“I’ve Been to the Rodeo” – The Electric Horseman (DVD Review)

The Electric Horseman boasts an impressive cast including double Oscar-winners Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, as well as a stunning score by Academy Award winning composer Dave Grusin. It’s easy to have high expectations before watching this and thankfully the film doesn’t disappoint – The Electric Horseman is an uplifting romantic comedy adventure definitely worth a watch.

It may arguably be a dated film (first released in 1979), however the breath-taking scenery of where this film is set, namely the Red Rock Canyon Conservation area, means it’s easy to forget which decade this film was made in. Just try to ignore the rather outdated cop cars and funky clothing.

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There is noticeable chemistry right from the start between the two main characters, Sonny Steele and Halle Martin, portrayed by Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Their inevitable on-screen romance is rather predictable (this is a late seventies rom-com – what else can you expect?) and the narrative does exactly as it says on the tin. Redford’s character Sonny Steele was once a five-time rodeo champion who now falls into the has-been category. He resorts to earning a living by promoting a breakfast cereal and often turns to alcohol as a coping mechanism for his lack of fulfilment. Promoting the cereal at a Las Vegas convention, he discovers the racehorse he is riding is the subject of cruel treatment and, amongst other things, is also being doped. Perhaps like all animal-loving members of the audience, he is disgusted to learn this and comes up with a solution – to gallop off into the sunset with the $12 million racehorse.

His plan is to restore the horse’s freedom and return it loose into the wild where it belongs. He is in hot pursuit by the state police, his employers and the relentless journalist Halle Martin. This makes for some comical scenes which may prompt a giggle or two – just don’t expect to fall out of your seat with laughter. Fonda portrays the feisty journalist excellently and her determination to document Steele’s escapade soon lands her right in the middle of it all, joining him on the run. Her strong and independent character fuels the comical conflict between her and Steele, which is an essential element of the pair’s successful chemistry.

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Dave Grusin’s stunning score plays a huge part in setting the tone, whisking the audience into the wonderful world of the wild. Without it, this film would simply not be the same. Also helping to set the tone is country music legend Willie Nelson, of supergroup the Highwaymen. With his involvement, there’s no doubt you’ll be humming the country tunes long after you’ve watched it.

You may be impressed to know that Redford did all of his own riding stunts. The actor’s real love of horses and the bond that he shares with the racehorse on screen is clearly evident, making the narrative itself much more believable. The audience believes Redford’s character truly cares about the horse and, as a result, become emotionally invested in its fate. If you’re not a fan of horses or, in fact, any animals at all, then you might find the story hard to swallow. But if you’re a self-expressed animal lover and have a soft spot for a traditional romantic comedy, then this one’s for you.

3/5

Dir: Sydney Pollack

Scr: Robert Garland, Paul Gaer

Cast: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Valerie Perrine

Prd: Ray Stark

Music: Dave Grusin

Country: USA

Year: 1979

Runtime: 120 minutes

The Electric Horseman is released on DVD on 17th October courtesy of Odyssey Video.

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