It's inevitable: whenever an actor hits the big time, his pre-fame
movies will undergo a bit of a renaissance. How else to explain the
issue on DVD of a minor film like 1993's The Silver Stallion,
except to capitalize on Russell Crowe's appearance among the cast?
With a giant head-shot on the cover, as well as top billing in the
credits, Crowe is clearly the draw here... never mind that he's a
fairly minor element in the film itself.
Basically, The Silver Stallion is a bit of fluff that's sure
to please horse-crazy teenage girls, and
cause a lot of rolling eyeballs in just about everyone else. Set in
the Australian outback, the film follows the life of an exceptional
"brumby" (wild horse) who happens to be born with strength,
speed, and a stunning silvery coat: hence the title of the film.
Well, actually the coat color of the stallion in question is pale
gold (similar to several other horses in the film; I'm not quite sure
what's so special about his color in particular) and is called not
silver, but "creamy" by the characters in the film, so I'm
a bit lost as to where the "silver" comes from. But if
you're thinking about things like this instead of oohing and aahing
over the gorgeous horses in the film (Russell Crowe is clearly in the
second rank here), then you're most likely not part of the target
Incidentally, if you have a hard time stomaching anthropomorphized
animals, this is definitely not the film for you. The level of
silliness here detracts from the genuine majesty of the animals; for
instance, it's hard to take things seriously at all when not only do
the horses have names, but they're names that they give each other.
Really: the mother horse names her baby when he's born. No kidding.
There's really not a whole lot to the film. Stallion grows up,
stallion experiences life as a wild horse, stallion strives to evade
capture by The Man (Russell Crowe; yes, that's how he's billed in the
credits). Clearly, we are intended to feel that the brumbies should
be allowed to run wild and gloriously free, and The Man is the
opponent, representing horse slavery, or at least dull, domesticated
servitude. The shots of the horse herds running over the plains are
certainly very pretty, but of course, it's hard for this reviewer not
to recall that horses are a very recent European introduction to
Australia: a competing exotic species that could be considered a pest
just as the equally non-native rabbits are. But I suspect that
there's less opportunity for truly spectacular shots of herds of wild
rabbits leaping in stunning beauty over the open plains, so they get
the short end of the viewer-sympathy stick here. (Although I
shouldn't speak too soon: I suspect that fans of The Silver
Stallion probably adore Watership Down as well...) In any
case, it's interesting to realize that the wild horse herds of
Australia have clearly managed to acquire a considerable amount of
glamor and mystique, despite their short
history on the continent.
The best part of The Silver Stallion is the footage of the
wild horses in their natural state; we get to see some interesting
behavior, including winter foraging and a fight for dominance between
two stallions. Viewers who aren't horse fans will probably fidget and
wonder "where's the plot?" during the horse scenes;
horse-loving viewers will probably feel inclined to fast-forward
through the frame story to get to the horse footage once again.
The acting, taken as a whole, is pretty awful. The story of the
silver stallion is presented in a frame narrative of a mother
(Caroline Goodall) writing a story for her horse-crazy daughter,
who's clearly the designated stand-in for all the adolescent girl
viewers. Both the older and younger actresses deliver stilted and
hokey performances. Russell Crowe appears in a fair number of scenes,
but has minimal dialogue; it seems pretty clear that his performance
was motivated mainly by a paycheck, and there's no hint of future
Here's the big question: is the 1.33:1 aspect ratio of The Silver
Stallion on this DVD its correct aspect ratio, or has it been
pan-and-scanned? The DVD case is self-contradictory, claiming
both "Formatted from its original version to fit your screen"
and "Presented in the original 1.33:1 format," and I wasn't
able to track down any facts about its theatrical aspect ratio. So
what's the verdict? From the look of the DVD, I'm going to venture
the theory that it's a pan-and-scan version of an original 1.66:1
widescreen film: most of the time, there's no obvious zooming and
panning, but in the horse scenes, it's often clear that we're only
seeing part of the intended image. Needless to say, this doesn't do
much for the film.
quality of the rest of the image is adequate. The picture is fairly
soft, offering adequate clarity in close-up shots, but lacking detail
in medium- to long-distance shots, and a scattering of print flaws
appears in the image as well.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is nothing to write home about, coming in a
bit under standard. It's flat-sounding, with dialogue often a bit
There are no special features on this DVD.
Silver Stallion apparently won a number of film festival awards,
most likely on the strength of lovely cinematography of wild horses
in Australia. Too bad that footage didn't get made into an
interesting documentary instead of a fluffy movie that will only
appeal to horse-crazy teenage girls. The fact that it appears to have
been pan-and-scanned detracts from the only good aspect of the film,
the horse footage. If you're interested in this movie because it
supposedly stars Russell Crowe, go ahead and skip it; if you are
looking primarily for a movie that shows the beauty of the Australian
brumby and willing to put up with the accompanying silly fluff, The
Silver Stallion may be worth a rental.