Movie Review: ‘Return to Snowy River’

Horse Nation film critic Amanda Ronan follows up on her review of The Man from Snow River last week with this analysis of its sequel.

From Amanda:
After giving a 3 ½ star review to the original Man From Snowy River and stirring up a hornet’s nest on Horses in the Morning radio show, I was given a little homework. Return to Snowy River (1988), according to Jamie Jennings, will ease all my fears and finally convince me that the original and the sequel TOGETHER are the Greatest Horse Movie Ever Made.

The movie opens with Stalker Brumby on the run. He is cornered by five dark figures with rifles. We then catch up with Jim, still aboard Denny, herding horses through the desert. We are told that he has spent the last few years gathering some of the finest mares in Australia, and now he’s headed home to the mountains and to Jessica Harrison.

But not all is well at the Craig homestead. Spur is dead. Stalker Brumby is still on the run, except now Jim is being blamed for his reign of terror. Not to mention the ranch is being threatened by the bigger operations lower in the valley as they search for drought proof grazing for their cattle.

We then are brought up to speed at the Harrison ranch, where Jessica’s hair is looking even worse than usual and semi-grumpy Kirk Douglas has been replaced by REALLY grumpy Brian Dennehy as Daddy Harrison. Jessica is admonished for training a race colt, and then told to put on “something more feminine.” They are headed to a business meeting/horse race with a man named Patton and his son, Alistair. It becomes clear that Patton and his son have more on their minds than business that day. Alistair awkwardly presents Jessica with an engagement ring.

Patton: “It’s the high stepping fillies that make the best mares.” – in regards to Jessica.

I really wanted Daddy Harrison to sucker punch him right then.

Jessica disappears quickly into the crowd without giving any formal answer to Alistair, just as Jim shows up. The horse race begins and the Harrison colt wins… with Jessica as the jockey!

Daddy Harrison is not pleased and her would-be suitor, Alastair, looks mortified.

And then Jessica sees him… she sees Jim.

Jim: “Hello Jess.” (Excited girly giggles abound from the audience.. OK, actually I was the only one watching this… and all the excited giggles came from me.)

Daddy Harrison and Alastair swarm Jessica protectively and attempt to shoo Jim away, but he will not be so easily deterred. Only when Jessica tearfully rejects him and he is outnumbered 4 to 1, does Jim finally leave. Of course, on his way out he manages to perfectly run through Alastair’s series of cavalry tests using nothing but his bull whip, his stirrup leather, and a wooden stake.

With his son’s ego on the line, Patton gets vengeful. He vows to “run off the mountain riff-raff and secure the grazing for the people of the valley.”

Back at home, Jessica starts to make vows of her own. One, she never wants to see or speak to Alistair Patton again. Two, Jim is the man for her. Daddy Harrison has a lot to deal with, seeing as how Patton is threatening to withhold a loan from him if the two families don’t form a “merger.”

After her father tells her the Patton’s dastardly plan, Jessica realizes she must stay away from Jim. She tells Jim they can not be together because the Patton’s would destroy her father and then they would destroy them.

Luckily, Jim doesn’t let her get away. He charges up on Denny and proclaims, “We’re not going to mess up our lives, doing what other people think is right.”
And they fall in love all over again.


They gallop romantically through the mountains…

and finally after 49 minutes and 19 seconds of film… they kiss.

Jessica moves in to Jim’s house and immediately takes the reins of his horse breeding business. Her and Jim propose a contract with Harry Hawker, to provide 100 quality mountain horses to the military every year. Not only would it provide much needed income for themselves, but it would drive business away from the nefarious Patton family. Alastair Patton begins to formulate a revenge plan, but the mountains hold a little surprise for Alastair. They call him Stalker Brumby.

Stalker Brumby kills one of Alastair’s mob and the locals blame Jim and Jessica for the death. They give Jim a final ultimatum: kill Stalker Brumby and send Jessica home, or else.

Meanwhile, Alastair hires a group of thugs to steal Jim’s horses. Jim immediately saddles up Denny and heads out to rescue his herd.

He jumps fallen trees. He soars over ditches. He dives under fallen limbs. He makes the infamous leap!

And then Alastair shoots Denny! The image of Rose Dewitt Bukater aboard the Titanic sprang into my head at this moment. You know the part where she is staring at her fiance and
says, “You unimaginable bastard,” and then spits into his face. I so wanted to spit into Alistair Patton’s face.

Jim mourns the loss of his best friend, just as Stalker Brumby shows up to pay his respects.

Out of mutual need to basically kick some Alastair a$$, man and beast strike a deal.

Let’s do this. (Cue the inspirational soundtrack.)

Do they catch the sinister Alastair Patton? Will they save Jim’s horses from the mob of thugs?

Will the locals force Jim and Jessica to separate? As always, you will just have to watch and see.

While the original Man From Snowy River did not win me over, this one did. The final 10  minutes of the film are epic. The riding was singularly AWESOME. It also had that mystical
horsey-human bond that I felt was missing from the original. How else could Jim tame Stalker Brumby in under 24 hours and then ride him like he stole him? I stand corrected, Jamie Jennings, and I will accept my serving of humble ‘bandicoot’ pie now.

I give the Return to Snowy River a full 4 Golden Horseshoes.

Listen to Amanda’s discussion of the film on today’s “Horses in the Morning” radio show!

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