the usurper.
By himself he grows to become a handsome white stallion. One day cowboys spot the animal and try to seize him. Thowra barely escapes their ropes, and learns a hard lesson in avoiding the treacherous, two-legged enslavers of horses.
Talk of a magnificent, untameable white brumby spreads throughout the territories. One cattleman, referred to as the Man (Russell Crowe), is obsessed with corralling Thowra. He purchases a palomino filly, Golden, to entice the horse into a trap, but instead both animals escape together. Months
later, the discomfort of her first pregnancy compels Golden to return to the Man's homestead to give birth. "She came back to me!" shouts the triumphant Man to a listening Thowra. The stallion counters by luring the Man far away on a fruitless chase, as a providential lightning-bolt shatters the
pen and frees Golden and her newborn for good.
The narrative periodically returns to Elyne and Indy's daily life, neatly dividing Thowra's life into chapters, and at this point Indy realizes the story is no fiction. The Man is one of their neighbors, and Mrs. Mitchell has been chronicling his running duel with a famous brumby as it happens.
Indy and her mother watch him brutally "break" a captured wild horse into a docile beast of burden, and while the little girl begs that the silver stallion be spared the same fate, Elyne sadly declares the matter is out of their hands. In her pages, Thowra now fights the Brolga and wins dominance
of the whole herd, taking them to a secret valley for safety. The Man inevitably returns, accompanied by an aborigine tracker. The riders relentlessly pursue Thowra through miles of dusty outback, until the horse's trail simply ends over the edge of a gorge. The Man finally gives up, assuming his
quarry is dead. But at night Elyne and Indy hear the neighing of the Silver Brumby in the distance.
Inevitably viewers will compare this to BLACK BEAUTY and THE BLACK STALLION (plus WHITE MANE, an early effort by RED BALLOON filmmaker Albert Lamorisse). But THE SILVER STALLION stands confidently on its own; if it seems derivative of earlier films it also surpasses them brilliantly, shearing
off any excess baggage of racetrack intrigue and talking critters. An undercurrent of aboriginal chants, music, and mythic images sets the mood for a legend that comes to life, while the warm relationship between Elyne and Indy Mitchell brings the spectacle down to human scale. Meanwhile Crowe,
far from his NC-17 role as a neo-Nazi skinhead in ROMPER STOMPER, memorably presents an Ahab-like antagonist who's neither evil nor entirely unsympathetic. The work with the animal "actors" is breathtaking, especially the bloody horse-on-horse battles for supremacy. It's noteworthy that in the
popular MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER films (for which Elyne Mitchell had story input) the brumbies were a devastating force of nature, hurricanes with hooves, who trampled farms and stampeded cattle; THE SILVER STALLION, however, shows the struggle for existence through the beast's eyes, persuasively and
Director John Tatoulis gained attention with his debut feature (co-directed with Colin South), the atmospheric 1988 jazz film noir IN TOO DEEP. Since then South and Tatoulis have worked in children's productions, and if American movies met the standards of THE SILVER STALLION, the field of
G-rated live action wouldn't be considered such a commercial and artistic ghetto.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: Released to home video in the United States with very little fanfare, THE SILVER STALLION is, quite simply, one of the most spellbinding children's films ever made, transcending the genre to hold both grownups and youngsters transfixed. More's the pity tha… (more)