Miracle of the White Stallions DVD Review
|Miracle of the White Stallions
Theatrical Release: March 29, 1963 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
Director: Arthur Hiller
Cast: Robert Taylor (Colonel Podhajsky), Lilli Palmer (Vedena Podhajsky), Curt Jurgens (General Tellheim), Eddie Albert (Rider Otto), James Franciscus (Major Hoffman), John Larch (General Patton), Brigitte Horney (Countess Arco-Valley), Philip Abbott (Colonel Reed), Charles Regnier (General Stryker), Douglas Fowley (Lt. General Walton H. Walker)
Review by Aaron Willcott
Based on the true story of Colonel Alios Podhajsky, Miracle of the White Stallions is a departure from the traditional 1960s Disney movie. A true drama in every sense of the word, the film is set during World War II and tells the tale of the famed Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School and their escape from Vienna.
Miracle of the White Stallions begins with the Nazi army not allowing Colonel Podhajsky to evacuate the horses for their safety. Disobeying orders for fear of the horses' lives, Colonel Podhajsky flees overnight with the horses from the school. After getting help from people along the way (all of whom are fans of the Lipizzan horses), Colonel Podhajsky gets the horses out of Vienna. The members of the Spanish Riding School take refuge with the horses at St. Martins.
The larger part of the film takes place at St. Martins. The Spanish Riders have to protect the horses from desperate Austrian refugees, and put together a show for General Patton. When asked for protection for the Spanish Riding School by the American Army, General Patton agrees and initiates an offensive movement into enemy territory to rescue the Lipizzan mares, which were
As you can tell, the story takes you from Vienna, to St. Martens, and through enemy territory. This causes the film to lack certain cohesiveness. Unless one is familiar with horses, the importance of protection of the Lipizzan breed also becomes a distraction. The performances given by all of the actors, however, are solid and impressive. This is a truly dramatic motion picture.
The other fascinating aspects of this film are the horse shows, which were choreographed by the real Colonel Alios Podhajsky himself. Another gem in this film is the song, "Just Say Auf Weidersehen". It is a lovely ballad sung by Eddie Albert (the guy driving the Winnebago in Escape to Witch Mountain) in an Austrian tavern with other soldiers. The song is very sentimental without being foolish. The film is not the best in Disney live-action films, but it stands as a respectable film and deserves a DVD release. Now let's see what kind of presentation we get.
VIDEO and AUDIO
Disney should be ashamed of the video quality on this DVD. The print is riddled with artifacts and dust, the clarity of the picture is almost worse than a VHS quality. The colors are bright enough, but the image is not crisp or clear. There is a grainy glaze or fuzz that seems to cover the picture just as a VHS copy would exhibit. A good comparison to the video quality would be Disney's terrible release of Blackbeard's Ghost.
We are given a fullscreen version of the film which is obviously NOT the original aspect ratio as can be seen in the opening credits when a black box is shown around the whole picture to allow for the credits to be read entirely. Framing problems are minor but noticeable, especially during the amazing horse show sequences when some horses are cut off.
Despite Disney's poor video quality on this disc, the Dolby Digital Mono track is clean and sharp and serves a wonderful source of the Sherman Brothers' song, "Just Say Auf Wiedersehen" as well as the lamenting score that accompanies the more somber moments in the film.
Miracle of the White Stallions is one of those catalog titles that Disney seems to have released just to stop more people from asking for it. Absolutely no effort has been given to this release. There is no love or care for this movie from Disney. There are no special features on this disc. However, Disney would like to make you think that there are by listing Spanish Subtitles as a "Special Feature" rather than a "Technical Specification."
The menus are static and 16x9. Only a portion of the film's score accompanies the main menu.
Miracle of the White Stallions is a definite departure from traditional Disney fare. The film is a dramatic story about a man whose strength and will are tested, and a parable of war about how times of ignorant force can destroy a culture's history. Although the film does lag at times on what seems to be insignificant plot points, overall, it works decently.
Unfortunately, Disney has treated this film without any respect and decided to release a barebones fullscreen DVD with a terrible film print. I would only recommend a purchase of this film to people who love this movie or want to complete a Disney DVD collection. However, it warrants at least as a rental to see a Disney quite different from what most people remember.
UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Old Live Action (Pre-1980) Films Page
It Came From the '60s! Related Reviews:
Son of Flubber (1963) | Savage Sam (1963) | Big Red (1962)
The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964) | The Gnome-Mobile (1967)
Pollyanna (1960) | The Parent Trap (1960) | Bon Voyage! (1962)
Blackbeard's Ghost (1968) | The Love Bug (1969) | Those Calloways (1965)
Reviewed May 19, 2004.