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H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Black Stallion [Blu-ray]


(Carroll Ballard, 1979)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Omni Zoetrope

Video: Criterion Collection Spine #765



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:57:35.757

Disc Size: 47,221,872,646 bytes

Feature Size: 24,270,028,800 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.00 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: July 14th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2061 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2061 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), none



• Five short films by Carroll Ballard, with introductions by the director: Pigs! (1965 - 11:24), The Perils of Priscilla (1969 - 17:20), Rodeo (1969 - 19:33), Seems Like Only Yesterday (1971 - 47:11), and Crystallization (1974 - 11:18)
New conversation between Ballard and film critic Scott Foundas (47:14)
New interview with Caleb Deschanel (21:26)
New piece featuring photographer Mary Ellen Mark discussing her images from the film’s set (7:19)
Trailer (1:59)
PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Sragow






Description: From the crystalline shores of a deserted island to the green grass and dusty roads of 1940s suburban America, Ballard and director of photography Caleb Deschanel create a film of consistent visual invention and purity, one that also features a winning supporting performance by Mickey Rooney as a retired jockey and a gorgeous score by Carmine Coppola.


This remarkable adaptation of Walter Farley’s classic children’s novel by Carroll Ballard (Fly Away Home)—in which an American boy is rescued after a shipwreck off the coast of North Africa by a seemingly untamable wild horse—is a cinematic tour de force. From the crystalline shores of a deserted island in the Arabian Sea to the green grass and dusty roads of 1930s suburban New York, Ballard and director of photography Caleb Deschanel (The Right Stuff) create a film of consistent visual invention and purity, also featuring a winning supporting performance by Mickey Rooney (National Velvet) as a retired jockey and a gorgeous score by Carmine Coppola (The Godfather Part II).



The Film:

This beautifully mounted adaptation of Walter Farley's story for children tells the tale of Alec (Kelly Reno), a young boy touring the world with his adventurous salesman father (Hoyt Axton). While travelling back to the United States by ship, Alec discovers a wild, beautiful Arabian stallion being brought along in the cargo hold. When disaster strikes at sea, the ship sinks, and Alec and the stallion are the only survivors. Alone together on a nearby island, the boy and the horse develop a relationship; wary of each other at first, they learn to trust each other, and they become close friends. When a rescue party finally finds Alec, he refuses to leave the island without the stallion, and the horse goes with Alec to the small town that is his home. Alec's mother (Teri Garr) is at a loss about what to do with this remarkable but difficult animal. Henry Dailey (Mickey Rooney), an elderly horse trainer who lives in the neighborhood, senses a special connection between the boy and his horse; he's soon convinced that with the right training, and the boy as his jockey, the horse could be a champion on the race course. First-time director Carroll Ballard captures the mysterious relationship between humans and animals, treating the stallion with the same intelligence and respect as the rest of his cast; he also draws fine, understated performances from Kelly Reno and Mickey Rooney, and Caleb Deschanel's photography makes this a feast for the eyes. The Black Stallion is that rare contemporary family film that will fascinate adults as much as their kids, if not more so.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Walter Farley's classic tale has been adapted with amazing facility by Ballard and executive producer Coppola. Even though its essential features (shipwrecked child, desert island, magical stallion, '40s New York) represented appalling production problems, the film jettisons most of the cuteness implicit in its theme and handles the material with dream-like clarity. A magnificently well-crafted movie.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Criterion's 1080P transfer highlights Caleb Deschanel's impressive cinematography as viewed on the Blu-ray of Carroll Ballard's The Black Stallion.  This is dual-layered with a supportive bitrate for the 2-hour film. It is such a beautiful expression and once seen via the higher resolution - there will be no going back to SD for this title. Contrast and colors are rich and the visuals produce a very film like thickness in-motion. It is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the lush textures and occasional depth bond to create a visual feast. This Blu-ray is clean (no speckles or damage) and supplies a highly pleasing 1080P presentation.


















Audio :

Criterion use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel stereo at 2061 kbps. It works very well with the film - from the effects of the storm and sinking ship to the dramatic Carmine Coppola (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Part III, The Outsiders) score. The lossless transfer exports significant depth augmenting the film's 'presence'. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A' disc.


Extras :

Criterion, as usual, include plenty of worthwhile supplements. Part of the extras are five short films by Carroll Ballard, with new introductions by the director: Pigs! is an 11-minute documentary from 1965 following the daily lives on a pig farm, in The Perils of Priscilla a house cat escapes from the family home and into the wilds of the Los Angeles streets in this 17-minute film from 1960, Rodeo is a 20-minute documentary from 1969 following champion bull rider Larry Mahan as he competes in the 1968 National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City. The final two short are Seems Like Only Yesterday - a 47-minute documentary from 1971 in which director Carroll Ballard interviews twelve centenarians about the changing way of life in Los Angeles, and Crystallization is described as; shot through a microscope, this eleven-minute educational film from 1974 reveals the intricate patterns created through the formation of crystals. Criterion include a 47-minute conversation between Ballard and film critic Scott Foundas recorded by Criterion at Ballad's home in California in 2015. There is a new 21-minute interview with cinematographer Caleb Deschanel conduced by Criterion in 2014 and a new, 7-minute piece featuring photographer Mary Ellen Mark discussing her images from the film’s shooting on location in Sardinia and Toronto for The Black Stallion. There is also a trailer and the package has a liner notes booklet with an essay by film critic Michael Sragow.




We tend to throw around the term 'masterpiece' but I can't resist saying it about The Black Stallion. As well as a beautiful adventurous children's film - The Black Stallion touches many adult themes of companionship, strength, loneliness, survival... What a great choice for Criterion to bring to Blu-ray. The stellar a/v and substantial extras add further value to this marvelous piece of cinema and has our highest recommednation! 

Gary Tooze

June 29th, 2015


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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