"The Man From Snowy River," a roundup of kangaroo cowboys and wallaby stew, is as western as chaps and as homey as a campfire. But it's Australian, except for one apple-pie American star.
Kirk Douglas, unabashedly corny in a dual role, sticks our like a saddle sore among the accomplished Australian players. He costars as a sourdough miner with plenty to beef about and as the miner's sour brother, whose beef brings in the dough. The two brothers push a mountain boy into manhood.
The story, based on a well-known Australian poem, is about horses and heroism, a "Black Stallion" for big boys. The plot's a little threadbare, but the film is so visually enticing, who cares? Its was photographed in Australia's Great Divide -- a tribute to the majestic mountains and the individualists who tamed them, says producer Geoff Burrowes. With director George Miller, Burrowes recruited real mountain men (they're called "cracks" in the Outback) for the film's climactic chase scene.
Burrowes does some fancy riding himself in the breakneck pursuit of a herd of wild horses that have seduced a rare throughbred from the Big House.
The hero, orphaned teenager Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) blames the renegade horses for his dad's death. His daring head-long plunge down what looks like a 90-degree cliff to corral them not only squares him with his boss, a California cattleman (Douglas), but also wins him the boss' daughter, Jessica (Sigrid Thornton). She's horse-crazy, like Jim, and after getting off to the traditional bad start, begins to love him as much as her horse.
It's love story that ends in a confrontation -- never mind how -- between the miner and the herder. Douglas meets Douglas in a scene that looks like a rerun of "The Patty Duke Show."
"The Man From Snowy River," with its Cinemascope sunsets, is everything you could ask for in a family film.
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER -- At area theaters.