Hard Country Makes for Hard Men (or something)
I was talking with a friend recently who asked me if I remembered the first movie that I saw in the theater – and while these may not be the very first, I do remember three films that all came out around the same time when I was nine or ten years old; Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, Never Say Never Again and The Man from Snowy River. All have stuck with me for different reasons but there is one on this list that I became mildly obsessed with during some formative years in which I endured the most awkward and unfortunate puberty known to mankind. I can’t tell you exactly how many times I watched this movie, but suffice it to say the number falls squarely between 25 and a multiple of that number.
The movie of which I speak is none other than The Man from Snowy River . Loosely based on A.B. “Banjo” Paterson’s poem by the same title, TMfSR essentially tells the story of a young horseman named Jim – who, after the death of his father, must prove himself to his mountain-dwelling peers by taking a job at a cattle ranch in the low-country. During his employ, Jim does something stupid while attempting to impress and bond with the rancher’s daughter whom he is sweet on – he sets out to rectify his mistake and ends up performing a harrowing ride through the mountains to do so. I was utterly besotted with Jim.
I have asked my siblings, Anne and John, to re-watch and discuss TMfSR with me today – as they have either inadvertantly or intentionally watched this film as many times as I have. You may want to get comfortable. Also, I apologize.
Jane: Do we need to get some puerile name calling out of the way first?
Anne: First, did you both really watch it?
John: Jane is a boner face.
Anne: I took notes.
John: Yes, I watched it goddamnit. It took me two tries.
Anne: I kept picturing John angrily watching…
John: I didnt know it was 3 hours long!
Jane: Yes. Like Dune.
Anne: I watched it in one.
Jane: Well – who would like to start?
Anne: It is 20 minutes….and I took notes so…..
Anne: First note: ”NOOOOO!!!!!!”
Jane: Yes – he does say that when his dad dies…
Anne: I think it is obvious what I meant.
Jane: …horribly – by being crushed by a giant, rogue log .
John: This is pure, girly horse porn.
Anne: I like the looks they give one another as they saw the tree …goddamn beautiful.
[Note: Jim’s father dies in a grisly, log-related accident. Just before that, Jim and his father are shown sawing a gigantic log together. They look very pleased.]
Anne: It just saddens you, John. Thinking of dad….
John: I liked how stupid and avoidable that father killing accident was.
Jane: Because it represents the relationship John longs for with his father….
Anne: The sawing relationship, yes.
Jane: Avoidable, stupid accident – and the mountain men blame him for it – which is why they run him off of his own property after the funeral.
Anne: Of course they do…because the dad should have shot the bloody horse. And Jim stopped him.
John: Oh yeah that was another strange custom. ”Now that your dad is dead you can’t live in your house anymore until you prove yourself as a man.”
Jane: Right! Australian property laws are very confusing…
[Note: Immediately after his father’s funeral, Jim is confronted by a band of mountain men who inform him that he has to earn the right to live there by performing a non-specific display of manliness. Jim accepts this and leaves with a his father's friend, a one-legged man called Spur.]
Anne: Ah, another note I made…”I should call people a duffer more often.” And Jim should have grown a beard to prove his manliness. Solved. Done.
John: Back up I need to get something straight first…
Anne: What don’t you understand, John?
John: So, correct me if I am wrong but, there was a wild stallion that runs around the mountainside and incites other domesticated horses to join him?
Anne: Where was Kirk Douglas’ Aussie accent? And, oui, John.
Jane: He wasn’t supposed to be Australian.
Anne: Well, goddammit.
John: And Kirk Douglas plays two separate roles in the film?
Anne: Yes, brilliantly.
Jane: It was a challenging duel-role surpassed only by Patty Duke’s portrayal of identical cousins.
[Note: Kirk Douglas plays twin brothers, Spur and Mr. Harrison, the cattle ranch owner.]
John: And Jessica is supposed to be cute?
[Note: Jessica is Mr. Harrison’s daughter and is the love interest of Jim. She was supposed to be cute, but this movie was made in 1982. Also, she appears to be the only woman under 60 in all of the Australian outback - beggars, chosers, Win some, lose some.]
Anne: Correct. And not have a weird mouth.
John: Wow, that’s all bullshit.
Anne: The weird mouth thing? She does though.
John: No, she has a super weird mouth - it is distracting.
Jane: May I jump further ahead and discuss a matter that Anne and I touched on the other day?
Anne: Oh, another note “Clancy is an asshole”
[Note: Clancy is a friend to both Jim's deceased father and Spur. He is also a legend among the ranchers for having preternatural horse-riding abilities.]
Anne: Sure. Do it. (Another note, “rope tricks always woo the ladies”)
Jane: So, Anne and I believe that Jim and Jessica totally have the sex up in the mountains after he rescues her – our evidence to support this is:
- They act totally weird around each other the next day – they can barely make eye-contact with each other.
- He immediately drops her off to stay with Spur the following morning.
