Beautiful horses & riding (though the riding got a little repetitive). Good acting. Not a lot of action. Good, clean entertainment.
THE DVD VERSION
Allen Eaton | Longmont, CO USA | 03/08/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Several of the reviews on this site ask the Disney studio to release this film on DVD. Well, they have and this review refers to the DVD version.I have been familiar with this movie since I worked at the Disney studio in 16mm film distribution in the 1970s (about 7 years before the VHS blockbuster years began), and am familiar with the original negatives. In what I am finding to be typical of the Disney folks, this film is presented in a 'full frame' version, rather than a WIDESCREEN version. The film was shot for a 1:85x1 projected ratio (known as Academy Flat) which presents the picture in a slight retangular format. However, a full frame, 4x3 video transfer of such a negative isn't all that bad, although it would have distinguised it from the normal VHS format.Also, I am very surprised that the Disney people didn't make an effort to 'clean up' the original negative, which contains a great amount of negative dirt and scratches. The DVD does preserve the original look to the film (color and tint), but there has been so much technology invented to digitally reproduce an almost flawless image, that I am surprised it isn't been used. It is one of trhe major reasons that people have switched to DVD.Also, look for a mistake in the original negative. Just after the horses board the train, there are reddish, flash frames (possibly an overexposure to the camera original negative) which could easily have been removed digitally.A few "extras" would have been nice, such as behind-the-scenes material. This stinginess is becomming something notorious with recent Disney DVD releases. Walt Disney shot tons of background footage for every movie he made, and this is stored in the studio vaults. I've seen it in 16mm, although it was shot on 35mm.. You can ignore the lack of a WIDESCREEN image if the DVD contained these precious extras. Otherwise, it's just a transfer of the old VHS image. What's the point of that?As far as Robert Taylor's performance, far from being 'wooden' (as one reviewer wrote) I agree with another reviewer who said that he was protraying a real man (who was also alive at the time and a hero in Europe), and the script and direction decided to present a truthful, realistic portrrait of him. Don't forget that this movie, and many others (BALLERINA, HORSE WITHOUT A HEAD, ALMOST ANGELS) were shot in Europe after World War II. They were made chiefly for a European theatrical audience and were intened for an American TV audience on THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY. So, you'll find a different style of acting and presentation: a bit slow for us, but perfect for their intended audience."
Captures the spirit of this extraordinary event
J. Beaver | Connecticut | 07/31/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Spanish Riding School of Vienna has been around for hundreds of years, but was nearly lost in WW2 when the Lipizzaner breeding herd was separated from the stud farm of Piber and moved into Czechoslovakia, and then faced with possible destruction at the hands of the Russians.
Alois Podhajsky, the Director of the school, made a bold request of the Americans, especially General Patton who himself had ridden in the 1912 Olympics, to save the horses. Patton appreciated the tradition of the Spanish Riding School and was able to effect the rescue of the breeding mares along with allied prisoners of war, effectively saving the Lipizzaners and the tradition of the School.
This Disney movie was made in 1963 and has some of the typical Disney characteristics of the time such as blunting the visual depiction of violence and war, but beyond the technical shortcomings, the movie accurately captures the desperate situation facing those who would save a longstanding tradition bound in living beings -- both the horses and the riders -- and how many individuals through both minor and grand gestures worked toward a common cause and saved an institution.
The movie was filmed largely on location, and to watch it is to see a real piece of living history. I highly recommend it."
Classic Disney Horse Movie
Flame_926 | United States | 05/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is a bit slow at times for non-horse people but for the rest of us IT'S FANTASTIC! The movie was actually shot on location at The Spanish Riding School in Vienna and has tons of long performances by the stallions under saddle. The time period is of Hilter Germany when Col. Podhajsky (if you don't know who he his you haven't been exposed to enough dressage history) was fighting to keep the school alive.Anyone who has ever had a small desire to learn dressage or see these famous horses will probably be enchanted with the movie."
A True Master
Just Me | Oregon, USA | 06/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a wonderful movie, one that I can remember being shown - and begging for - when I was a small child.
Some Interesting 'Backstage' Information: The main character, Colonel Alois Podhajsky, is a bronze medal winner and famous dressage performer/trainer around the world. He was famous even before his debut with the Lippizzans. In his book, My Horses, My Teachers (highly reccomended for someone who knows something of horses), he recalls his experiences filming the movie. Obviously, Taylor wasn't the horseman that Podhajsky was, so the Colonel actually rode his parts. The horse he needed to ride (the horse he rode in history, Neapolitano Africa, was deceased) was a young stallion, who only recently had taken the place of Maestoso Alea in leading the quadrille and doing the solo during performances. (I can't remember the stallions name, and I don't have my book handy...sorry) He had a 'bad' habit of "singing" whenever another stallion entered the arena, and Podhajsky was unable to break him of it without implementing methods he saw as too harsh for such an intelligent horse. So, the stallion performed, "singing" along with the motions of his body. When Taylor mounted him, the horse started neighing. Podhajsky tried to convince him that the horse was only talking and that he would soon quiet, but was unable to settle the rider. The great scene, in performing for General Patton, was ridden by not only two riders (Podhajsky performing and Taylor doing the walking parts) but two HORSES, the young stallion who still had a black mane, and a old longe horse that they had dug up for Taylor. Kinda interesting! Anyway, this guy is a master!!! I just wish that Neapolitano Africa had been alive to perform the part himself.
In another scene, when the horses are being led from the Riding Hall to the bunker during an air raid, there were firecrackers bursting and all sorts of things near the horses to make the scene appear real. Of course, they also frightened the stallions and they reared and tugged and performed just like they should have, as a result of their fear. Podhajsky says that the "American producers" enjoyed running many takes, and doing lots of rehearsals. As a result of this, the stallions learned after the second shoot that there was nothing to be afraid of, and walked into the next acting pacified and calm.
Anyway, for more "behind-the-scene stuff, the book My Horses, My Teachers offers something, and I'm sure the book the movie was based on will give more information, as well.
she who is no longer the Angel of Music"
White Stallions Dancing
Robyn Bennett | Australia | 12/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been trying to track down this movie for a long time. It was a movie from my childhood and I loved it dearly, I simply could not remember its title. I remember the heroics of the rescuers and the beauty of the Lipizanner horses. This is a movie that would still entrance all viewers, but especially those with a passion and love of horses. I wish Disney would release this on video for the children of today and tomorrow. This movie reminds us that war is not just about people but treasures and animals as well."