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

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

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.