FT ERIE function ft Erie racetrack the work of the Prince the Wales stakes, Sunday, July 15, 2012. Photo through Nick Agro / Buffalo News

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 29: Academy award winning film housing Francis Ford Coppola write his name in cement as TCM honors him through a Hand/Footprint Ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX ~ above April 29, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)


Don’t take my word for it. It is the word-for-word evaluate of Pauline Kael, the late brand-new Yorker writer who may have actually been the greatest film doubter ever made.

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Take my word because that this, though: “The black Stallion” is the best children’s movie ever made in our same region.

The film opened 40 years earlier this week. Much of its glorious first half was filmed in Sardinia and much of its back fifty percent was filmed in and around Toronto — yet the climactic, edge-of-your-seat closeup of the door scenes were filmed a few furlongs indigenous the peace Bridge at fort Erie gyeongju Track.

Just together “The Natural” was made at war Memorial stadion in the 1980s because it can pass for a significant league ballpark in the 1930s, so, too, to be “The black color Stallion” do at ft Erie in the summer that 1977 due to the fact that the picturesque track looked as if it could be collection in the 1940s — and, fact to tell, still does.

The film’s mythic tone comes by means of cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, who would work the very same sort of cinematic alchemy a couple of years later on — ~ above the various other side the the Niagara — once he was cinematographer for, friend guessed it, “The Natural.”

That’s a movie Buffalonians know because it marries the grit of battle Memorial with the glitz the Hollywood — and the Old Rockpile gets equal billing with Robert Redford. (Well, at least right here on the Niagara Frontier.)

But in which method our other neighborhood movie classic gets lost in the fog the memory. That shouldn’t. As film doubter Michael Sragow placed it in a 2015 reappraisal: “The black Stallion remains much more than a rousing adventure — that an enchantment.”

If you’ve never seen the movie, or even heard that it, you space in luck. It is accessible for streaming and also there’s a remastered Blu-ray version put out in 2015 by the Criterion repertoire that has actually lots that extras, consisting of an interview with Deschanel. (His daughter Zooey Deschanel — the actress, model and singer-songwriter — would be born three months come the day after the film’s theatrical release.)

If you’d favor a taste of “The black Stallion” just now, here’s the initial movie trailer, consisting of some the the scenes from fort Erie.

Though the eponymous equine is blazingly fast, modern tastes could find the movie a tad slow. Don’t be fooled: manager Carroll Ballard take away Walter Farley’s 1941 children novel and also elevates the story come the airy kingdom of modern myth.

Alec is a young shipwrecked on a deserted island v a wild Arabian stallion in the 1940s. The near-wordless scenes in i m sorry boy and also horse come to know one another — tentatively at first, intimately at size — are “so gloriously breathtaking,” in the estimation of roger Ebert, as to make the film’s second fifty percent seem just routine.

“We’ve viewed the second half before — the story the the kid, the horse, the veteran trainer, and the large race,” Ebert created in his 1979 review. “But the an initial hour the this movie belongs amongst the good filmgoing experiences.”

Ebert references “scenes shot approximately an old racetrack in Toronto,” but that’s only fifty percent right. Yes, few of the racing scenes were shot in ~ Woodbine, but the crowning match race was in reality filmed at ft Erie.

And Sragow appreciates the film’s stirring climax more than Ebert did: “The climactic gyeongju of The black color Stallion carries an unusual resonance. … Ballard’s film doesn’t succumb come race-of-the century fever. It stays concentrated on the boy, the horse, and their dream that freedom.”

The movie opened up on Oct. 17, 1979, and critics lapped the up. Audience did, as well — the was produced under $4 million and grossed approximately $38 million. Sragow’s essay notes that it “quickly came to be a legend, playing prefer gangbusters as soon as it spread out cross-country the winter. Indeed, city hall it v a ‘hushed, attentive audience’ at an really Saturday matinee inspired Pauline Kael to do the renowned remark, ‘There may be a different God because that movies, at that.’ ”

Francis Ford Coppola to be executive producer and also his father, Carmine, created the film’s evocative score. Mickey Rooney deserve an Oscar nomination because that his duty as the wily trainer, itself a callback come his duty as an ex-jockey in 1942’s “National Velvet.” and screenwriter Melissa Mathison would certainly go ~ above to compose “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”

But for all the constellation that talent, nobody of this functions without horse and also boy. Cass Ole, a Texas-bred Arabian stallion, play the title character, with 3 other horses filling in in ~ times. Kelly Reno to be 11 when filming started and already an accomplished rider for having grown up on a Colorado ranch. That plays Alec, in Sragow’s words, together “an ideal everyboy.”

So how come a movie make in 1977 didn’t reach theaters till 1979? turns out studio executives put it top top the shelf due to the fact that they didn’t know what lock had. “The black color Stallion” can never have actually reached theaters had not Coppola exerted his Godfatherly clout.

Ballard later on told the tale of one befuddled exec asking: “What is this, some kind of arts film because that kids?”

Well, yes, in a way, but that’s as well limiting. From the sands that Sardinia come the dirt track of ft Erie, that an epos for the periods — and all ages.

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