Black Horse Canyon
Black Horse Canyon, a 50s Western based on Lee Savage’s novel, The Wild Horse sets up a clichéd love triangle and throws in the odd gun-run and pistol shoot out for good measure. A Rancher (Del Rockwell) and his adopted son (Race Gentry) are trying to capture and tame a stallion named Outlaw in a cross between Robin Hood and the Emancipation Proclamation, but involving horses. Though one thing they didn’t realise once starting this journey; A WOMAN! And she’s also interested in capturing Outlaw. Cue generic over-used love triangle trope.
What else are women for other than getting between two guys (who are related but not related)? Also, like with many Hollywood movies from the 50s there were also the villains, though here they were represented by two overly macho territorial men. It may not be obvious, but this movie was not very entertaining, unless you like making sarcastic remarks and rolling your eyes. One thing that can’t be denied; Black Horse Canyon is beautifully shot. Instilled with an atmosphere of times gone back, this is from a generation of films which feel lost due to time and the evolution of what film is now and will become in the future.
It’s possibly a serving of nostalgia for those who romanticise the idea of women being judged for every little action and reaction as being flirtatious where young men are easy pickings, and older men just can’t help themselves. Then this film could be just for you. The most difficult scenes to watch were when Aldis, the Female Rancher would do the “I’m a strong independent woman” act, only to be thrown down by Del’s aggressive and, at times, abusive nature – which for some reason was a way of showing romantic tension. Though those scenes were probably not as bad as Aldis falling off a small gate, and being rescued by Del – prompting cheesy passionate kisses.
The story is predictable, the characters are even more predictable. Even considering my disdain for horses, and bafflement in the adoration of horses in any way, I can’t help but root for Outlaw. At times Outlaw can be seen as opposing the patriarchy; fighting the man, wanting to tame his rebellious and carefree nature – you want him to win. Obviously, this is not the case.
I wouldn’t call Outlaw the epitome of equine elegance, but watching Black Horse Canyon you can see why the he won the 1955 Patsy Award of Excellence for animal actors. The stunts are entertaining and obviously dangerous. The scenes in which the Ranchers attempt to “break” Outlaw who in turns reacted violently with a real threat.
This may have originally been a story about love, naïveté, the wisdom of an older misogynistic man, the foolishness in a man who doesn’t know the difference between friendship, love and lust, and how nearly everything is the woman’s fault. However, this story ended in the real tragedy of Stockholm Syndrome and the real influence it has on horses, no matter how unruly they are.