Blu-ray Review: The Return of a Man Called Horse

Back in the mid-70s, A Man Called Horse was one of those films that the cool kids described on the back of the bus. This was back in the pre-home video days so you needed parents willing to sneak you into the theater. The film was a Western and only rated GP (the earlier version of PG), but the film had a reputation of being a little more intense than an episode of Gunsmoke. John Morgan (Richard Harris) is a British big game hunter who arrives in the American West looking for his latest trophies. But he becomes the prey as the Sioux tribe captures him. He’s treated rather rough including one scene where his chest is pierced and he’s suspended high above the ground. This was the scene that made parents decide that it wasn’t good for the kids like a Roy Rogers flick. This was probably a smart move since odds are that a few of the kids who saw it would eventually get into human suspension as part of the kink scene in the ’90s. Morgan’s ability to take the punishment, eventually gets him accepted into the tribe and renamed “A Man Called Horse. He eventually goes home to England. The Return of a Man Called Horse has him understand his real tribe.

Morgan can’t handle being stuck in England with it’s formalities and stuck up traditions. He feels a yearning inside his soul. He departs back across the Ocean to be with his real people. Little does he know that the Yellow Hands Sioux have relocated to a less happy hunting ground. Why? Because the government has allowed a group of trappers that includes Geoffrey Lewis (Every Which Way But Loose) to claim the space. Sure a few of the tribe protested the move and they were promptly slaughtered. The survivors (including crying environmental icon Iron Eyes Cody) prayer for their Gods to get revenge. Little do they know that their salvation will come from the return of Horse. The Englishman is going to get all nasty on the trappers as he restores the strength to his adopted people.

How does Return of a Man Called Horse top the suspension scene of the original? By having Horse and other members of the tribe do a group suspension to lift their spirits to the Gods and bond each other as fierce warriors. Director Irvin Kershner (Empire Strikes Back) and his special effects crew get more graphic in explaining how Horse and his tribe pierce their chests and get hoisted upward. Back in 1976, this was shocking. Nowadays this is a normal sight at Burning Man. Harris is in fine form proving he’s truly a member of the tribe and not a tourist. He gets brutal and drops his English manners when it matters. His past is a disguise. This is one of those films that can easily be bad mouthed since it features the white guy saving the Indians. But this is a character who went through a lot to prove himself worthy of being a member of the tribe. He’s only around to save them since he was abroad when Lewis and crew went on their slaughtering ways. The good element of the film is that it is the perfect film for the modern primitive to watch with their dad since it features the Wild West and pierced nipples. Return of a Man Called Horse offers something for the whole modern family.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the frontier beauty of Owen Roizman’s cinematography. The audio is DTS-HD MA Stereo. You hear yourself wince when the piercing takes place. The movie is subtitled.

Trailer (3:15) explains why John Morgan had to return to America to defend his tribe. The trailer gives away a lot of the film.

Olive Films presents Return of a Man Called Horse. Directed by: Irvin Kershner. Screenplay by: Jack DeWitt. Starring: Richard Harris, Gale Sondergaard, Geoffrey Lewis & William Lucking. Running Time: 126 minutes. Rated: PG. Released: June 21, 2016.

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