Saturday, 23 February 2013

No.172 : Wild Stallion

Wild Stallion at the IMDb

Another crappy 1950’s western now - we really need to upgrade our movie package here at the 100+ W Movies Quest - TCM seems to have no end of these ‘classics’.

Wild Stallion is mercifully short at 70 minutes, but they are long, long minutes.

We open as a cavalry post is being decommissioned. A fat, wise old soldier is packing up the stables as an eager new recruit asks about the old white horse. ‘Thank God you asked’ the old man probably thought as we wouldn’t have a film otherwise. We quickly dissolve to a homestead in the old west, 32 years earlier. The pioneer Maw and Paw barely get a chance to wonder when Dan will be back from the fishing hole before they are dispatched by some sharp shootin’ injuns. These guys fire one bullet and one arrow and score two kills - that’s how the west might have been won! In the low key melee a young white colt escapes - remember him for the next paragraph! The injuns torch the homestead and make off just as young Dan appears with the fish dinner.

Alas his acting range can’t convey the trauma, so he just gets on with burying his folks. He manages to plant his oversized parents without getting his hands dirty, just as a helpful stranger appears. He gives a master class in name carving before dropping the boy off at the cavalry’s military school. Things morph into his teenage years as he and the helpful stranger team up to capture wild horses for the cavalry. Dan has never forgotten his lost white colt, ‘Top Kick’, and near wets his pants as he spots his erstwhile steed.

Top Kick is the leader of a big herd of wild horses and although our man gets a rope on it, it soon escapes his frankly creepy clutches. Over the next few years our man busies himself by fighting with the cavalry’s bully boy horse trainer and in pretending to be interested in the token lady, who does nothing but simper and  look desperately for a husband.

After even more dull related horse antics, including one where Top Kick facilitates a horse jailbreak, he and our man are eventually tamed for a life in the military and with a beard wife.

We dissolve back to the old army man who is telling the tale and are meant to be surprised when we learn that the man running the post is actually our man Dan. We also get the joyous news that rather than heading  for the Tesco burger factory, Top Kick is off to San Francisco for retirement - wonder why our butch hero chose there?

Although it’s easy to tear strips off this film it has no pretensions and is simply a ‘Boys’ Own’ style adventure yarn. Any prospect of drama and suspense is lost from the beginning with the narrative all told in flashback. The surprise ending is nothing of the kind and it gets worse when our hero takes the old man along too - he though he was for the old folks’ home!

As is often the case with melodrama like this the score is really booming and invasive, and there is no attempt at characterisation - it’s all boo-hiss - hoo-ray - boooo! The Indians get a bad press, as ever, with them randomly shooting folk and setting fire to stuff for no ideological reason that the film makers address. The plot, although slight, is ridiculous with our hero delivering his catchphrase ‘It’s MY horse’ with monotone dullness and regularity. The horse looks like it’s on day leave from the circus with its flowing mane and perfect timing - hardly a ‘wild stallion’

You can see this playing well in a 1950s Saturday matinee but for me it was a dreadful throwback, with wooden acting and stilted dialogue. Throw in an unlikable lead and a charisma free horse and you’ve got the longest 70 minutes you’ll ever endure. Where’s the Tesco value range when you need it?

Best Bit : My, Top Kick is a boy horse isn’t he?
W rating 6/23

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