This week we head back to Australia for some more bandicoot stew, Tom Burlinson, and awesome horsemanship with Return to Snowy River.
Return to Snowy River (1988) opens with Jim Craig, 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.
Unfortunately, not all is well at Jim’s homestead. Spur is dead, Jim is being blamed for Stalker Brumby’s reign of terror, and the ranch is being threatened by the evil McMansion-style cattle barons.
At the Harrison ranch, Jessica’s hair is the worse for wear and semi-grumpy Kirk Douglas has been replaced by REALLY grumpy Brian Dennehy as Daddy Harrison.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 told to put on “something more feminine.” Then we meet Patton and his son, Alistair, who awkwardly presents Jessica with an engagement ring. Patton says, in regards to Jessica, “It’s the high stepping fillies that make the best mares.” I really wanted Daddy Harrison to sucker punch him.
Jessica zips away, leaving Alistair and his proposal flapping in the wind. The horse race begins and the Harrison colt wins…with Jessica as the jockey! Daddy Harrison is not pleased and her would be suitor appears mortified.
Then. Jim. Shows. Up.
Daddy Harrison and Alastair go all patriarchal caveman and immediately swarm Jessica, who tearfully rejects our hero.
Of course, on his way out Jim manages to ride through Alastair’s series of cavalry tests using nothing but his bull whip, stirrup leather, and a wooden stake. With his son’s ego on the line, Patton turns 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 again. Two, Jim is her man! Preach it, sister! This leaves Daddy Harrison in a real bind, seeing as how Patton is threatening to withhold a loan from him if the two families don’t “merger.”
After Daddy Harrison reveals the dire circumstances, Jessica realizes she must stay away from Jim. She tells him they cannot be together because Patton would destroy everything.
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.” YES!!
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 control of his horse breeding operations. They propose a contract with Harry Hawker, a representative from the military, to provide 100 quality mountain horses annually. Not only would it supply much needed income for the Craig ranch, but it would drive business away from the nefarious Patton family. Alastair begins to formulate a revenge plan, but the mountains hold a little surprise for our villain. They call him Stalker. Brumby.
Stalker Brumby kills one of Alastair’s men and the locals form an angry mob similar to the one in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
They tell Jim to hunt down Stalker Brumby and return Jessica to her father or heads will roll! Meanwhile, Alastair hires a group of thugs to steal Jim’s horses!
Jim and Denny to the rescue! They jump fallen trees. They soar over ditches. They make the infamous leap…
and then Alastair shoots Denny!
Jim mourns the loss of his best friend and even Stalker Brumby shows up to pay his respects. Out of mutual need to kick some Alastair a$$, man and beast strike a deal. Cue the inspirational soundtrack!
Will they catch the sinister Alastair and rescue Jim’s horses? Will Jim and Jessica be torn apart? You’ll just have to watch and see!
The final ten minutes of this film are epic. Seriously, put a fork in me cuz I’m done.
I give Return to Snowy River 4 Golden Horseshoes.