Miracle of the White Stallions
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Alois Podhajsky, the Director of the school, made a bold request of the Americans, especially General Patton who himself had ridden in the 1912 Olympics, to save the horses. Patton appreciated the tradition of the Spanish Riding School and was able to effect the rescue of the breeding mares along with allied prisoners of war, effectively saving the Lipizzaners and the tradition of the School.
This Disney movie was made in 1963 and has some of the typical Disney characteristics of the time such as blunting the visual depiction of violence and war, but beyond the technical shortcomings, the movie accurately captures the desperate situation facing those who would save a longstanding tradition bound in living beings -- both the horses and the riders -- and how many individuals through both minor and grand gestures worked toward a common cause and saved an institution.
The movie was filmed largely on location, and to watch it is to see a real piece of living history. I highly recommend it.
I have been familiar with this movie since I worked at the Disney studio in 16mm film distribution in the 1970s (about 7 years before the VHS blockbuster years began), and am familiar with the original negatives. In what I am finding to be typical of the Disney folks, this film is presented in a 'full frame' version, rather than a WIDESCREEN version. The film was shot for a 1:85x1 projected ratio (known as Academy Flat) which presents the picture in a slight retangular format. However, a full frame, 4x3 video transfer of such a negative isn't all that bad, although it would have distinguised it from the normal VHS format.
Also, I am very surprised that the Disney people didn't make an effort to 'clean up' the original negative, which contains a great amount of negative dirt and scratches. The DVD does preserve the original look to the film (color and tint), but there has been so much technology invented to digitally reproduce an almost flawless image, that I am surprised it isn't been used. It is one of trhe major reasons that people have switched to DVD.
Also, look for a mistake in the original negative. Just after the horses board the train, there are reddish, flash frames (possibly an overexposure to the camera original negative) which could easily have been removed digitally.
A few "extras" would have been nice, such as behind-the-scenes material. This stinginess is becomming something notorious with recent Disney DVD releases. Walt Disney shot tons of background footage for every movie he made, and this is stored in the studio vaults. I've seen it in 16mm, although it was shot on 35mm..Read more ›
Anyone who has ever had a small desire to learn dressage or see these famous horses will probably be enchanted with the movie.
Some Interesting 'Backstage' Information: The main character, Colonel Alois Podhajsky, is a bronze medal winner and famous dressage performer/trainer around the world. He was famous even before his debut with the Lippizzans. In his book, My Horses, My Teachers (highly reccomended for someone who knows something of horses), he recalls his experiences filming the movie. Obviously, Taylor wasn't the horseman that Podhajsky was, so the Colonel actually rode his parts. The horse he needed to ride (the horse he rode in history, Neapolitano Africa, was deceased) was a young stallion, who only recently had taken the place of Maestoso Alea in leading the quadrille and doing the solo during performances. (I can't remember the stallions name, and I don't have my book handy...sorry) He had a 'bad' habit of "singing" whenever another stallion entered the arena, and Podhajsky was unable to break him of it without implementing methods he saw as too harsh for such an intelligent horse. So, the stallion performed, "singing" along with the motions of his body. When Taylor mounted him, the horse started neighing. Podhajsky tried to convince him that the horse was only talking and that he would soon quiet, but was unable to settle the rider. The great scene, in performing for General Patton, was ridden by not only two riders (Podhajsky performing and Taylor doing the walking parts) but two HORSES, the young stallion who still had a black mane, and a old longe horse that they had dug up for Taylor. Kinda interesting! Anyway, this guy is a master!!! I just wish that Neapolitano Africa had been alive to perform the part himself.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was a short, true story stretched into a full length movie. Glad I watched it but I never need to watch it again.Published 3 months ago by G. Vandenbosche
What a wonderful movie. I hadn't seen it since it was first released. Memory of this movie made it a very special occasion to see the Lippizan Stallions perform while they were... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Hallie's Mom
I saw this movie as a child on the Wonderful World of Disney on TV. As a horse-nut, it always stuck in my mind more than most horse movies because it was a piece of actual history... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Wanda Twellman