Australian Screen

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The Man from Snowy River (1982)

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clip 'A stripling, on a small and weedy beast' education content clip 3

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) has joined the crack horsemen in pursuit of the wild brumbies, but the men baulk at following the mob down a precipitous decline. As Harrison (Kirk Douglas) declares the mob has beaten them, Craig shows his mountain rider’s credentials, with a wild ride down the hill.

Curator’s notes

The essence of the poem is captured in this sequence – the wild ride down the hillside. Many of the film’s lines, as when Harrison says 'You can bid the mob good day’, come directly from Banjo Paterson’s poem.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip from popular Australian feature film The Man From Snowy River shows a chase sequence where experienced stockmen pursue a valuable escaped colt that is running with a mob of brumbies (wild horses). The mob descends a steep and treacherous slope; the stockmen halt at the top, reluctant to follow them, but Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) follows the mob without hesitation. Clancy (Jack Thompson) and the other men look on as Craig follows the mob. After continuing the pursuit single-handedly, he successfully rounds up the brumbies and the prized colt.

Educational value points

  • This scene is from the feature film The Man From Snowy River, which was released in 1982 and was an immediate commercial success. At the time it was Australia’s highest grossing film, with Australian box office sales totalling almost $17.5 million. Based on a poem by Australian poet Banjo Paterson, the film is set in 1880 in the Australian Alps. The film presents US actor Kirk Douglas in two roles (Harrison and Spur) and Australian actors Sigrid Thornton (Jessica Harrison), Jack Thompson and Tom Burlinson in leading roles.
  • The excerpt shows an important rite of passage for the character Jim, as he strives to win the hand of the woman he loves. Jim’s motivation for the dangerous chase is to prove his worth to Harrison, the father of Jessica. Rounding up the mob single-handedly can be seen as symbolising his rite of passage into manhood. The young lad looking for approval from his peers becomes a mountain hero, respected for his courage and unprecedented riding prowess. In this scene the audience witnesses Jim’s transformation into 'the man from Snowy River’, 'a stripling, on a small and weedy beast’ and a legend of the mountains.
  • The clip uses a number of different film techniques to emphasise the speed of the chase and the audience’s involvement in it. Rapid edits, shots of horses galloping past a still camera and multiple angles and close-ups from within and around the horses dramatise the scene. Low angle shots of the brumbies and of Jim jumping off the mountain spur’s edge highlight the impossibility of the steep descent. A close-up of the horse’s face is edited against a close-up of Jim’s face, suggesting the determination of both characters. Finally, Jim cracks his whip, signifying his victory.
  • The poem The Man from Snowy River, written by Andrew Barton 'Banjo’ Paterson (1864–1941) and first published in The Bulletin magazine in 1889, has been the inspiration for a number of other productions. It also inspired a sequel to the original film (The Man from Snowy River II), a TV series (Snowy River: The MacGregor Saga) a musical theatre production (The Man From Snowy River: Arena Spectacular) and was commemorated in the opening ceremony to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The full text of the poem is also printed several times in microprint on the Australian $10 note.
  • The clip shows a 'mob’ of feral horses known as brumbies, which are descended from lost or escaped horses of early European settlers. There are more horses in the wild in Australia than in any other country in the world and significant numbers can be found in the Australian Alps. In the past the detrimental effect of introduced animals on the alpine environment focused on cattle. However, a ban on cattle grazing in 2005 also turned attention to other feral animals that inhabit the high country including goats, deer and brumbies. The culling of brumbies, shot from helicopters, led to considerable outrage from animal welfare groups and many concerned citizens.

This clip starts approximately 1 hour 31 minutes into the feature.

We see Jim Craig jumping off his horse and straightening his saddle as a group of crack horsemen ride past him. He quickly gets on top of his horse and rides off to follow the wild brumbies. We see the wild brumbies racing away through the forest and the crack horsemen in pursuit. The brumbies jump over a cliff and the crack horsemen stop at the edge to see how steep it is. Jim Craig doesn’t stop like the rest of the crack horsemen but rather cracks his whip and rides down the steep cliff with his horse to follow the wild brumbies. The crack horsemen watch on.
Harrison You can bid the mob good day.

We see the wild brumbies coming to the end of the steep cliff and riding away on level land. The crack horsemen turn around and ride away back through the forest. They reach the top of a hill where they can see the wild brumbies on the other side of the hill along with Jim Craig cracking his whip.
Crack horseman Look!

Jim Craig continues to follow the brumbies along plains and through snow. Jim Craig eventually brings the herd to a stop. One of the brumbies at the front of the herd neighs and grunts at Craig in disagreement. Craig cracks his whip and the horse tries to challenge Craig again. Craig lifts his whip and gives it an almighty crack to show the brumbies who is boss.

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  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
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