Black Horse Canyon
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Matthew Crossman (18th April 2016).
The Film

There is a wild black stallion roaming loose in the pastures and he's causing a bit of a stir. Named Outlaw he used to be the property of Aldis Spain (Mari Blanchard). When she did have him under control she taught him several tricks including how to open gates (don't ask why). Now he's loose again and he is opening the gates of several ranches and releasing the mares within. Further down the pasture is Del Rockwell (Joel McCrea) and his young friend Ti (Race Gentry) who are setting up their very own ranch and hope to populate it with wild horses from the surrounding area. Rock, as he is known and Ti come across what they think are wild horses and round them up and deposit them in their new ranch. Unbeknownst to them they are in fact branded horses from the ranch of a man called Jennings (Murvyn Vye). Jennings sees Rock putting his horses into the ranch and accuses Rock and Ti of being horse thieves. Jennings decides not to hang them on the spot but to take them back to town and let the Sheriff deal with them. On the way to town Jennings stops in at Aldis' ranch and she explains that Rock and Ti are not horse thieves but it was Outlaw who released Jennings' mares. Jennings agrees to let Rock and Ti stay with Aldis until the Sheriff investigates and in the meantime Jennings and the men intend to go out and capture Outlaw. Jennings lures Outlaw to Rock's ranch and manages to pen Outlaw in, however Outlaw has other ideas. Outlaw rears up and attacks one of Jennings men and kills him. Back at Aldis' ranch the Sheriff has cleared Rock and Ti when Jennings shows up and asks that the Sheriff go and kill Outlaw for killing his ranch hand. Rock steps in and suggests that Aldis should be given the opportunity to re-capture outlaw and asks Jennings to leave it in their hands for a week. Jennings and the Sheriff agree. Rock tells Ti that they should both go after Outlaw but before they can leave Jennings arrives and offers Rock a deal. If he can keep Outlaw away for the week he will give Rock four thoroughbred horses. Rock turns him down and he an Ti go out looking for Outlaw. The next morning, just as they are about to catch the wild stallion Rock and Ti are shot at by Aldis who thinks they are in cahoots with Jennings. Rock explains the situation and all three then resume the hunt for Outlaw. After three days the group finally manage to snare Outlaw and coral him into a makeshift ranch. That night Jennings and his men sneak into Rock's camp and release Outlaw. Now Rock, Ti and Aldis have precious little time to find Outlaw again before Jennings or the Sheriff put a bullet into him.

Simply Media have taken the time and effort to release another fine film starring Joel McCrea. I have to admit that I have not seen many films starring McCrea but the ones I have seen he appears to be playing roughly the same character. Here, in 'Black Horse Canyon' McCrea plays Rock, a world weary but kind and compassionate cowboy who just wants to settle down and have his own ranch of horses. It's when he and Ti, a young man who has been basically adopted by Rock since he was twelve and working in a saloon because he was an orphan, come across Aldis, the pretty female owner of a nearby ranch that things start to get complicated. The problem is that Ti is attracted to Aldis and Aldis seems to be showing much more interest in Rock. It's around this love triangle that the film works so well. Not only are the three actors involved good looking (although McCrea is starting to look a little worn around the edges by this time, in 1958) but the lines they are given are, at times, pure gold. McCrea might not have been known for it but his comic timing in 'Black Horse Canyon' is excellent and produces many moments when the viewer will at least have a good chuckle if not laugh out loud. The action with the horses is well presented and it's obvious that the horses have been trained well (The horse that plays Outlaw is the very same, distinctive, horse that features in 'Cattle Drive', also reviewed here recently on DVD Compare). It maybe a straightforward simple affair but 'Black Horse Canyon' is a very enjoyable film for all the family.


The DVD presentation of 'Black Horse Canyon' is in it's original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 The print used is quite worn in places, especially around the reel starts where there are numerous examples of grain, speckles and scratches. The film suffers during it's long shots with a faded palette and a much softer picture that one would hope for. It's medium and close range shots are pretty sharp though and although the disc does exhibit defects in terms of picture quality I'm pretty happy with what's on offer and the fact that a relatively unknown film has been given a DVD release rather than see it wallow in the vaults at Universal Studios.


The only option available is the English dual mono soundtrack. It's not in any way spectacular or powerful but it serves the purpose well. Dialogue is clear throughout and the musical aspects of the soundtrack are fine but as you would expect there is no meat to the audio, it's all there, up front, on one level but keeping in mind that this is, presumably, pretty much what was heard when the film was released in 1958. There are no subtitles available on this disc.




What makes 'Black Horse Canyon' stand slightly out from it's competitors from this era is the script. It is genuinely funny in places but perhaps unusually it exhibits a dry, sardonic wit rather than going over the top with people falling over (although there is one instance of this). McCrea is his usual self. I've only seen him in a handful of films and he rarely strays too far from type, especially in his westerns but why should he. He has the part pretty nailed down from the start. Those supporting Mcrea are all more than capable and it makes for an enjoyable 78 minutes of western goodness!

The Film: B+ Video: B- Audio: B- Extras: F Overall: B-


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