Picture if you will a Thomas Hardy scenario set in the rugged country of South Australia; cast Kirk Douglas in a dual role as feuding twin brothers (give one a pegleg), throw in a mysterious black stallion to lead a group of wild horses across the countryside, and plug in a feminist undercurrent in the person of Kirk’s daughter. This is The Man from Snowy River, the latest big Australian release, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this busy film.
It is directed by a fellow named George Miller – but wait, it isn’t that George Miller, not the Mad Max-Road Warrior George Miller. Oh, there’s some snazzy editing, and some highpowered Dolby sound effects, but this is not the work of the Max man. It is the work of a director who has a real flair for the dramatic – better make that melodramatic. I’m not going to give away the plot, because much of the fun of watching The Man from Snowy River is discovering all the various twists and turns; some of them are pretty wild, and director Miller milks them for all the worth – and frequently for more than they’re worth.
If the whole thing is overblown, it’s still nice to see some liveliness in a Western again. It’s also nice to see Kirk Douglas enjoying himself – he chews on a couple of lines as though he had been searching for them for the last twenty years. Also a must-mention: a mindblowing sequence with a horse and rider charging down the side of a hill that doesn’t seem to be too much less than a 90-degree cliff – it’s not a faked shot, either, because the trees growing out of the hill are practically parallel with it , as we can see when the horse rushes past. You gotta see this – it’s worth the price of admission.
First published in The Informer, November 1982
Big hit in Australia, but undoubtedly confusing for anybody trying to keep their George Millers straight. There was a 1988 sequel, and if I am not completely insane, it was pretty good, too.