Phar Lap [VHS]
Actors: Tom Burlinson, Judy Morris, Richard Morgan, Robert Grubb, Simon Wells
Directors: Simon Wincer
Writers: David Williamson
Producers: John Sexton
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Australia's lightning 'Big Red' - and some big US hearts July 14, 2004
By John Elsegood
This great 1983 Australian movie was made 20 years before Sea Biscuit and commemorates the legendary galloper Phar Lap, foaled in NZ in 1926 but raced in Australia and Mexico (last start) until his death in the US in April 1932.
In a sensational career that produced 37 wins from 51 starts, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup, 'Big Red' ( a nickname also applied to the 1973 Kentucky Derby winner Secretariat)gave Aussies something to cheer about in the Great Depression years.
The film gives some idea of how this horse, captured the nation's imagination.
Phar Lap's heart was discovered to be 50% larger than a normal equine heart and judging by the Americans who have reviewed this movie I would also like to say that they have shown 'big hearts' with many praising the horse and film as better than Seabiscuit -a great American galloper who appeared on the scene shortly after Phar Lap's demise.
As for my fellow Australian reviewer who makes the accusation that Americans killed Phar Lap let me say that old furphy has been effectively demolished by Geoff Armstrong and Peter Thompson in their book 'Phar Lap.' They came to the conclusion that the great Antipodean galloper died of Duodenitis -Proximal jejunitis (also known as Anterior enteritis), a bacterial disease unknown in 1932 and which even today claims the lives of 70% of horses that are treated for it.
Australian gangsters did try to kill Phar Lap just before the Melbourne Cup of 1930, something the film illustrates.
The chestnut horse 'Towering Inferno,' Phar Lap in the film, went on to live until April 1999 before dying at age of 26 - struck by lightning - the word Phar Lap is a Thai expression for lightning!