The Rocking Horse Winner

"Excellent"

The Rocking Horse Winner Review


The Rocking Horse Winner - based on a D.H. Lawrence short story - is a little like a long British version of The Twilight Zone. Directed in 1949 by the almost completely unknown director Anthony Pelissier, the film is about a boy named Paul (John Howard Davies) who gets a rocking horse for Christmas, which gets him excited about horse racing. At the same time seemingly unrelated events begin to unfold: The boy's mother (Valerie Hobson) begins to display wanton materialism and a drive for money, which in turn begins to literally pervade the house in the form of reverberating voices which call for there to be more cash.

When Paul hears the phantom-like voice ringing through his room it is like a clarion call to action. He gets atop his rocking horse and begins to ride. The second voice he hears - when he feverishly rides his rocking horse - is one that tells him which horse will win at the local racetrack. (It's all very peculiar to be sure, but don't most good stories ask for improbable suspensions of disbelief?)

At first this business of picking the horse race winner is merely a game that the boy and the friendly local handyman named Bassett (John Mills) play. They earn a little money, which Bassett keeps for the boy, who hopes some day to give it to his mother. Soon his rich uncle Oscar (Ronald Squire) joins in to play the game with them, the stakes get higher and he begins to distribute the money they win to Paul's mother via a lawyer. Before long the boy's excitement turns to agitation as he rides harder and faster in order to hear the chilling omens and get as much money as he can. But his mother - who is unaware of where the money is coming from - just keeps spending the cash as quickly as he wins it.

The film moves along quickly and is engrossing mainly because of the compelling story. But it is also well acted, directed, and written. Adding drama to the film is the beautiful black and white cinematography by Desmond Dickinson, which runs the visual gamut from slick chiaroscuro horror to velvety Hollywood drama.

Unlike children's films today which seek to lecture us and give us a tacked on happy ending, The Rocking Horse Winner leads to heart-rending consequences and make us consider a mother/child relationship that's full of neglect. But unlike many horror films of today, it doesn't have a sense of dread to it either. There is a respectable theatrical veneer to the whole thing.

The extras on the DVD make this the definitive The Rocking Horse Winner package. It features many of the story's diverse adaptations. There is a short 20 minute film of the same name by Michael Almereyda (who directed Hamlet and Nadja), which was shot in PXLvision (A Fisher Price toy that makes cool B&W images and which Almereyda seems to love), an excellent radio production read by John Shea, excerpts from a chamber opera, and a 24-page booklet, which includes a reprint of the short story itself.

If you attend cocktail parties and like to brag about your knowledge of rare 1940s British films, then this DVD from Home Vision Entertainment is a must. If not then it's still worth a look.



The Rocking Horse Winner

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 30th November 1949

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Hester Grahame, as Paul Grahame, as Oscar Cresswell, as Bassett, Hugh Sinclair as Richard Grahame, Charles Goldner as Mr. Tsaldouris, Susan Richards as nannie, Cyril Smith as bailiff

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.