Anne: Yup. And he totally gives her the, “I have been in there” look.
John. Oh…ok, yes I agree. There is that lost moment in the film when it seems obvious to me that they just had dirty, dirty mountain sex. However, it is hard to be sure because of the poor quality of the cinematography.
Jane: Okay…what else, want to discuss the monologuing by her aunt?
Anne: Can we all agree that Rosemary is an excellent story teller? Yes we can.
Jane: Maybe it would be better if you told us what you liked about the movie, John?
Anne: Yes, please.
John: Uh, I like that the evil, wild stallion is depicted with the same 2 freaking shots no matter what the scene.
Anne: Oh! The close up of the horse eye and the dunna-dunna-dunna music?
John: That is what I’m saying! The close up horse dunna-dunna-dunna is crappy film making!
Jane: And what did you dislike about it?
John: The story is dog shit.
Anne: Did any of you find the boxing fight between Jim and the other ranch hands hot? I did.
John: I did – especially Curly.
[Note: Curly is an insecure malcontent who works on the ranch with Jim and feels threatened by his manliness.]
Anne: Did I mention that Clancy is an asshole?
Jane: You did. Twice now.
John: Wait, why is Clancy an asshole?
Anne: Oh man…he was such an asshole.
Anne: When he showed up on top of Spur’s house – literally – with his smug dick face.
John: Haha, you just hate guys with big mustaches
Anne: I love guys with big mustaches!!
[Note: Clancy has a sizable mustache.]
John: I agree with you – I didn’t know Clancy was supposed to be a good guy until the end of the movie, mainly because he keeps sneaking up on Spur like he wants to kill him.
He’s all right behind him and whispers in his ear and says “I’m gonna fuck you Spur.”
[Note: Clancy never threatens to fuck Spur. He does sneak up on him at least once though.]
Anne: That explains Spur’s wide eyes.
John: Who the balls is Rosemary?
Anne: The aunt.
Jane: With the monologue.
Anne: Goddammit John.
John: The snooty tea and biscuits lady?
Anne: Yes, her.
John: Oh, yeah she’s hot.
John: From a woman’s perspective, is the character of Jim – the adept mountain boy who kills his own father because he’s an idiot and rigs up a giant tree super-tight within crushing distance of his dad – an attractive guy and why?
Anne: He was when I was nine. This was of course right after my huge epic crush on Bo from Dukes of Hazzard
Jane: I used to think so, yes. My tastes have changed since I was 15, obviously.
John: Well to me he seems like a butt licker.
Jane: I thought Jim was raging hot, back in the day…and then in the sequel he has an unfortunate mullet and has gotten fat. Very disappointing.
Anne: Oooo, that is right, he did! In the Return to Douche-y Mountain.
John: Wait, there is a sequel?
Anne: Yes, indeed. The Return…I was trying to figure out what I saw in Jim as a young lass and I have to say….I dug the fight scene he had when he did the boxing moves.
Jane: That was pretty awesome.
Anne: And of course the riding.
Jane: I always liked the rope-tying lesson scene too.
John: No, no – you both were just lulled into liking him with panoramic horse filled snowy mountain scenes, it’s like young girl crack.
Anne Almirall: Yes…as I said rope tricks woo the ladies. I don’t like horses, so….never have… they scare me.
John: You do Anne, you do. You like the fear.
Anne Almirall: I do like fear. Oh, and soft things. Fear and soft things.
John: From a martial artist’s perspective, I can tell you that the fighting was very unrealistic. As a martial artist.
Jane: You sound like our dad discussing the lack of realism of guns and gunplay in the movies.
Anne: Hmmm speaking of guns…”didn’t recognize you without a gun” is a great line. Yes, I took notes.
John: As a martial artist, I don’t remember that line.
Anne: Fully committed “as a martial artist..” sounds like something Clancy would say.
John: I must say that Kirk Douglas and to a lesser degree, Kirk Douglas’s chin are the bright spots in the movie.
Anne: His chin is only visible in one of his roles…the beard. He was good…ish.
John: The movie’s plot is so tightly wound that it reminded me of a soap opera.
Anne: Ah, what about when that asshole, Clancy, tried to use reverse psychology on Jim…”oh, he probably would not let you ride with us anyway..”
Jane: And it worked!
Anne: It did, the pussy. What about how fresh Spur was with the ladies?
Jane: What about the steep mountain chase scene – that melted my face as a kid – but didn’t seem as scary when I re-watched it….
Anne: I still dig it. And I don’t even like horses.
[Note: The following sums up the movie perfectly. Enjoy.]
John: Jim accidentally kills his father who is partners in a gold mine with Spur who is the secret brother of the man who hires Jim while he proves he’s a man and is the father of Jim’s love interest Jessica who may actually be Spurs daughter, because Spur and Jessica’s dad loved the same woman until Jessica’s dad shoots Spur over a horse, that turns out to be the wild stallion that caused the father killing accident AND provides Jim with his manliness-proving task in the movie.
