John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony” (1949)

Screenplay by Steinbeck, based on his children’s book/novella; directed by Lewis Milestone (who also directed the original classic Of Mice and Men).

This was intended to be family film about a boy’s coming-of-age via horse. The only character of interest is Billy Buck played by a restrained Robert Mitchum. It certainly made more sense when and where it was written: the 1940s Salinas Valley. Steinbeck, no doubt, either experienced something like the plot or knew of experiences like it.

There is one odd gruesome scene in which a combination of live and stuffed vultures are ‘thrown at’ the boy as he tries to rescue his animal pal. For that reason, the film should not be viewed by kids younger than, say 6 or 7. In any case, the film will be more of interest as a curiosity piece for rural kids still in touch with farm or ranch animals. And only the staunchest of Steinbeck fans will want to check out this one which reads better as a book, ultimately, A mention of the cleaned-up DVD print which uses the olde limited Republic Pictures styled-color: the print is generally clear but still on the dark side and fuzzy overall, which definitely affects how the movie affects modern viewers.

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