MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, THE - Content
MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER, THE
From the Oct. 1, 1982, Deseret News
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER — Kirk Douglas, Jack Thompson, Tom Burlinson, Sigrid Thornton, Lorraine Bayly; rated PG (violence, profanity).
Well, we lost "Barbarosa," a nifty little western that played here only a week, but now we have "The Man From Snowy River," an Australian western that, in its own way, is just as enjoyable.
This coming-of-age drama set in Australia, which is beautifully photographed, is based on a legendary poem that all Australians learn as children, telling the story of young Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson), who is forced into manhood when his father dies and he's on his own in the rugged hill country.
He hires on as a cowpuncher at the lowland cattle ranch of hard-nosed Harrison (Kirk Douglas), a wealthy, materialistic sort who is grappling with a spirited feminist daughter (Sigrid Thornton) and his own guilt over some mystery in his past.
Part of the latter has to do with his brother Spur (also played by Douglas), a grizzled, crotchety old gold miner who was a partner with Craig's father. When Craig goes to work for Harrison, he notices the stark resemblance between the two, though neither has acknowledged having a brother.
As is expected by the way Craig and Harrison's daughter clash when they first meet, they eventually fall in love, and there is a symbolic subplot about a wild stallion leading a pack of horses through the wilderness.
These disparate storylines begin to fall together about two-thirds into the film and eventually all are tied up neatly — a bit too neatly perhaps. The feminist daughter converts to submissive girl-in-love too quickly and the freeze-frame on our wild, malevolent stallion is far too melodramatic.
And Douglas' Spur is a bit more caricature than character, which, along with some overdone theatrics from time to time (especially when that stallion hits the screen), tend to detract from the overall drama.
But these are not fatal flaws.
"The Man From Snowy River" is otherwise a sensitively filmed bigger-than-life western with an awful lot of heart and feeling, an upbeat family film that anyone can relate to and enjoy.
In the lead, Burlinson makes his film debut. His boyish looks reminded me of Monty Python's Michael Palin, and while I didn't really feel he was much more of a man at the end of the film than he was at the beginning, he still seems well-suited to the role of the young pioneer who must prove himself.
As Harrison, Douglas wears the role like a glove – and well he should, since he's played similar roles throughout his long career. One of the stronger elements of this film is the man's unchanging stubbornness, right down to the final frames. If his character had softened, as does that of his daughter, it would have been a dire mistake.
As the daughter, Sigrid Thornton ("The Getting of Wisdom") is very good, appealing more during the first half when she is gritty and independent. And some of the smaller roles are extremely well played, such as the other ranch hands, Thornton's aunt and a housekeeper.
As Spur, Douglas isn't as convincing but he seems to be having fun with the role, and some of that just naturally rubs off on the audience. He's pretty funny, and now and then, scene-stealing.
But topping the acting honors here is Jack Thompson, whom you may remember as the young attorney in "Breaker Morant." He plays Clancy, a legendary horseman who knows everyone's background and who expresses the first solid confidence in Burlinson's abilities.
It all leads up to an extremely exciting climactic horse chase, with director George Miller (not the same George Miller who did the recent "Road Warrior") pulling out all the stops. This is Miller's first theatrical directing effort (he has directed and written Australian TV projects), and it is a generally sterling one.
Rated PG for violence and a profanity or two, "The Man From Snowy River" is very entertaining. Don't let those thick Australian accents throw you, by the way. By the end of the picture, you'll have forgotten that you couldn't quite make out some words at the beginning.