The legend continues…
1979’s The Black Stallion, a movie unseen by me, spawned a sequel, 1983’s The Black Stallion Returns. The film follows young Alec (Kelly Reno, whose only major credits were theses two films), the owner of a beautiful black stallion horse, whose farmhouse is broken into one night. Some foreign sheikhs who claim to own Alec’s stallion, including Ishak (Ferdy Mayne, Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers), steal his beloved mare “The Black,” and fly him overseas to Casablanca for “The Great Race” where the winner gets to keep any horse he wants. Alec will have none of this and follows the sheikhs around the world, eventually becoming entangled in “The Great Race” in a bid to win back his prized horse.
This is a film of its time, and the time that came after it has not been kind to the movie. It’s not that The Black Stallion Returns is bad — it’s just a rather bland one with little in the way of an interesting story line or dynamic action. The film barrels forward on coincidence and chance, often having Alec meeting the right people at the right time so that the script can keep moving forward. Director Robert Dalva (an acclaimed editor for whom this was his only feature film) is fine behind the camera, but he doesn’t have a lot of flash or flair to give the film it’s own unique imprint.
Wiewers are left with a rather straight-forward tale of a boy looking for his horse, and a big race that ends exactly as you’d expect it to (if you are surprised, clearly you’ve never seen a single movie prior to this). The actors all do yeoman’s work with none of them really standing out very much. Young Kelly Reno’s Alec is your standard precocious boy who just really loves his horse. Kelly exudes the right amount of spunk, but little else. The supporting cast includes Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein) as Alec’s worried mother, Vincent Spano (Indian Summer) as Raj, who Alec meets along the way, and Allen Garfield (The Majestic) as the film’s resident “bad guy” (who’s about as menacing as a stock villain in a kid’s Saturday morning cartoon series). In an uncredited role is the thunder-voiced Hoyt Axton (Gremlins) as the film’s narrator.
Good family entertainment is hard to come by — a lot of it is filled with questionable material or really dull (or outlandish) stories that don’t make a lot of sense. To that end, this is a movie that young children may enjoy due to seeing the world through Alec’s eyes. The Black Stallion Returns is filled with wholesomeness and good morals, galloping along on some beautiful scenery. It’s a movie that families can share together, though I can’t say they’ll be riveted by the experience.
The Black Stallion Returns (Blu-ray) is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. This MGM title – released by Twilight Time in a limited issue of only 3,000 units – features a passable transfer that isn’t going to win any awards. While this is certainly a good step up from the DVD, the image is often filled with tiny imperfections throughout. Colors and black levels are solid and the image is (mostly) clear. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. This is a solid if rather straight-forward audio mix that includes a few well placed directional effects and surround sounds (mostly ambient noises). Also included on this disc is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix in English as well as English subtitles.
Bonus features include an isolated score track and a theatrical trailer for the film.
Upon its theatrical release The Black Stallion Returns didn’t fare half as well as its predecessor (the first film brought in nearly $40 million while the sequel garnered only a third of that). The original is considered a classic. The sequel is less so. I suppose if your kids have seen the first one, they’ll want to see what happened five years later, but parents may not be half as enthralled.