Jun 19, 2009

Movie Review - Blue Fire Lady (1977)


I'm sorry, friends. I was away to see my husband's band perform in Montreal. I brought my laptop and my list of blog topics and then promptly got cranky about having to even open the computer bag. So, all apologies for leaving you in the lurch.

BUT. I'm back with a bang, with a review of "Blue Fire Lady." Growing up, this movie was one of my horse-y staples. I really don't know how that came to be, seeing as how it's a relatively unknown movie from 1977, made in Australia. Yet, when I wanted to do start writing up horse movie reviews, I knew it just had to be the first one. It held this favored place in my heart.

And then, watching it last weekend, I realized that I hadn't seen the damn thing since I was probably 8 or 9. Let's just say that my memory of it was far kinder.

Jenny is the only child of her widowed father and they live together on a working farm in Australia. Of course, Jenny has a great passion for horses, but she is forbidden from having anything to do with them because it turns out that her mother was killed by riding. Her father hates horses, convinced they are dangerous creatures who will kill anyone who comes into contact with them. Jenny disobeys his wishes because she just loves horses THAT MUCH. And he sends her to boarding school for what seems like 2 years. (The only reason I know this is because the horse she loves is shown in montages as aging from a wee baby to about a 2-year-old.) She graduates and opts to get a job in the horse industry at a racetrack where she is a groom, hotwalker, exercise rider….all of the above really. She falls in love. With a boy, too, but mostly with a horse – Blue Fire Lady. A crazy lunatic of a horse that wants to kill us all and eat our brains!!! Okay, so not that last part, but the horse is supposedly completely loony and from what I could tell, she was saner than any off-track thoroughbred I’ve ever worked with. But supposedly crazy she is and only Jenny can handle her. Of course. She makes Blue Fire Lady into a successful racehorse, but then has a change of heart about the cost of winning. You know what I’m talking about – the dilemma about teaching the horse to trust and love juxtaposed with the cruelty sometimes necessary to win. So she quits, leaving the mare to languish under the terrible treatment of the big-business-obsessed stable. Shortly thereafter the mare is officially deemed crazy and banned from the track. Finding out that the mare is destined to go to auction, Jenny plots to buy her for herself. It’s obvious she can’t and it’s no spoiler to tell you that her boyfriend manages to convince Jenny’s estranged daddy to buy the horse for her, with the totally cheesy argument: “Can’t you see she just wants to protect the thing she loves?!” OH SNAP! Didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Things that are weird about this movie:
- The actress playing Jenny looks about 25, so it’s totally confusing after about 20 minutes into the movie when she gets sent away to boarding school. You suddenly realize that Jenny is probably only supposed to be 16, but it just doesn’t seem right. It’s one of those things that, like, I understand theoretically, but it just doesn’t actually make sense. So, when I think of the movie, I think of Jenny from the latter part of the movie, not that weird interlude in which she pretends to go to school and do gymnastics in toddler’s rompers. Ahhhh….which brings me to my second point.

- The uniform at the boarding school seems to consist of miniscule skirts covering (if you can call it that) matching panties. I know this because there are a lot of shots of the skirts flipping up to reveal the panties underneath. I guess this panty-montage was for the poor fathers and boyfriends who found themselves dragged to this movie, but it’s totally out of place.

- The mare in the first part of the movie (the one that is Blue Fire Lady’s dam) is totally an Arabian. Dudes, really? You couldn’t find a convincing thoroughbred to trot around in the paddock a bit, and you just figured one horse was the same as any other? Come on. I beg of movie studios to please find it in their hearts to take pity on horse-obsessed young girls and just fucking match the right breed of horse! God damn it, that shit bothers me.

- Also, that brings me to another point. Why did no one just fucking come out and say that Blue Fire Lady was the same horse Jenny helped foal, back when she lived on the farm. It was totally obvious to anyone watching, but all the characters in the movie don’t seem very convinced. It makes no sense. The whole time, I wanted to yell at the screen: “DUDE! JENNY! IT’S THAT STUPID ARABIAN MARE'S BABY! IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW. WHICH MAYBE YOU DO? I DON'T KNOW. IT ISN'T CLEAR. PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOU UNDERSTAND! I CAN'T HANDLE THE PRESSURE -- IT"S MAKING ME GET ALL KANYE UP ON THIS KEYBOARD!”

- Oh! And I almost forgot the weirdest thing of all. The first trainer to offer her a racetrack job arrives at the train station to pick her up and then subsequently refuses to hire her when he realizes that she's a girl. What, what?! Jenny says that when she wrote him, he responded and said she had the job. So, I don't understand... Her name is Jenny, guy. Ostensibly she signed her name to her letter; did you suddenly think Jenny was a perfectly normal man's name? How did it not occur to you to think you might be picking up a girl at the train station? Or do they just offer jobs to anyone in Australia without ever having to mention your name?

Things that are just kind of laughably awful in this movie:
- Who the hell trailers a horse in a bridle?! And attaches said bridle to the trailer tie? Really! I need to know. Was that like a thing in Australia? Because it’s fucking stupid and dangerous. No wonder the horse was loony.

- There was a weird half-hearted attempt to describe Jenny’s mom’s death as not really being caused by a horse, but by the car she fell on after falling from the horse. No, I can’t explain that better. That’s what I vaguely heard. No, it doesn’t make sense. I’m sorry to do this to you. At this point in the movie you just nod kindly and have another glass of wine.

- I feel really badly about the portrayal of the Italian woman that Jenny lives with. God, can we create any more of a caricature? Never mind – please don’t answer that question….

- Ew….her boyfriend was gross. I know he was all heart-throbby by 70s standards. But…just….ew…. I far preferred the more homely, kind groom at the stable. Why did Jenny have to end up with skeevo dude?

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