Miracle of the White Stallions (1963)

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A film based on a true WWII story and directed by Arthur Hiller should be good, right? Well…let’s find out. Read on for my review of the live-action Disney film, Miracle of the White Stallions!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The film takes place in Nazi-occupied Austria during WWII wherein Colonel Alois Podhajsky, played by Robert Taylor, is the chief of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. The School is famous for training their Lipizzaner horses in expert dressage. With the situation in Vienna getting worse, Colonel Podhajsky fears for the safety of his horses and seeks permission from a sympathetic General Tellheim, played by Curd Jürgens, to escort the horses elsewhere.

The Nazis wouldn’t allow it, but General Tellheim did get permission for Colonel Podhajsky to evacuate precious art treasures…and what better art treasures are there than the beloved Austrian horses?

That’s the biggest Hitler portrait I’ve ever seen in a Disney film!

Colonel Podhajsky leaves with his wife, Vedena, played by Lilli Palmer, along with his horses and everyone else involved with the Spanish Riding School, including Rider Otto, played by Eddie Albert. They encounter a few obstacles such as the station master not prioritizing the evacuation of the horses due to being swamped with other evacuation orders. But through some pathos-pandering, Colonel Podhajsky convinces the station master to allow them to evacuate. Other obstacles they encounter include air raids that threaten their train, but the engineer (proud to be transporting the Lipizzaner horses) charges on through!

Casey Jones, who?

Thankfully, they all arrive safely at the village of Saint Martin, where they are hosted by the gracious Countess Arco-Valley, played by Brigitte Horney, in her mansion. Things are mostly peaceful, but they run into a couple of issues such as hungry refugees wanting to steal the horses to sell and/or eat. There’s also another problem with the mares that were kept separately from the Spanish Riding School being captured by German forces in another town.

Thankfully, American troops have arrived in St. Martin much to the delight of the villagers.

“Probably a bunch of fat, lazy, fast food-loving slobs!”

They’re led by General Patton, played by John Larch. As he himself is a horse lover, Colonel Podhajsky gets the idea to put on a performance with the Lipizzaner horses for the General to convince him to help rescue their mares. They only have a couple of days to prepare which is nigh impossible, but due to the magic of scriptwriting, they’re able to prepare in time and perform for the General.

While at first it doesn’t seem to have swayed the General, he eventually gives orders for troops to liberate the mares. The troops manage to capture the mares as the German forces are willing to surrender to them rather than to the Russians who are also on their way. Everyone is overjoyed and the Riding School remained in St. Martin for ten more years until the occupation ended in Austria.

“That’ll do, horse. That’ll do.”

And that was Miracle of the White Stallions! There are kernels of a good film here, but the main issue with this film is that it seems to be three different films mashed up into one. First, there’s the story of evacuating the Lipizzaner horses from Vienna. Secondly, there’s the story of their time in St. Martin and preparing to put on a show for General Patton. And thirdly, there’s the story of liberating the stolen mares. Each one of these stories could be the focus of an entire movie! Instead, it’s treated like three separate episodes of a television series with not enough time devoted to each story! This results in nothing seeming miraculous at all and not getting invested fully in any one of the three stories!

The acting was good overall though, although the characters were not really interesting. The best thing by far were the horses and their choreographed performance sessions! That’s probably the only reason I’d recommend giving this a watch. Otherwise, I would like to see a better remake to this film any day!

So, my final score for this film is 19/35 = 54.29% (F) !

The next review will be posted on March 10, 2023.

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