The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976)

The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976)Ever since I saw A Man Called Horse (1970) a few months back I was hungry to see the first sequel, The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976), not the most imaginative title, still it gets to the point. There is more historical backing to this tome around as we begin with the ambush of the Yellow Hand tribe as they’re forced to reallocate to land that is far away from the buffalo, their main resource to sustain themselves. Without food any society’s doomed to die. All this takes place after John Morgan (Richard Harris) has returned to his life in England, not one that is really suiting him, we found him miserable in bed, the regularity of life at home is nothing compared to what he experienced with the Yellow Hand Sioux. His instinct is to go back for one year and no more.

Set during the 1830’s the wild west is still very much untouched, with settlements springing up, such as the fort that drove away the Sioux tribe to near extinction. I could get political about this but the film does is subtly for me as white settlers make use of “friendly’ natives to drive others away, the first of many to be broken treaties. Something that Morgan/Horse is aware of when is learns of his adoptive Peoples situation.

Making use of his position to push his way into the newly built fort to understand what is gong on. His time back in civilisation has reverted him back to his natural ways, those adopted in the previous film’s, little more than memories and experiences. The spiritual side that he assimilated has been lost by his upbringing. On finding the Yellow Hand he plays the westerner giving gifts in hopes of earning their trust, the traditional trade of items for bartering with. This doesn’t go down with the elders who don’t need these gifts and superior weapons. First needing to rid themselves of the bad spirits they believe are with them. This is hard for Morgan/Horse to understand at first needing to go on  a vision quest to truly understand what is going on, getting back in touch with that spiritual side that he had since lost. This is something that we don;t get in the traditional western, focusing more on the nations relocation, its perceived and heightened savagery, which we see being deal out to an enemy tribe. There is however something that we have seen before, the white man teaching the others how to fight the white’s way. Learning new strategies, such as hiding in the woods ready to ambush the enemy.

I must say that as I saw this on DVD I had to put up with some condescending subtitles, reminding me they were talking in Sioux, which other language besides English would they be taking in. Some of the atmosphere of the last film is lost in having the Sioux speaking English. Maybe that was to reflect how immersed Morgan has become with this nation, no longer an outside, and why should we. I just wish the subtitles were a little less distracting. There is also more time spent with the Yellow Hand as a people in terms of traditions as the men join Horse in a ritual similar to the first film, it’s not as hard to watch as I’ve seen it all before to a certain extent, it’s only when boys join in do we become uncomfortable. With all the anticipation that I brought to the film, I was let down in places, the audiences is given some historical context to Morgan who lived with them for the rest of his life. However I wish there were no subtitles, less English and more time building up the enemy which become pretty faceless, we just know they are there.

The second half is action focused and fast paced after a slow build up for the spirituality before all arrows are launched in a pretty one-sided battle aka ambush. It’s not as considered or as thoughtful as the original, for many reasons, such as almost complete change in cast, apart from Harris who I can’t fault. The structure of the films weighed more towards cashing in on the previous success without really understanding it properly. The change in studio also is a big one, which would obviously lead to a change in tone and direction. Is it a worthy sequel? Yes and no, we see a valid reason for his return after a yearning to go back whilst I felt let down to an extent by the repetition of some sequences, not trying anything new, no more exploration, just expanding on what worked by tweaking it, not really that original.

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2 responses

  1. Love that poster. Big Harris fan here too.
    Unforgiven, Major Dundee, The Deadly Trackers, Man in the Wilderness …
    Whoda thot an Englishman could make good Westerns? – especially Classics.

    March 16, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    • The perfect outsider really, not even American and he leaves his print on the genre.

      March 17, 2015 at 6:45 pm

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