Friday Flicks: ‘The Man from Snowy River’

Today, we talk about a true classic. The Man from Snowy River (1982), directed by George Miller, stars a fresh-faced Tom Burlinson and Kirk Douglas.

Our hero, 18-year-old Jim Craig, starts the film in dire straits. His father’s farm is headed towards bankruptcy, while trying to capture a wild Brumby stallion his mare runs off, his dad gets whacked with a giant felled tree and dies, and his gelding breaks its leg. If he could play a guitar (yet another tragedy to add to the list), I’m sure he could have written a stellar country/western song.

An unnamed Mountain Man attempts to cheer him up with some fresh wallaby stew, to no avail. Maybe he should have tried bandicoot?

So he gives him a horse, and that helps a little.

Unnamed Mountain Man: “A man without a horse is like a man without legs.”

Truer words have never been said Unnamed Mountain Man.

We then are introduced to the Harrison family, including the lovely Jessica, and their “irreplaceable thousand pound” colt that just arrived from the city by train. Daddy Harrison offers Jim a job on a trial basis. Now at the Harrison Ranch, Jim and Jessica tie the knot.

Literally, they tied a knot. There was some serious flirtation happening over that knot tying lesson, though. Unfortunately, prickly old Daddy Harrison barges in and tells her she should be thinking about “marriage and children! Not horses!” I’m pretty sure she was thinking about all of the above.

Anyway, Jim is then forced to sit out the muster, which I have to assume is a cattle drive. He’s told to feed the bandicoot and keep an eye on the place while all the real men are gone. I have a feeling he’s going to be keeping an eye on something…or someone…named Jessica. While Daddy’s away, the rebellious daughter and handsome stable boy will play!

But then creepy Stalker Brumby shows up. He cases the joint by the light of a full moon.

The next morning the Brumby herd stampedes the ranch, giving Jim a chance to see his beloved Bess, the mare who ran away with the herd at the beginning of the movie. In a bold move, Jim jumps atop the Harrison colt and gives chase bareback…on a horse who has been trained for less than one week. Clearly, this doesn’t end well. Jim gets thrown at the gate, trampled by the herd, and then Psycho-Norman Bates-style attacked by Stalker Brumby.

Luckily, Jessica rescues him and the Harrison colt. Jim refuses “to hide behind the skirts of a bunch of women” and they are found out pretty quickly. Daddy Harrison is not pleased.

He ends up slapping Jessica and threatening her with a Presbyterian All Girls School. Jessica’s reaction? She runs away in the middle of a thunderstorm, kills her horse, and somehow ends up on a rock ledge 20 feet down and 3 feet wide on the side of a giant cliff. Which all seems a bit ridiculous, except that it gives Jim an excellent chance to rescue his damsel.

And rescue her he does. Afterwards, Jessica tells him that she loves him and wants to be with him. To which he glumly replies, “I have to take you back. I have to finish this job.”

But then he apologizes and tells her he loves her too.

And then he tells her a little more…

After a romantic 24+ hour ride through the mountains, Jim arrives with Jessica at Unnamed Mountain Man’s house, where it is revealed that he is Daddy Harrison’s twin brother and possibly Jessica’s real father! Say wha?!?!?

Spur (Unnamed Mountain Man) takes Jessica home while Jim rounds up 20 lost cattle. Everybody arrives at the homestead just in time to witness the muck hit the fan. Daddy Harrison is in full on tantrum mode about his daughter spending 48 hours in the arms of a stable boy.

Family skeletons are dragged out of the closet one by one, including the fact that Stalker Brumby started out as a wedding present from Spur to Matilda, Jessica’s mother. Paranoid about the relationship between Spur and his young wife, Daddy Harrison threatened to shoot the horse. Matilda set the horse free, where it eventually grew up to lead the Brumby herd and terrorize the countryside.

Jim, after calling Daddy Harrison a bastard, breaking Jessica’s heart, and just trying to leave the ranch in peace, is then attacked by the other stable hands.

He sorts them out rather quickly, but afterwards the two vigilantes turn the Harrison colt loose. Of course, Daddy Harrison immediately blames Jim!

Will Jim be charged for theft? Will they find the Harrison colt? Will Jessica and Jim end up together forever? Who is Jessica’s real dad? And what will happen to Stalker Brumby and his herd?

Well…  You’ll just have to watch and see!

This was a great flick, loosely based on an Australian poem of the same name by Banjo Patterson. It had the requisite angsty love story. Our hero was an underdog and very easy on the eyes in those khaki pants and Akubra hat. The scenery was breathtaking. The horse riding was simply superb as it showed real horsemen, riding real horses, really fast, over some crazy beautiful terrain. The first hundred times I watched this flick, I gave it 3 ½ Golden Horseshoes, but it’s like a fine wine or artisanal cheese… it just keeps getting better with age.

I give The Man from Snowy River 4 Golden Horseshoes.

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