by Jack Nilan            EMail :

A Man Called Horse (1970)

Jack   A-

IMDB    6.9

Tribe(s) : Sioux/Shoshone

Language : English/Sioux



   Set in 1825 an English aristocrat, John Morgan, gets captured by the Sioux.

   He is given to the chief's mother to be used as an object of labor, a horse. He goes on to earn the respect of his captors and eventually goes on to become a chief.

   The movie does a good job of showing the Native American way of life before the white man got there and also shows the Sioux culture in particular. The village scenes were really good. There were scenes of hunting, dancing, curing hides, children playing games. The movie showed some of the bad,, and good aspects of the Sioux culture. Taking coup was more important then killing. An older woman with no one left to care for her is left to her own devices, and ultimately left to die. The Sun manhood ceremony, based on eye witness accounts, is a fascinating scene. I also admire that the movie used native language throughout. The film used the device of having a bilingual captive, Batise, who was able to translate for Horse.

   The English actress, Dame Judith Anderson is miscast as a tribal elder but the rest of the casting is pretty good.

   One thing that disturbs me is that this movie is the Tarzan style of myth making. White man appears in a different kind of a world and rises right to the top. Like Tarzan, Horse was an English Lord and his good character was going to allow him to triumph in any kind of circumstance. Some other movies in this sub-genre would include the Tarzan movies, Shogun, The Last of the Mohicans, and The Last Samurai. The beautiful Indian princess falls for the Man Called Horse, of course.

   This film could have been better without the intrusion of the English Lord who became chief. It probably would not have been as marketable, however, and that's the way things go in movies about Native Americans. It will change someday, hopefully.