This 1994 Warner Brothers Home Video is the movie version of Anna Sewell’s novel, directed by Caroline Thompson (Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey), another favorite of ours. At the end of the video it is noted that no animals were harmed in the filming of this movie.
There are three tapes in our house. The first one I recorded from a Sunday Night ABC movie several years ago. This viewing has many commercials and when I found it being aired on HBO, I taped it on another video. A year later when I joined Columbia House, I jumped at the chance to have the original video.
Once the previews are over, the screen turns to a magical blue color. When Nicholas was five years old he would rush to the screen to show me the moon will be coming next. Then the words Black Beauty appear and he would be off to gather all his horses to play along with what the horses do in Black Beauty. He uses shoe laces and yo yo strings to pull his horses along like he sees in Black Beauty.
The beginning scene is the birth of Black Beauty. This is an exciting time and is presented nicely. We see the horse get helped up by its mother and cleaned off. This is very natural and educational for my son to observe this. He says look at the baby beauty!
The horse spends its first year someplace else and when returns it is time to be sold. He arrives at Berkwood Park the residence of Squire Gordon. The Squire and his wife greet the horse and their staff member Jon. This is when the couple decide on the name Black Beauty and where it is said that, “beauty is as beauty does”.
Black Beauty is brought to the stables to meet the new horses. Merrylegs is the pony the children of the house play with and ride on. Ginger is, according to Beauty, ill tempered. The two horses immediately start inspecting each other and it is quite nice to see this getting to know you for animals.
There are some nice scenes showing the horses playing in the field around the lake. Nicholas would say the horse has friends. They show off and neigh often while galloping all over.
The mother is quite ill and spends her time resting indoors. The family has to go to another town for a doctor visit. The men working in the barn stall where Ginger and Black Beauty are housed is smoking a cigar and then another man puts a light on the hay and you just sense danger is on the horizon.
Jon has a nephew that went with them named Joe, and he smells the fire and rushes into the barn. Black Beauty does not want to leave because Ginger is still in the barn. Joe covers the horses eyes and out they go. Jon arrives quickly and gathers Ginger.
Once home they have another mishap when they are riding over a bridge and Black Beauty tries to let Jon know it is too dangerous to cross. Black Beauty rescues Jon from the water and they make it back home. There the owners take Jon inside to be tended to and Joe takes care of the horses. He is not sure what to do and ends up putting a blanket on the horse. The next morning Jon comes in and sees how badly injured Black Beauty is and stays with him until better.
Black Beauty is then sent to another location to heal and Joe visits every day, forming a bond with the horse. They frolic in the grass and then Black Beauty shows Joe how to ride a horse. It is an enjoyable scene to watch.
Sadly the family must move due to the Mother’s illness and they bid good bye to the horses and Jon. At this point I get lost and somehow Joe gets the horses Ginger and Black Beauty. The instructions were not to sell the horses, but Merrylegs was sold, and this was hard on Black Beauty to see the little pony go.
The next residence is a lady with some title who wanted things her way. There is a disturbing scene with her repeating to hold the reins on the horses before she will get in the carriage for a ride. Later she is drawing the horse in the house and it is quite comical seeing the horse stand for a portrait.
The worker, Ruben, takes the horse and carriage into town to get a new coat of paint for the carriage. The person he drops the carriage off to makes the funny remark that your lady needs a great deal more than a coat of paint, referring to the boss.
Ruben spends this time drinking at a place in town and comes out drunk. He is not aware that Beauty has a loose shoe and proceeds to ride the horse drunk. There is an accident and the horse is standing waiting for help to arrive while Ruben is passed out farther down the road. Help arrives and Ruben is no longer an employee of the residence.
The next scenes are at a horse auction and Black Beauty recognizes Joe there and tries to get his attention, but a gentleman named Jerry is standing there, comes to check out the horse and buys him.
Jerry takes the horse home all the while the horse is having a hard time adjusting the noise of the city, the smells and the cobble stones. Once home, his wife, son and daughter meet the horse. They name him Black Jack, and the girl brushes his hair and braids it.
Jerry runs a cab stand and their days are busy transporting passengers all over the city. Black Jack says the streets are hard on a horse but Jerry is a good man. Jerry is a man that says "kind to me, kind to the horse". They do not take rides for more money to make the horse go at a quicker pace.
A lady in town has a mother that is sick in the country. Jerry’s wife tries to get him to take her up there on a Sunday. Jerry says this is the day the horse and I rest. A carriage is brought in from another friend, packed bread and cheese and they are off to take the woman to the country.
Jerry takes all the equipment off the horse and the horse runs freely in the meadow. Even the cows moo as a greeting to Jerry and the horse. But the horse decides why should he have all the fun and makes a chase out of it. He grabs the bread out of Jerry’s hand and makes him run after him. We love to watch this part of the movie.
Back in town one day and Ginger is spotted. Black Jack is surprised at how badly Ginger looks. Nicholas said Ginger has a white star on her head and Black Beauty (he does not refer to him as Black Jack), has a white circle on his head. The horses greet each other for a bit and later in the rain a horse is wheeled by that has died, and it is Ginger. The look in Black Jack’s eyes is so sad at this time and you feel badly for the lost friend.
One night Jerry has to wait for two men who are drinking in a house. It is raining hard and Jerry is coughing hard. The men make them wait and finally come out. The next morning, Harry, Jerry’s son comes down to take care of Black Jack. It is then that we learn that Jerry is ill from being outside in the rain. They have to move and the children say good bye to the horse. The scene of Jerry in the carriage at the window, waving goodbye to the horse is a real tear-jerker to this day.
They show Black Beauty spending a year doing manual labor that takes a toll on the horse. Back at the auction stables again, Joe arrives and Black Beauty neighs so loud and jumps up and down trying to get his attention.
It worked and the look on Joe’s face when he pulls the black hair off the horse and sees the white circle and realizes it is the horse he grew up with his uncle Jon. They go back to Joe’s house and a year later Black Beauty is sitting under a tree reminiscing of the days with Merrylegs and Ginger.
Nicholas would get a little confused at this part because he had seen Ginger die and then we see the flashbacks. For a five year old he was not sure what was happening. The movie ends at this point and finishes with the friends frolicking in the grass near the lake when they were younger.
What a wonderful movie to watch as a family. For animal lovers and those that might have children who show an interest in horses. For those who have children under age four, you may want to watch once when the children are asleep to preview. This way you will see just where the birth of Black Beauty is, the fire scene and the part where the horses reins are made tighter.
Now what ever happened to the television show with Wilbur. A Horse is a horse of course! Matthew often views Black Beauty. He really likes to hear British accents. He does get agitated during the fire scene and loves to watch when Joe has Black Beauty.
Adapted from a previously published review on Epinions
Black Beauty is available at Amazon.
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