Anne: You got it in one. Nice. John, you are welcome at my fire anytime. I mean that.
Jane: What is convoluted about that?
Anne: Makes complete sense.
Jane: A multi-layered story with complex undertones…
Anne: …and horses. And rope tricks. And shit.
John: That story would make George Lucas blush.
Jane: John, do you remember watching this as a kid?
John: I remember the mountain chase steep hill shot and nothing else.
Anne: John, as a martial artist, do you remember watching this as a kid?
John: I thought that you and Anne were stupid. As a martial artist I think horses are gay.
Jane: Anne, as a non-martial artist, do you remember watching this as a kid?
Anne: I do…many times …for research…also for rope tricks and being an asshole.
John: I remember watching this and The Little Mermaid – which I like a lot – over and over.
[Note: The Little Mermaid. John likes it a lot. This is what happens when you have sisters.]
Jane: So, did either of you have a shred of fondness for the movie going into it this time around?
Anne: I did.
Jane: And did that change?
Anne: Well…in a way. I still have a fondness for it. Oh, and I watched it all in one sitting, ahem. Committed.
John: I was almost completely indifferent to it. Now, totally indifferent.
Anne: Well….I was picturing you angry..so indifferent is OK. “You have a lot to learn lad….”, “He’s not a lad, brother. He’s a man!! He’s a man!!”
John: He’s a man! He’s a man!
Anne: Then asshole Clancy chimes in “the man from snowy river…”
John: Oh man, they had to throw the name of the stupid movie into it.
Anne: Sorry, I took notes…yup.
Jane: I love it when they say the titles of movies in movies!
Anne: That is how you know it is good. And over.
John: Do they reference the name of the sequel in the sequel?
Anne: “He returned to snowy river.”
John: “Boy it is nice to RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER”
John: Do they pick up immediately or has some time passed?
Jane: Some time has passed – enough to grow a mullet and get frosted tips – six years in between films.
Anne: Oh…”I will be back for those horses…*looks at jessica* and whatever else is mine.” I took notes.
John: Did Jim return for what else belonged to him (Jessica)? I didn’t like that line.
Anne: What is not to like? I love when people claim to own me, happens often. Then I marry them.
Jane: Yeah – it’s a bit…possessive asshole-y.
John: Yes, in that scene he actually tells Jessica’s dad that he’ll be back for the horses first – then says he’ll be back for her – like an after-thought.
Jane: How does TMfSR stack up against, say, Dune?
Anne: I have not seen Dune, but I will say they were practically the same film…guessing.
Jane: I completely agree.
John: TMfSR and Dune? Jesus Christ!
Anne: Yup. No need to even watch Dune, or The Return to Dune River.
John: TMFSR is more like the intellectual predecessor to Dune.
Anne: I can accept that.
John: It’s the return to the river with a man and some burgers and it is snowing.
Anne: Cheese burgers in the snowy river…
John: The Man with Cheesey Burgers that Returns. “Welcome to Snowy River Burgers what can I get ya, man?”
“Ill take uh.. two burgers, uh.. some horses, uh.. and your weird-mouthed daughter…”
John: Remember when Jim catches Spur masturbating in the mine and stays there and swatches him? What the hell was that?
Anne A: “Hard country makes for hard men.” I took notes.
John: Hot crackers Anne! That’s the funny! I just crapped myself.
Anne: All right, assholes…now we are going to discuss why Jim’s pants were so very tight?
Jane: The pants were intended as girl-bait, pure and simple.
Anne: They were tighter, compared to everyone else’s, yes? Agreed.
Jane: Horrible for riding.
John: Yeah, well sure.
Anne: And mounting.
John: Pants, ass, cowboys and fucking horses, I give this movie a D+.
Anne: Ok…so to sum up, Clancy is an asshole…rope tricks woo the ladies..Jim’s pants were tight…hard country makes for hard men…and Clancy wants to bone Spur…and Jessica has a weird mouth….then nothing happened for ten hours.
Jane: STEEP ASS MOUNTAIN CHASE. GOD.
John: Well, I googled that scene and 3 horses were killed to get the shot.
Anne: Worth it. Ok….let’s rate this fucker. Nine year old Anne gives a 5 out of 5
John: 5? I already gave it a D+, we are doing numbers?
John: Fuck. Anne is doing some kind of time warp rating system too.
Jane: So you pretty much gave it a 1.5, John.
John: Don’t tell me what numbers I give things!
Anne: This Anne gives ….a 3 because of the rope tricks….and because of the tight pants…I can do a time warp thing…oh yes, and the boxing and the hard men/country line.
John: Ok, I do give it a 1.5 but not because Jane says so, it’s my own terms.
Anne: You could have just watched Dune again and not bothered, John.
[Note: I like Anne’s Time Warp Rating System. 10-15 year old Jane gives The Man from Snowy River a 5/5 – this Jane is far too clouded by the fog of nostalgia to give it the rating it deserves.]