Phar Lap (1983)
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Phar Lap ran up a string of victories from Australia to the United States that astounded the racing world then and even now it's hard to believe that such a race horse ever existed, he was just that good. like the saying goes: "It too good to be true" but it is. Winning 37 out of 51 races in his racing career with 14 wins in a row between 1930-1931 the only thing that could beat Phar Lap was the crushing weight that local handicappers put on his back to give the other horses racing against him a chance.
In Phar Lap's last race in 1932 he traveled to the United States to race against the best racehorses in the world at the Agua Caliente race track on the Mexican border. It was there for the first time in his life Par Lap raced on dirt not grass where he ran on in all his races and not only won but broke the track and world record for a mile and a quarter doing it. Tragically a month later Phar Lap collapsed and died in his stable.
Moving as well as exciting film about the great Phar Lap with Tom Burlinson excellent as Tommy Woodcock, the young stable boy who was the only one who had any faith in the horses ability and brought the best out of Phar Lap when everyone else gave up on him. With top performances from Ron Leibman and Martin Vaughan as Phar Lap's owner and trainer who over the years with him began to see Phar Lap not as a racehorse but almost human.
One of the most stirring finals you'll ever see in any movie with Phar Lap beating the best there is in the world of horse racing in the Mexican desert at the Agua Caliente race track racing with an injured hoof and carrying a high weight of 129 pounds. Later after the race when Phar lap breaks down and dies the shock and heart felt loss, especially by young Tommy Woodcock, was one of the most touching and moving scenes I've ever seen in any film. You can really see what that horse meant to everyone who had the privilege to be involved with him. Great movie, but what makes it even greater is that the story is unbelievably true.
P.S One more thing about the movie, the part of Phar Lap was played by a horse named Towering Inferno.
or C) doesn't need an "all-star" cast to recognize a great film/story.
Phar Lap is great. Find out what happens to a sport when a freak of nature comes on the scene and creates a world-wide panic. From simple fans, horse & animal lovers, politicians and even the mafia. A story that will touch and amaze you in ways you never dreamed possible. See the lengths man would go to get "even" the playing field. Then watch as this thoroughbred smashes the measures taken. If you thought "Old Yeller" was great (and it was), this movie should knock your socks off. It's an amazing true story that MUST be seen to be believed. Forget "Black Stallion" and the rest. Phar Lap is FANtastic!!
The story line of Phar Lap is strong, he was a freak racehorse who came from rags to riches to win the hearts of all Australians during the great depression. After winning the biggest race in the world, his life tragically ends in suspicious circumstances, which forces a nation into mourning. Sub-plots however, including a romance featuring Tommy Woodcock, and Telford's money problems don't hold up. This doesn't spoil the movie as the story of Phar Lap can stand on its own.
Tom Burlinson does a good job of Tommy Woodcock, Rob Leibman practically walks away with the movie as the American Dave Davis. However, Martin Vaughan's performance is average as Phar Lap's trainer, Harry Telford.
Even with the tragic ending it is still light entertaining movie about a great Australian Icon.
The racing scenes were so exciting even though you know what happens after watching so many time s you can't help but cheer for him. The music is so beautiful, I certain wish people would watch this movie and keep a open mind, that it is just not a story about a horse.
as someone would say Phar lap wasn't just a horse he was the best.
This week there are the inevitable comparisons with Makybe Diva who has rightly earned her own place in the history books. But she is 7 years old and has run 36 races, Phar Lap was only 3 when he died and had already raced 51 times, 37 of them wins.
His heart now resides in the National Museum in Canberra (his body is in the Melbourne Museum). The size of his heart is incredible to behold. I don't think there will ever be another horse that matches the incomparable Phar Lap.
Phar Lap is one of the most respected horses. I go see him in the Melbourne museum at least every 2 years and it is so powerful to be standing in the presence of such a legend. I was in a reenactment of Phar Lap last year at a royal show and I was riding a horse racing next to the horse playing Phar Lap and I was overcome with emotion to be riding next to the legend (even though it was an reenactment.)
I suggest this movie to everyone and everyone should know the story of phar lap because it is world history and he deserves his name to be know right around the world.
To start with, I didn't think the film's sequence of starting with his death, flashing back through the horse's life then back to the death really worked. I thought it was disjointed and didn't achieve anything. The death itself was also not treated with the proper attention given the enormous amount of hearsay and speculation about the poisoning and other circumstances surrounding Phar Lap's untimely end. We are pretty much picked up and dropped at the end of the film.
Also, the very title of this film "Phar Lap: Hero to a Nation" isn't indicative of the film's focus. A country that was suffering through the torments of depression had its hopes lifted by this single racehorse, and that wasn't given enough emphasis. The only real glimpse we got of the people's struggle through the era was Harry Telford's wife complaining they didn't have enough money. It really needed more of a macro perspective. Phar Lap was a legend for more reason than just winning races. He symbolised something far greater, helping resurrect an entire nation out of despair.
Some parts of the film were quite good, and before watching it I was hoping that it wouldn't be too sappy or indulgent with the orchestral backdrop. I was relieved to see that it was quite sincere in this respect, and the costumes and set were very fitting. The acting also was commendable, particularly Ron Liebman playing David Davis, who seemed to be channeling Al Pacino in certain scenes.
Overall I came away feeling a little disappointed with the treatment the film gave a figure such as Phar Lap. However, hiring the DVD is worthwhile for the Special Features that contain Wincer's interview with Tommy Woodcock, but prepare to cringe at Wincer questioning Woodcock on what he thought of his movie.
Phar Lap (a phonetic spelling of the Thai word for ''lightning'') was known to his trainer Harry Telford (Martin Vaughan) and his stable boy Tommy Woodcock (Tim Burlinson) as "Bobby" though he was also called "Big Red", "The Red Terror", "The Wonder Horse", and "The Big Fellow". Like Seabiscuit, Phar Lap became a hero to many during the great depression because he was bought for a song and no one believed he would amount to much. As the film opens, Dave Davis (Ron Liebman), the wealthy owner is out to protect his investment, but does not believe in the colt, calling him a cross between a sheepdog and a kangaroo and reluctantly agrees to lease him to Harry for three years. After losing his first few races, Phar Lap is trained to come from behind and overtake horses and the film details his rise to fame including the often-strained relationships between owner, trainer, and the stable boy who loved Bobby and wanted to protect him from Harry's tough training methods.
The film also describes the corruption in racing at the time and the fierce betting that took place among mob interests. Because of his constant victories, Phar Lap became a threat to some of the high rollers and one told the owner, ''Look Dave, if something's good that's O.K. But if something's too good, that upsets the entire system.'' In Mexico, Phar Lap was forced to carry 129 pounds for his shot at the $50,000 purse and had to wear heavy bar shoes to protect his feet from a painful heel injury. Even though he was racing on dirt for the first time, he established a record time, coming from last place to win in a crowded field but it was to be his last race.
Phar Lap is a very entertaining film and the horse racing sequences are splendidly done, though there is never much suspense about the outcome. Burlinson (The Man From Snowy River) is outstanding as the strapper who eventually becomes a trainer and Liebman invests his not entirely unsympathetic character with a humanity that stands in sharp contrast to some of the ruthless moguls running the sport at the time. While the film is often marred by some trite dialogue and melodramatic music, you will fall in love with Bobby as I did and perhaps shed a tear at a very moving conclusion.