The Black Stallion Revisited

The Black Stallion is an enduring movie that is so re-watchable I bet that most have already seen it a few times. There is a particular pleasure in watching one of your favorite movies with someone who has never seen it, as I did with my wife over the holidays on a beautiful Blu-Ray release.

1979’s The Black Stallion is almost two distinct movies. The first half is the story of a boy and a horse shipwrecked on a deserted island. The second half is their return to civilization. 

The animal star is the Arabian stallion Cass Ole. The boy is 11-year-old Kelly Reno, who’s naturalness gave the role an endearing non-actor quality. I have read that Reno personally performed most of his stunts and learned to swim for the film.

Francis Ford Coppola produced, and Coppola’s father, Carmine, provided the rich, moving musical score. The Black Stallion is based on a 1941 children’s book by the same name, adapted to the screen by a writing team led by Melissa Mathison, an expert at pushing our emotional buttons as she did in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

The standout in this movie is the cinematography of Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff, The Natural, father of Zooey) along with director Carroll Ballard (Fly Away Home) and editor Robert Dalava (October Sky). This visual team’s deserted island scenes evoke powerful emotion without a word of dialogue. Their poignant constructions of light perfectly depict the heartfelt connection between human and animal. (A brief interview with Deschanel is below.)

The Black Stallion is a perfect example of film-making before technology slid into the forefront. The film’s grain is an integral part of its character, nothing is computer-generated, and the reality of location filming is distinctive.

Fire up the big screen and turn up the sound system to remember the time before movies started looking like video games. The Black Stallion always stirs me to tears – and that’s fine with me. 

Quote Of The Day provided by Tom Brown,

“It is of no consequence what others think of you. What matters is what you think of them.”

— Gore Vidal