Black Beauty (1971) Poster


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Decent film but not great
UnicornMaiden8 August 2009
This is a movie that can be looked at one of two ways. You can look at it as an adaptation of Anna Sewell's classic novel, or you can look at it as a story about a bunch of people who all happen to own the same horse. I'll do both.

As an adaptation of the novel this movie disappoints terribly. The plot bears almost no relation to the original story. Classic characters like John Manly, Reuben Smith, and Jerry Barker are cut out completely. New characters are often shallow and one-dimensional. Ginger, one of the most important horses in the story, acting as a foil for Black Beauty and with her own heart-wrenching story is turned into a gelding, given about three seconds of screen time and has no involvement in the actual story. The plot, particularly the ways in which Beauty passes from owner to owner, often seems contrived. On more than one occasion Beauty is simply standing around in the middle of nowhere and someone comes along and finds him. Other times he performs some heroic deed which would merit his owners deciding to keep him forever and the next thing we know he's being sold again. While the novel deeply explores the society of the time and the effects of that society (for better or for worse) on both the humans and the animals this movie disregards that aspect entirely. It portrays some rather stereotypical views. Worse, some of the bad guys are just that: bad guys with no depth or personality. Take for instance the young squire who is cruel for no reason and loves to hurt horses just for the fun of it.

As a movie with complete disregard to the book it isn't half bad. The story as it is presented here is not about the horse; it is about all the different people who own the horse. Beauty isn't a character so much as he is a plot device. If you don't mind the focus shifting from animal to human it is an enjoyable sequence of stories. I stand by what I said earlier about many of the characters being one-dimensional, but when the entire cast is reviewed as a whole it displays a wide range of personalities and backgrounds. There is a good balance between kind and cruel owners. Pacing was fairly good. The movie had a nice balance with enough action but not too much. Cinematography was very nice. Many of the shots of the countryside were beautifully done (if occasionally somewhat overdone). Most of the stories were fairly standard plots (a decent farmer at the mercy of a heartless bank, young lovers forbidden from meeting) but some, such as the circus family were rather creative and even the recycled plots were well done. Acting was good overall.

My conclusion: A good animal and people story, but if you want something closer to the source watch the 1994 version.
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A truly sensitive and quite a beautiful lost epic...
lilly_lila30 December 2005
A truly sensitive and quite a beautiful lost epic, The film is a biopic of Black Beauty's life, original in the sense that the tale is told of the horse's life seen through his own sad, profound and wizened eyes. Forget about "If walls could talk..." this film makes you wonder "If animals could talk..." and there is no need to wonder here since Black Beauty's story is told with empathy and is a real adventure through many terrains. From Black Beauty being a circus performer to a war hero to a whipped and maltreated work horse...the film shows a rather fateful and often disturbing life of this beautiful and sensitive horse... the cinematography is wonderful, It really does try to present some rugged images of the English countryside, I think that the hunting scenes evoke a sense of cruelty and violence in a subtle manner since the film shows the squire and landowners in an unflattering light. I would have liked to see some scenes played out a little longer but there is a lot to fit in this film and ultimately the film is about Black Beauty's life and not so much the people he is thrown with by fate.
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Agreeable and entertaining UK/Spain/West Germany co-production shot in gorgeous landscapes with well trained horses
ma-cortes3 August 2016
Set in 19th Century England , about the fates of horses , and the people who own and command them, are revealed as Black Beauty narrates the circle of his life and seen through its own carefree life . It deals with a horse's trials as it passes from an owner to owner . When farmer Evan's mare (Eddie Golden) has a good son called Joe , he promises the black stallion to his child Joe (top billed Mark Lester only worked three weeks) . The youngster enjoy growing up as playmates . Alas , once the good squire is buried , his nasty heir (Patrick Mower) , who abuses animals , turns the screws on till pa Evans is forced to leave and abandon even Black Beauty , but Joe is desperate to get him back . The unfortunate black stallion reminds his life through from his birth through his existence as a colt , and the many hardships , passing several owners both good and bad and suffering hardships after achieving maturity . As the beloved horse experiencing from benevolent guardianship to ignorant abuse by a mean aristocrat . An owner soon loses everything in a cards game , so the stallion ends up in the Hackenschmidt circus whose two proprietaries (Walter Slezak and his daughter Úrsula Glas) show brilliant spectacles and both of whom confronting another circus owner (José Nieto) .

