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

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

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.