The Black Stallion is a 1979 American children's film based on Walter Farley's 1941 children's novel of the same name. It was directed by Carroll Ballard, featuring Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney and Teri Garr.
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
Alec Ramsey is aboard the steamer Drake off the coast of North Africa, where he sees a wild black stallion being forced into a makeshift stable and heavily restrained by ropes leading to his halter.
Captivated by the horse, Alec later sneaks to the horse to feed him some sugar cubes, but he is caught by the horse's supposed owner, who tells him in Arabic to stay away from Shetan and shoves the boy away.
Later in his bunk, Alec's father shows Alec his winnings from a card game and gives him a pocket knife and a small statue of Bucephalus, and tells the story of how Alexander the Great became Bucephalus' master. Later that night, Alec is thrown out of his bunk; the ship has started to capsize.
In the chaos, Alec grabs his knife and his Bucephalus statue, and makes his way to the black stallion and manages to free him. The stallion then jumps into the sea. Alec himself is swept overboard by a gigantic wave. Once in the water, he swims toward the stallion and managed to grab hold of the ropes of the stallion's restraints.
Alec wakes on the shore of a deserted island and starts to explore. He finds the stallion caught in his restraints with the ropes stuck between the rocks. With his knife, Alec manages to free the stallion once again and the stallion runs away.
For a time, the two keep their distance. Alec discovers means to survive by catching fish and seaweed. As Alec suddenly faces a cobra eye to eye, the Black comes to the rescue and kills the snake, only to run off again.
By now, Alec decides to try to get closer to the horse and offer him some seaweed. The hungry stallion finds himself unable to resist, but visibly struggles with his distrust for humans. Eventually, the hunger wins and he takes Alec's offer; their bond has been sealed and the two are now inseparable. Alec even manages to ride the unbroken horse, after many times falling off the horse. One day, a fishing ship arrives, rescuing both Alec and the stallion.
Back home, Alec is given a hero's welcome. The Black has a temporary home in Alec's back yard, but a garbage man not knowing that there is a wild horse in the back yard is chased by the Black, who races off down the street after being spooked by a passing car. Alec chases after him through every part of town, but loses track of him.
The next day, Alec meets Snoe (and Napoleon) who tell him where the Black is. Alec finds the stallion in the barn of Henry Dailey, a retired racehorse jockey, who apparently spent all night catching the Black. Alec arranges for the Black to stay at the barn.
When Alec wonders how fast the Black is, Alec and Henry decide to train the Black for the racetrack, while Henry teaches Alec how to be a jockey. The Black surprises Henry with his speed. Henry immediately starts plotting to get the Black into a match race between two of the country's current champions, to be held at Santa Anita, California. To do that, he sets up a secret demonstration at night where the press can witness his speed, keeping the identity of Alec and the Black secret. The news about the mystery horse is soon widespread and the Black is entered into the race.
The race is the most anticipated horseracing event of the year. Before the two champions and the Black enter the starting gate, the Black gets into a fight with one of his opponents, wounding his leg. Alec does not see the wound until he is in the gate. As he dismounts, the bell rings and the horses take off. Alec desperately tries to stay on his horse and trying to stop him. He falls behind, but the Black won't stop.
When Alec regains his balance, the Black is well on his way to catch up with his opponents. Alec now encourages the Black to run as fast as he can, remembering the wild rides on the island, as they catch up. The Black eventually wins by two lengths.
- Kelly Reno as Alec Ramsay
- Mickey Rooney as Henry Dailey
- Teri Garr as Mrs. Ramsay
- Hoyt Axton as Mr. Ramsay
- Clarence Muse as Snoe
- Michael Higgins as Jim Neville
- Ed McNamara as Jake
- Doghmi Larbi as Arab
- John Burton as Jockey No. 1
- John Buchanan as Jockey No. 2
- Kristen Vigard as Becky
- Fausto Tozzi as Rescue Captain
- John Karlsen as Archeologist
- Leopoldo Trieste as Priest
- Frank Cousins as African Chieftain
- Don Hudson as Zaurog
- Marne Maitland as Drake Captain
- Tom Dahlgren as Veterinarian
The filming locations for "The Black Stallion" took place in Gearhart & Nehalem in Oregon and Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It took two years for the film to be completed.
After it was done, United Artists shelved it for another two years, but Francis Ford Coppola (the father of composer Carmine Coppola) was able to make sure the movie reached theaters.
The beach and island scenes were filmed in Sardinia, Italy and the race scenes were filmed at the Fort Erie Racetrack in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada.
An Egyptian Arabian race horse named El Mokhtar was the producers' first choice to portray the Black Stallion, but his owners declined the offer. He would later appear in the sequel The Black Stallion Returns.
A champion Arabian stallion named Cass Ole was featured in most of the scenes in the movie and another Black Stallion named Fae Jur was the main double for Cass Ole. During the running, swimming and fighting scenes, two other stunt doubles were used in the film.
For the movie, Cass Ole had to wear hair extensions to make his mane look like a wild horse's mane. He also had white markings on his legs and forehead & the white needed to be covered with a black hair dye to transform him into the Black Stallion.
The scene with the cobra took two days to film because the cobra refused to spread its hood for the longest time. During filming, Kelly Reno was separated from the cobra by a pane of glass.
A sequence in the film that made everyone apprehensive was when the Black stomps and kills a cobra that was threatening Alec. A group of snakes were flown in from Milan with a handler who assured the filmmakers that they had been milked of their deadly venom, but just to be on the safe side, a special serum was kept on hand, but thankfully, it didn't have to be used.
The last segment in the movie to be filmed was the shipwreck scene which was filmed at the Cinecitta Studios in Cinecitta, Rome, Lazio in Italy and took three weeks to film. The two portions of the ship (which was an actual-size deck and stern) were designed & assembled by art director Aurelio Crugola and lasted three months. The stern was set on a platform in the tank that had cables attached to pull it in the water as it sinks.
"The Black Stallion" grossed $37,799,643 domestically at the box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, "The Black Stallion" was given an 88% rating based on 26 reviews with an average rating of 7.9\10. It was given an audience score of 83% based on 32,302 user ratings with an average rating of 3.2\5.
Roger Ebert gave the movie four stars, calling it "a wonderful experience at the movies" and described the first half of the film as "gloriously breathtaking."
According to the Washington Post, "The Black Stallion is one of the few movies that justifies the word "sublime." It casts an immediate pictorial spell of wonder and discovery and sustains it until a fadeout that leaves you in a euphoric mood, lingering over images whose beauty and emotional intensity you want to prolong and savor".
Variety magazine said, "Carroll Ballard's feature debut is rich in adventure, suspense and mythical elements and marks the prize-winning short-subjects director as a major talent. Ballard's camera eye and powers of sequence conceptualization are manifestly extraordinary".
1980 Academy Awards
- Special Achievement Award (for sound editing): Alan Splet (won)
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Mickey Rooney (nominated)
1980 Golden Globes Awards
- Best Original Score- Motion Picture: Carmine Coppola (nominated)
1981 BAFTA Awards
- Best Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel (nominated)
1980 American Cinema Editors, USA
- Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film: Robert Dalva (nominated)
1980 British Society of Cinematographers
- Best Cinematography Award: Caleb Deschanel (nominated)
1980 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
- New Generation Award: Carroll Ballard (won)
1979 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
- Best Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel (won)
- Best Music: Carmine Coppola (won)
1980 Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA
- Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing- Sound Effects (won)
2002 National Film Preservation Board, USA
- National Film Registry (won)
1980 National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA
- Best Cinematography: Caleb Deschanel (won) (also for "For Being There")