Exciting life of a horse named Black Beauty is here expanded to include the adventures of the humans who surround the horse . Handsome take off of the Anna Sewell family novel but sometimes fails to capture qualities that make Sewell's book a classic . The animals in this film were in no way harmed or mistreated , and all scenes in which they appeared were under strict supervision with utmost concern for their handling . Developed quite energetically and starred by the marvelous horse , as the story is told of the horse's life and through its profound and wizened eyes . The impressive scenery , photography and music enhance the story of ¨Black Beauty¨ and its adventures , sufferings and adversities . The tale is treated in good sense and high sensibility ; environment , horses , landscapes combine to enhance the glories of nature , one of which, after all, is silence . Good cast full of fine British actors as Patrick Mower , the prodigy child Mark Lester , Germans : Peter Lee Lawrence , Maria Rohm who married to film producer Harry Alan Towers and a lot of Spanish secondaries such as Jose Nieto , Fernando Bilbao , Ricardo Palacios , Daniel Martin , Luis Induni , Jose Canalejas and Chris Huerta . Colorful and glamorous cinematography by Fernando Arribas and the Oscarized Chris Menges , being shot in La Pedriza , Manzanares Del Real , Colmenar Viejo , Madrid , Spain and Irreland and Ardmore Studios, Herbert Road, Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland . Furthermore , a sensitive as well as emotive soundtrack ; as Lionel Bart worked on the musical score , working again with Mark Lester as both were involved with Oliver . The motion picture was professionally directed by James Hill . He was an expert on children films and serials for showing at schoolboy cinema . Hill designed his acquaintance with amusements for the young generation and costume adventures blending with Lions (Born free , The lions are free , The lion at world's end) , Horses (Black Beauty) , Foxes (The Belstone Fox) , Elephants ( An Elephant called Slowly) and sea animals as Sharks and Squid like ¨Captain Nemo and underwater city¨. ¨Born Free¨ remains his triumph in which the way the protagonists romp with three lionesses who play Elsa at several stages of growth is near-miraculous . Forever in search of a similar movie to equal this hit , he never quite found it . James Hill best movie turned out to be ¨Studio in terror¨ a Sherlock versus Jack Ripper terror thriller with lurid killings .

Other films based on this classic novel written by Anna Sewell are the followings : First silent version , 1921 , titled ¨Black Beauty ; first sound rendition of 1933 by Phil Rosen ; ¨Black Beauty¨ 1946 by Noel Nossek with Mona Freeman and Richard Denning ; ¨Courage of Black Beauty ¨ by Harold Schuster with Johnny Crawford ; ¨Black Beauty¨ 1994 by Caroline Thompson with David Thewlis as Jerry Barker , Jim Carter as John Manly , Peter Davison as Squire Gordon , Alun Armstrong as Reuben Smith , John McEnery as Mr. York , Eleanor Bron as Lady Wexmire , the notorious Sean Bean , Peter Cook , James Cosmo and ¨Black Beauty¨ 2015 with Luke Perry , Bruce Davison , Sarah Schultz , Jennifer Mckenzie . In addition , various TV movies and TV-series . This equine melodrama for grown-up adolescents and children will appeal to horses lovers ; resulting to be one of the best filmization of the classic story to date.
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Not From the Horse's Mouth
wes-connors16 August 2010
Back when there were no computers, long hours when there was often "nothing on" television worth watching (still true, by the way) made you search the library to look for some interesting books to read. My mother had Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty" on the shelf, but it didn't appeal to someone more interested in Tolkien and Twain. Horses were fun to ride, but could you do that in a book? Teenage boredom finally forced open the pages of "Black Beauty", and the horse was out of the barn. The story was immediately captivating because Ms. Sewell creates a wonderful animal character, and tells the story from the horse's point-of-view.

And, you believed it.

Now, you don't. In this adaptation, the all-important personality of the horse "Black Beauty" is almost non-existent, and the story is altered extensively - it really only vaguely resembles the original novel. Paramount filmmakers might have tried a "narration" to evoke some of the original's "first person" narrative, but they didn't. The animal's personality could still come through (as it does with "Lassie" and other animals), but it doesn't. So, we are left with a human protagonist, cute Mark Lester (as Joe Evans), who doesn't seem all that engaged in the role, and doesn't horse around for long. Chris Menges' photography is quite nice, though.

***** Black Beauty (4/71) James Hill ~ Mark Lester, Patrick Mower, Uschi Glas, Peter Lee Lawrence
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a Mark Lester vehicle...
frankiehudson29 October 2003
This is an excellent little horsey film with Mark Lester, the angel-faced victim of Bill Sykes (Oliver!), now playing the farm boy on what looks like Exmoor or somewhere similar (perhaps Scotland). His nemesis this time is the terrible, sadistic Sam Greene (Patrick Mower) whose mission is to wreak havoc on everyone on his newly-inherited estate following the death of his altruistic father.

