Man Called Horse, A

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 05/02/04 17:23:38

"Feels a whole lot like a cinematic apology."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Admired and popular enough to yield two sequels (and this was 30+ years ago) was Elliot Silverstein's "A Man Called Horse", a flick heavy on the pro-Native American slant that was so popular in the early 70s.

Full of sincere and earnest portrayals of a people generally presented by Hollywood as brutal savages, these flicks catered to a certain sense of social guilt and succeeded.

But that's not to say A Man Called Horse is push-button or simply reactionary; it's also a fairly compelling little Old West tale in its own right. The story itself couldn't be simpler: a bored and wealthy Englishman finds himself captured by the Sioux Indians. At first he's treated like an animal (hence the "horse" label) and a captive.

Before too long our protagonist meets up with a goofy half-breed who can act as translator, rescues a handful of tribal tots from a certain death, and eventually earns the respect of his former captors.

It's all very socially aware and nature-friendly, and the tale is a worthwhile one indeed; too bad A Man Called Horse moves so slowly for much of its running time. Richard Harris is quite excellent as the captive John Morgan, and he easily keeps the plight of his character a fascinating one throughout.

There are a handful of truly memorable moments (most notably Morgan's final "test" - which is fairly gruesome and technically quite impressive) and Silverstein's camera has a flair for capturing the expansive outdoor settings - but the flick moves at a deadly glacial pace.

Up until the big masscare finale, of course.

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