DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
RETURN OF A MAN NAMED HORSE, THE (director: Irvin Kershner; screenwriter: Jack DeWitt/characters by Dorothy M. Johnson; cinematographer: Owen Roizman; editor: Michael Kahn; music: Laurence Rosenthal; cast: Richard Harris (John Morgan), Gale Sondergaard (Elk Woman), Geoffrey Lewis (Zenas), Bill Lucking (Tom Gryce), Jorge Luke (Running Bull), Jorge Russek (Blacksmith), Claudio Brooke (Chemin De Fer), Enrique Lucero (Raven), Regino Herrera (Lame Wolf), Pedro Damian (Standing Bear), Humberto Lopez (Thin Dog), Alberto Mariscal (Red Cloud), Eugenia Dolores (Brown Dove), Patricia Reyes Spindola (Gray Thorn), Ana De Sade (Moon Star); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Terry Morse Jr.; United Artists; 1976)

 
"The visually stunning pic lacks a genuine force to overcome its mediocrity."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Irvin Kershner ("RoboCop 2"/"The Empire Strikes Back"/"A Fine Madness") directs without distinction this sequel to A Man Called Horse (1970), whose masochistic ritual proved to be popular with the public. The revenge Western has something to say about the greedy whites and their abuse of the Indians, and once again goes through the agonizing torture sequences of the Sun Vow ritual--used to reawaken the white hero's identity and to restore the faith of the dispirited conquered Lakota Indians. Richard Harris reprises his role as the English lord who goes native because he has an "empty soul." Writer Jack DeWitt's schematic plot and unconvincing convoluted storyline becomes too conventional, as the visually stunning pic lacks a genuine force to overcome its mediocrity. The film is predictable after the first twenty-minutes minutes, and only those who wish to see at the halfway point the drawn-out flighty Sun Vow ceremony or some of the action scenes will get anything out of this flick.

In the 1840s, English aristocrat, Lord John Morgan (Richard Harris), returns after a few years of boredom on his vast English estate to South Dakota and the sacred land of the Yellow Hand Sioux, who adopted him, only to find that unscrupulous trappers with government help from the army and rival Indians have destroyed the Indian village and slaughtered most of the tribe and took their women as slaves. The lord, who was given the Indian name of Shunkawakan (aka, Horse), tells survivor Elk Woman (Gale Sondergaard) "I had to come back, there was something missing in my life." Horse then gets purified by taking the Sun Vow ritual and rouses the remaining Yellow Hand survivors to fight and take back their sacred land, or else face certain extinction. Once he gets the tribe on track to take action, it becomes like an inspirational sports movie whereby the underdog rallies to defeat the supposedly unbeatable favorite. It's only a matter of time before the evil whites, such as the slimy trading post leader, Zenas (Geoffrey Lewis, Juliette's dad), are eliminated in their cannon-supplied fort by the revived Indians on the warpath

At least it sympathizes with the Indians (though this Western is as revolting as all those Hollywood ones where the Redmen were the savages). It also shows through the Harris character that not all whites are bad and in a patronizing way it shows that sometimes it takes a white man to lead the Indians when they get too mixed-up over their superstitious beliefs.

REVIEWED ON 5/28/2010       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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