Really, it's a bit of a naturalist film, with the actual birth of Black Beauty himself shown and lots of delightful shots of rural, country life in England amidst classical English landscape. There really is some fine cinematography with sweeping panoramic landscapes, etc. The Pro-Hunting enthusiasts in England would now love this film and there are tons of shots of bands of red tunic huntsmen all over the place, with packs of dogs and stuff in hot pursuit.

However, the editing is clumsy and contrived and the director seems to want to create some sort of pseudo-art film, with lots of slow motion shots of hunting accompanied by a cheesy, amateurish soundtrack.
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Nowhere near the Sewell novel
duncanlsu9 June 2014
I'm slightly shocked at a few reviews who imply that this film remains in any way faithful to Anna Sewell's excellent book. It absolutely does NOT. Nothing remains of the book but a few character names and the fact that Beauty is black with a white blaze on his forehead. It's misleading to even associate Sewell's name with this movie. It's quite obvious that several reviewers have either forgotten everything they ever knew about the book, or (more likely) never read it at all. If you are looking for a movie version of the book to watch, look elsewhere.

So, it's just a film about the life of a horse, and as such, it is so-so. The beginning of the movie does have some beautiful shots, set as it is in the British countryside somewhere. But it pretty much goes downhill after that, becoming a series of vignettes about Black Beauty's various owners, with little in the way of real depth, and even less focus on the horse himself.

It's reasonably entertaining for a rainy day. Older children would likely enjoy it most. I am personally unlikely to watch it again, and will be checking out the other versions in the hopes of finding something resembling a reasonably faithful adaptation.
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kcminer7828 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Why oh why did they decided to throw away the classic story and come up with their own version? It feels to me they just stole the title and thought whoever wrote the script can do better than Anna Sewell. My daughter just read the classic story and wanted to watch a movie version. What disappointment we had when it was apparent that we weren't watching 'Black Beauty' but a bastardized story with less than good acting. All through the movie we both wondered aloud whether we had ordered a wrong movie by mistake. Almost all of the characters in the book are absent and the most egregious omission is that the horse is not the narrator. The top billed Mark Lester was less than himself and only in the movie briefly. The other characters are mostly one dimensional and their stories are only glossed over. Of course this is not a miniseries and probably couldn't delve into all of their stories but some story transitions leave me wanting something more. ********* Spoiler ********** I thought I heard the soldier who briefly owns Black Beauty volunteered to go to India but in the battle scene it is clear that the people he is fighting are not Indians. Oh, and how did this movie got a 'G' rating with such violent battle scene? Someone should have warned me and my eight year old daughter. Viewers who want to watch a movie based on the book should be warned that this one ain't so.
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Lazy telling of celebrated novel...
dwpollar26 November 2004
1st watched 11/26/2004 - 2 out of 10(Dir-James Hill): Lazy telling of celebrated novel about the adventures of an almost completely black horse. The adventures are huge, but they are played out very un-magnificently with some scenes being so bad that the movie's almost worthy of turkey status especially during a couple silly love scenes. It all works out in the end with the horse coming back to his starting location with his grown-up original owner but the only good thing this movie does is make you feel bad for the horse. The problem is that at points in this movie even he looks bewildered and fatigued at being a part of this slow-moving fiasco.
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The best filmization of the classic story to date.
verna5510 October 2000
This internationally-produced version of the oft-filmed Anna Sewell classic about the adventures and misadventures of a horse that is seperated from its original owners is the best of several films based on the timeless tale. Mark Lester stars as the young boy who longs to be reunited with his beloved horse. The film rarely strays from its source, and I believe this is superior to the 1994 remake.
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A Series of Unfortunate Events
view_and_review9 April 2019
I don't think a horse has seen so much violence.

Black Beauty, the name of the horse and the movie, is a horse that lived a very full life. He (I believe it's a he) was passed from owner to owner where he was witness to man's worse behavior. He suffered abuse and witnessed about three battles of varying sizes. Fortunately, at times, he was treated to some tender care.

