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Posts tagged ‘man from snowy river’

Analysing the appeal of the leading man

On the flight to London, what did the Emirates Entertainment System feature, but The Man From Snowy River.

(NB Apologies to those who do not recognise the grammatical structure of the opening sentence. It is not punctuated with a question mark, largely because it is not a question. It is a correct and recognised statement in Ireland, the socially acceptable response being, ‘Well, isn’t that the feckin grandest.’ If you are paying attention, you will know that is not a question either. I am practicing in preparation for my triumphant return home.)

Of course I watched it. I would have done even if the alternatives hadn’t been ‘Run Fat Boy Run’ and ‘Mamma Mia‘. The plot is still far-fetched and flung together unbelievably tenuously; yet it remains the best two hours of distilled corn you are likely to find in this dimension.

For example, the scene near the end, when Harrison makes the mistake of calling Jim Craig a lad – an easy error to make when his voice hasn’t broken yet:-

“He’s a man,” snarls his estranged, impoverished brother. “A MAN!”

“The Man. From Snawwy Rivvah,” breathes mountain legend Clancy, with a look that, in a porn movie, would sufficiently convey lust.

When I first saw The Man From Snowy River, although I enjoyed it, I didn’t understand Jim Craig’s credentials as a leading man. Only now, with the benefit of maturity, hindsight and imagination, can I recognise his appeal.

Firstly, although it rather spoils the tension that nothing bad ever happens to Jim Craig, I can acknowledge what an attractive trait this is in a man. In real life, I grew up with a pile of people featuring patriotic quotients of Luck Of The Irish to varying degrees, yet I’ve never come across anyone with Jim Craig’s reserves of pure, unadulterated luck. Even on the rare occasions bad things DO happen to Jim Craig, he resolves them ridiculously easily. His father is killed by a homicidal tree within five minutes of the opening credits, but it’s more a plot device than a serious setback. Jim shovels dung onto the boot of his nemesis Curly, and instead of beating him to a bloody pulp and impaling him on a pitchfork, Curly merely sulks and shoots Jim the occasional dirty look.

If you married Jim, you would have the security of knowing your dreams would always come true and your crops would never fail. If you foolishly toppled over a cliff and improbably landed on a small ledge down an otherwise sheer drop, Jim would turn up to rescue you. And of course, you would get to wear corsets and lace up boots with the cutest little kitten heels.

Secondly, you have to admire a man with the confidence to sport a pair of breeches that tight with legs like his. Even as a teenager, I recall being mesmerized by Tom Burlinson’s chubby little legs, and would subsequently spend years pondering whether his arse was too big even for a man who was supposed to spend most of his life astride a horse. Of course, it is indeed too big – for what is a subject of debate – but definitely for wearing breeches that tight. Yet it is impossible not to give respect where it is due.

I had forgotten Sigrid Thornton’s savage monobrow, and how she enunciated everything through pursed lips. This so inspired me I spent an entire summer talking as if trying to unobtrusively spit out a large morsel of food. No doubt it would have been easier and less time-consuming had I emulated her by simply not brushing my hair.

There is a scene where Jim Craig leaps over the reluctant men and rides down the side of a cliff, shot in silence but for report of his horse’s hooves striking the earth. Overlooking the irresponsible risk Jim Craig took with his life and that of a horse that doesn’t even belong to him, it is still awe-inspiring 26 years later

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The Man From Snowy River

Since I touched on the subject of my childhood in the last post, I thought I would further explore the theme. Back in the days, Limerick had a cinema down Bedford Row and it was a dingy affair. The red armchairs had bald, sticky patches. A dusty velvet curtain featured an amazing ‘SWISH!’ effect. Instead of trailers, asymmetric bubbles oozed across a bile-yellow background, spawning and splitting in slo-mo until the audience was considered comatose enough to watch the main feature.

[NB: some of this recollection may be influenced by nostalgia and/or bitterness.]

At the time, I didn’t know any of this, because I’d never been to the movies. Just another neglect adding up to the conglomeration of deprivation that was my childhood. My parents are lucky they evaded social services for so many years, what with how they forced me to clean my room every month and only allowed me chips once a week and beat me. Ok, that last bit isn’t true, but the rest totally is. If I weren’t a fiction author, I would write an autobiography and call it ‘A Child Called “Hey You Do The Dishes”: A Story of Triumph and Forgiveness’ and make a bloody fortune, I can tell you.

Before he met mum, my father worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in Australia. My parents never had a big interest in films, but when they heard ‘The Man From Snowy River’ was coming to Limerick, they decided this occasion merited a Family Outing.

Thus started the great countdown to The Man From Snowy River. We had Man From Snowy River theme dinners, and crossed off days on a Man From Snowy River calendar. It was like the build-up to the Olympics – obviously not on the same cost or magnitude scale, but certainly up there on the emotional and logistics levels.  Planning kicked off weeks before opening night, when dad got a large street map of Limerick and inserted flags denoting potential parking places in the city centre.

The event was set to go down in family legend, so that, twenty years in the future when someone said, ‘What do you remember of your childhood?’ we would say, ‘Well, not a lot, although oh yes. There was. That time I saw The Man From Snowy River. *sigh!* It was the best day of my life.’ There was to be ice-cream and Maltesers, and maybe Coke if we were especially good. I’d never eaten ice-cream, and had never even HEARD of Maltesers.

[SCENE: a brown living room. A MOTHER reads in an overstuffed armchair. In the far corner, THREE CHILDREN play with a stick and a cardboard box. The FATHER enters, wearing a paisley shirt with ridiculously pointed collar]

FATHER: I think there’s someone at the door, dear.

MOTHER: Who might that be? Ooh, maybe it’s-

ALL: THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER!

CHILDREN: YAY! THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER! YAY!

DAUGHTER: I can’t WAIT to see The Man From Snowy River! It’s going to be the highlight of my tragically deprived little life!

On the big day, I woke up at 05:00 and couldn’t eat with all the excitement (although I was also saving room for the ice-cream and Maltesers). Throughout the day the tension built until it was emitting its own frequency by the time we left in the car. Even the driving rain was not sufficient to dampen our enthusiasm.

On the way into town, the three kids in the back sang our Man From Snowy River song:-

The Man From Snowy River <clap!>
He might be called Trevor <clap!>
Or Bill or Ted or Roger
So far he is a mystery
But we, but we, are going to see
Him in all his cinematic glory

When we reached Henry Street, we beheld an awful sight. Our little voices fell silent one by one. A queue extended from the gaping mouth of The Grand, around the block, across the street and up past the Garda Station.

We went home.

There was no ice-cream or Maltesers.

It would be YEARS before I finally experienced cinematic magic. My mother wouldn’t allow me to watch Top Gun due to rumours of a raunchy love scene involving Suggestion of Tongue. Her logic would have better withstood the test of time if she had forbidden me to see Top Gun because Tom Cruise’s tooth-heavy smile was sinister and disturbing even then.

Eventually I saw Man From Snowy River on telly. TELLY! The bit where The Man from Snowy River rides his horse down a cliff would have been so much better on the big screen before I had heard of special effects and knew the director was tilting the camera to make it look steeper

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