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A Man Called Horse

In 1825, an Englishman named John Morgan (Richard Harris) is captured by Sioux warriors. Beaten and ridiculed by the Sioux — who make him wear a saddle and pronounce him a horse — he's presented to an aged tribeswoman (Dame Judith Anderson) as a servant. Morgan's repeated attempts to escape are futile, and slowly he finds himself assimilating to the native culture. After saving a group of Sioux children from an enemy war party, he gains the respect of the tribe's warriors and eventually becomes a trusted member of the tribe. However, to be declared a man and take a wife, he must endure the Ritual of the Sun; in the film's most famous set piece, Morgan is suspended by hooks piercing his pecs in an excruciating physical trial (it's nothing worse than you'll see at a typical performance of the Jim Rose Circus, but back in 1970 this was pretty raw stuff — and it still has the power to make one squirm.) A Man Called Horse is a mixed bag, offering a supposedly realistic depiction of a fascinating culture combined with sometimes cloying melodrama and somnambulistic pacing. Despite being heralded on its release as breaking new ground with its depiction of Native Americans, they still come off as the usual stereotypes — at first cruel, then noble, then sexy (Morgan's squaw bride, played by Greek former Miss Universe Corinna Tsopei, is little more than an erotic plaything), and finally grateful to be led into battle by a white man — albeit a white man who's adopted their ways. Harris is excellent, of course, as a smirky Brit who gets a nice tan and transforms into a warrior — and hoo boy, was Professor Dumbledore in good shape in the '70s. That Sun Ritual bit is still impressive (the special effects are remarkable, especially for the era), but the acid-trippy hallucinogenic moments during that sequence are extremely dated. Paramount Home Video's DVD release of A Man Called Horse offers a very good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) from a clean source-print, with a clear, remastered soundtrack in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround and English subtitles. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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