The movie is really a series of mini-movies compiled into one feature length film with the horse as the only constant. Each time Black Beauty moves on we're privy to a new plot, new climax, and new resolution. I think the mini-episodes were simply OK on average. Truly, the only thing going for this movie would be the beautiful horse. Besides, t's not like the horse had any say in the script. Shoot! He didn't even have any say on whether or not he wanted to be in a movie!
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Not awful, but somewhat misguided
Wizard-824 September 2016
In case you are wondering, I have not (yet) read the famed Anna Sewell novel that this movie is based on, though I know a little about it, that being that it was written with the horse's point of view as well as carrying a message that humans should be kind to horses. However, this movie does not manage to do any of those two things, and I think that's the problem with the movie. Despite being titled "Black Beauty", the movie's primary focus is on the human characters in the movie instead of the horse. In fact, the horse is often an afterthought, and we certainly never get a feeling of what the horse is feeling or thinking. While the movie has these major flaws, the movie isn't awful - it looks nice, the human drama is sometimes interesting, and there are no slow spots. But viewers who think they are going to get a story about a horse will likely be somewhat disappointed. By the way, while the movie got a "G" rating back in 1971, some mild language, violence, and some mature themes would earn the movie a "PG" rating today.
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Don't judge the movie by the book.
redwhiteandblue177616 January 2019
Most of the reviewers giving this movie a low rating do so because they don't think it followed the original book. I didn't read the book, but watched the movie. It was fine, with action, adventure, some violence, humor and sadness. Even a touch of romance. So anyone reading this who has not read the book or seen the movie yet, it's good entertainment, but probably not for real young children. For those who have read the book, don't judge the movie on your misguided thinking that movies have to mimic the book. They can be different and both be good.
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A real little gem
rjun678 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This film is a gorgeous little gem from a more innocent age, the landscapes, the characters, and the horse itself, all blend to make an extremely watchable, and yet short film. Many user reviews have been dismissive of this film due to the differences between it and the original novel. But I say, who cares! I have never read the book, but I have seen a 1990's film version which is more faithful, with the inclusion of the Ginger story line, so go and watch that and stop moaning! I found this an incredibly moving story and I thoroughly enjoyed Black Beauty's journey, which goes full circle in a sad but slightly rewarding way, which is enough to leave you with a sense of satisfaction, albeit with a tear in your eye. This movie crams a lot into its 90 minutes, and the pace is fast, but somehow gives the viewer time to soak up the emotional road our equestrian hero is thrust along, including all the ups and downs he has to endure. Highlights for me are when Beauty ends up on the Continent after being sold to a travelling circus, and thereafter gifted to a humiliated hussar by his estranged lover, becoming in the process a war hero, after the horse charges with its mortally wounded master into the enemy cannon. More sad times follow as Beauty is brought and sold, finally almost expiring due to his ill treatment, but just as the old horse drags heavy coals up a steep road, and the tired animal is close to death, redemption comes at last. The final words are very sad, as it gives you the feeling that so much of the horse's life has been used without any real joy, and yet we see the old warrior sent to pasture in a field where horses live out their final days. I wish more films were made like this today, the music is very good and invokes the broad hills and mountains that feature so prominently (Ireland and Spain were used as the filming locations)
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From a good movie to silly
watchtiger120 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This movie starts out well and moves along well, until Black Beauty meets the circus. After that the movie takes on a silly tone that does not make sense to it's early pace.

After Black Beauty joins the circus, it was one travesty event after another with bad accents, bad fighting. Corny music. It's not even worth the cheap price I paid for the DVD.

Very disappointed, if this was supposed to be an adaptation of someones novel they would be screaming about it.

It is unfortunate I can not return open DVDs to the store, even at $2.00(US) it's bad enough to return.
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Equine melodrama for older children
moonspinner553 January 2017
English author Anna Sewell's 1877 children's book is more-or-less faithfully brought to the screen in this handsome 1971 adaptation starring Mark Lester, a hot property at the time following the success of "Oliver!" Awestruck youngster is incredibly attached to a male colt he names Black Beauty, but when his widower-father's farm is sold, the horse is inexplicably included in the deal (a detail which remains perplexing). Beginning with the tender birthing of a foal, director James Hill takes us to a frenzied hunt in the countryside wherein one rider (a glowering horse-hater) blames his horse for falling over on him and has the animal shot. This episode is followed by another in a similar vein, with the same hot-headed villain smacking Black Beauty for crossing his path on a private road. When the boy's farm is eventually sold, guess who the buyer is? One can easily become exasperated by the rote, formulaic storytelling, populated by too few genuine characters, though perhaps horse-lovers and kids won't mind as much. The cinematography by Chris Menges feasts on footage of stallions leaping, jumping, diving--sometimes in slow motion. It certainly looks good, even if the tale is just junior-league soap opera. ** from ****
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What did I just watch?
daughtery20134 January 2019
The beauty of Black beauty was the simplicity. This movie has only about two scenes in it that actually were in the book. I deliberately recorded this and waited to watch it for my birthday, because the book had been a gift for me as a child. I knew every line of it. It led to a career and lifetime of horses for me. There is very little of the original story left in this movie. I think that as a standalone movie, it was okay. I won't watch it again.
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