Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 100 mins .
PG . PAL
The Australian film industry has been responsible for many decent films for decades (and some utter crap, of course), but the percentage with international appeal is quite small. That is changing, and it is films such as The Man From Snowy River that have ensured ongoing interest. The film was inspired by the ‘Banjo’ Patterson poem of the same name, and stars numerous respected local talents and a Hollywood big name star in Kirk Douglas, playing two roles.
Stop horsing around, you!
Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) is a mountain boy (he’s not a mountain man until he proves himself), working the land with his father, Henry (Terence Donovan – father of Jason, trivia lovers). When his father is killed in a logging accident and their prize mare runs off with the wild bush horses, Jim decides to manage the property himself, but soon realises he is out of his depth.
On a trip down onto the flats and into town looking for work, he steadies the colt from Old Regret as it is being unloaded from the train, crosses paths with Mr Patterson (David Bradshaw) and, on a whim, asks for work. Promised work, he finds his way to the property of Harrison (Kirk Douglas) and lands a job as an apprentice stockman, stable boy and general lackey.
Like half the sex-starved farm boys on the payroll, he falls for the charms of Harrison’s daughter, Jessica (Sigrid Thornton). Naturally, Daddy is not impressed.
With the men off on a muster, minus Jim, he boasts of his horse breaking skills to Jessica and spends several days breaking in the new colt, successfully as it turns out. When the wild bush horses pay a visit, Jim spots his mare with them, leaps on Harrison’s colt and gives chase, failing to catch them. Upon Harrison’s return, he learns of the colt’s day out and is fuming. Interrogating Jessica, but getting little response, he announces that she is to be sent away to a boarding school. He is Harrison, he has spoken, and that is the end of the matter. Jessica refuses and runs off.
She is eventually found by Jim while out mustering strays, and Harrison is mildly grateful, until he learns that Jim fancies Jessica, and that they bumped into his estranged prospecting brother, Spur (Kirk Douglas), on their little adventure. A few home truths are then brought home. Jim is sacked.
The film hits top speed when Jim is set up over the colt’s disappearance. Determined to get his prize colt back from the wild herd, Harrison calls in the finest riders in the district, including Clancy of the Overflow (Jack Thompson), who brings Jim Craig along, refusing to ride without him. Harrison relents, offers a hundred pounds reward for the colt’s return, and leads the riders off in pursuit. So begins the stuff of legend, and to this day, the ‘stockmen tell the story of his ride.”
The Man gets cracking.
The two standouts of this film are the majestic mountain scenery, and the final chase scenes with that awe-inspiring horse ride down the mountainside.
The film stars many big names and familiar faces including Gus Mercurio (Paul’s father), Lorraine Bayley (The Sullivans), Tony Bonner (Skippy) and Chris Haywood. The sets and costumes are also great, the script is strong, and the various threads that run through the film are well handled.
Most of us know that the original inspired a sequel that was also good (available on DVD soon), with the same two leads but a different American actor to play Harrison (Brian Dennehy). Part two takes the story beyond “Banjo” Patterson’s original poem. With the Region 1 version having been available for a while, it is fitting that at last this film has been afforded a local release.
Those involved in the restoration have made it quite clear that the only way to watch this film now is on DVD in a widescreen aspect ratio (2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced in this case,) with full video and audio restoration. Colours have been corrected and restored and are now strong and solid, and with so much scenery on offer this is very welcomed. There is little in the way of noise or grain, and the overall image is reasonably sharp and clear.
Black levels are good, but shadow detail suffers a little at times. There is some slight edge enhancement on occasions, but nothing too troublesome. While many artefacts have been removed, there is the odd black speck and mark here and there, but considering that this film has not been stored with loving care and attention, then this result is actually very good.
The layer change is well placed and subtitles are easy to read - but are unlikely to be needed by most.
The audio of choice for many will be the DTS 5.1 (that is mostly indistinguishable from the Dolby Digital 5.1) which at times sounds very good, and other times sounds a little ‘forced’. There are no dramas with clarity or synchronisation, though the volume will need a nudge. There is a slight hiss that is also quite negligible.
It is in the quieter spoken scenes that the dialogue seems to come a little too much from all directions, though it is more of a sound spill than anything forced to the surround channels. If you place yourself away from the surround channels, this is no longer a problem. The surrounds are used quite frequently for ambience and the big horsey scenes, including the final ride, and are loud, deep and thunderous with good separation. Generally however, things are good.
Selectable from a very scenic menu, the special features are Banjo Patterson’s The Man from Snowy River – The Poem read by Frankie J. Holden accompanied by footage from the film, The Making of the DVD – Restoring the Man that gives a 15-minute lesson in DVD restoration with particular reference to this film, a picture gallery and original theatrical trailers for the two Snowy River films.
The patriot in you should have seen to it that you have already experienced this film, as it is genuinely entertaining and a real ‘story’ even though it is based on a poem. The name cast does a great job, the cinematography and horse riding are first rate, and when you’re done with The Man From Snowy River you can seek out the sequel, The Man From Snowy River II. Imaginative title, huh?