Man From Snowy River (1982)


Our rating: 4 out of 5

Rated: PG

reviewed by Angelina MacGhil


As a huge fan of stories of Australian stockmen, wild brumbies, and the bush country that belongs to both, this movie has understandably become one of my favorites. Based on "Banjo," Paterson's The Man From Snowy River ballad, this movie is a supreme example of the Australian filmmaking industry. It has great acting, great scenery, wonderful music, and best of all, relatively few flaws, good horses and a good plot.  


The year is 1888, the country is southern Australia, and young Jim Craig and his father Henry have come to a financial fork in the road: to keep their home in the bush high country, their only choice is to hire out as a team on the flats. Their only choice, that is, until they discover that the feral black Thoroughbred and his brumby mob have journeyed back over the mountains and returned to the high country for the first time in twenty years. Henry is intent on shooting the stallion, knowing that he can only bring grief, as he did the last time he was seen running on the ranges, but Jim persuades his father to think otherwise. 'There are some good horses in that mob. They'd be worth a fair bit,' he says. 'Trained and broken, they might,' Henry agrees. The plan is formed: they'll yard the wild horses on Kelley's Track, break, and sell them.  


But fate has other things in mind for Henry and Jim Craig. As they're cutting down mountain ash and splitting rails, the black stallion returns to steal Bess, the Craigs' mare... and while doing so, causes an accident that will cost Henry Craig his life, and Jim Craig his right to live as a mountain man in the high country. Exiled to the flats by the "high council of the high country" so that he might earn the right to live in his beloved high country, Jim Craig finds the town all of a flutter. Today is the day that Old Regret's last foal, a colt worth a thousand pounds, will be delivered to his new owner, a cattle rancher named Harrison, by none other than 'Banjo' Paterson himself. This Jim has to see. However, as a young stockman brings the splendid black horse down the ramp, a dog barks and startles the colt. Jim springs to the rescue, jerking the rope from the stockman's grip and calming the spirited gelding, only to find out afterward that the "stockman" is a "stockwoman": Harrison's own beautiful daughter, Jessica.


Needless to say he's gotten himself on her bad side, at least, but fortunately Harrison is too worked up about the arrival of his colt to pay Jim much notice. It is Paterson who thanks the young mountain man for his quick thinking, and it is Paterson who agrees to find him a job: on Harrison's cattle ranch. Thus begins his life on the flats, a life fraught with his rivalry with the other stockmen at the ranch, his romance with Jessica, and the discovery of a secret begun long ago between Spur, a grizzled old miner who has long been Jim's close friend, and Harrison. This is a movie filled with side plots and all sorts of extras that deviate from Paterson's original manuscript, but it makes for a splendid watch...especially if you like horses and mountains. Tom Burlinson is wonderful as youthful Jim Craig, Sigrid Thornton does quite well as Jessica, and Kirk Douglas gives a great double performance as Harrison and his brother, Spur. Jack Thompson shines as Clancy, the "horseman magician" held in reverence by simple stockmen and ranchers alike.  


I'm happy to say that this movie has relatively little that the Christian viewer might find offensive. Profanity consists of three d*mns, one bast__rd, one bullsh*t, and a few crude expressions, including 'Jezebel' and 'harlot,' tossed at a gold mine of all things. God's name is never taken in vain. There is no sex; the romance between Jim and Jessica consists of shy glances and two kisses, although they do spend some time alone in the mountains. At one point in the movie Spur makes some suggestive remarks to the cook at Harrison's place. He tells her she gave him his favorite part of a chicken: 'the breast,' unless it be 'tenderloin,' and then he pulls her on his lap, but fortunately they're interrupted before anything else occurs. Curly and two other men are seen smoking from time to time. There's a scene in the barracks where the men have obviously been drinking for hours; Curly is passed out on his bunk. Violence consists of a fight in the barracks between Jim, Curly, and one of Curly's henchmen, and it's mostly flying fists.


Curly does try to bring a broken bottle into the equation, but Frew, another stockman but on Jim's side, brings him up short. There's an implication that Frew killed someone in the far past; with a gun on Curly, he says, 'I've done it before, so help me, I'll do it again.' Harrison slaps Jessica, with the result that she runs away. Later on he begs her for forgiveness, obviously penitent. We see wild horses run over a man, which is a sore spot with me as this will almost never occur in real life, with wild horses or tame. A horse's primary defense is flight, meaning his legs, and if something lies in his path he will almost always swerve to avoid it, or jump, to protect his legs. It's implied that the black stallion stamps and paws and strikes at Jim, but we don't see the impact or the result. Early on in the movie we see a horse on its side with its leg obviously injured, and Jim reports to his father that 'the gelding's broken its leg; we'll have to put him down.'  One of the stockmen can be heard reading the Bible, but this is the extent of the involvement of Christianity in this movie, sad to say. Still, while they don't mention Christianity overmuch, they don't mock it or abuse God's name at all either, as mentioned above. Overall, The Man from Snowy River makes a great movie for young teenagers and adults, whether they're fans of horses and the Australian Alps or not.