Review: ‘Black Beauty’

Anna Sewell's evergreen novel, Black Beauty, which has sold more than 6 million copies in 17 languages, has been made into a film several times before (1921, 1933, 1946) in England and Hollywood. Now, continental producers have taken their first crack at this bestseller.

Anna Sewell’s evergreen novel, Black Beauty, which has sold more than 6 million copies in 17 languages, has been made into a film several times before (1921, 1933, 1946) in England and Hollywood. Now, continental producers have taken their first crack at this bestseller.

In their attempt to please all audiences, in too many different lands, the filmmakers have ridden off in all directions at once. The heavies hamming up their parts, probably intended to suit Spanish tastes. An oversweet saccharin streak of German ‘heart and soul’ oozes through the picture. Still another element, quite foreign to the original story, is unsuccessfully aimed at Yank preferences: to some extent, this charming horse saga emerges as a rough-riding Western.

Director James Hill, who has piloted other pix with skill and great sensitivity, does little to save this one from disintegrating into self-contradiction. An international cast does not merge with any semblance of conformity, either. Uschi Glas, easy-to-look-at star of the German screen, shows almost no reason for her popularity with Teutonic audiences which gets her six film leads every year.

It’s due to the script, or a casting error, or both, that Walter Slezak’s acrid brand of wit doesn’t spark. Film’s assets are the noble title horse with its great equestrian stunts and the appealing landscape, exquisitely color-lensed by Fernando Arribas.

Black Beauty

UK-W. Germany-Spain

Production

Tigon British/Chilton/CCC Filmkunst/Emiliano Piedr. Director James Hill; Producer Peter L. Andrews, Malcolm B. Heyworth; Screenplay Art Bernd, Pedro Samu, Wolf Mankowitz; Camera Fernando Arribas; Editor Pablo Delano; Music Lionel Bart

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1971. Running time: 106 MIN.

With

Mark Lester
Uschi Glas
Walter Slezak
Peter Lee Lawrence
John Nettleton
Patrick Mower
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