Black Horse Canyon is a 1954 film about horse ranchers in the Old West and the extraordinary lengths ranchers and rustlers went to to get their livestock and animals for breeding.
As the film describes it, the Old West was home to herds of wild horses which were captured, “broken” and branded to become working animals. Those broken mares would then be bred with the studs, the superstars of the horse world. Black Horse Canyon features one such horse, Outlaw, actually raised from a foal by Aldis Spain (Mari Blanchard), who escaped and became feral – running with the herds of wild horse down near the rocky canyons. Outlaw, it appears, is a clever beast who has worked out how to open gates. Aldis wants her horse back, but being wild and clearly a magnificent wild stallion so do the other horse ranchers and traders.
Del Rockwell (McCrea) and his young charge Ti (Race Gentry) are setting up a new ranch and try to capture Outlaw, only to get in trouble with other landowners tracking him. Outlaw letting out a whole bunch of other horses by opening their corral gates doesn’t help matters.
The story deals with how Aldis, Del and Ti team up against the other landowners to get Outlaw back.
And that’s about it.
There’s a subplot involving a romantic rivalry between Del and Ti which has a unsatisfyingly conciliatory conclusion, but the main focus of the film is watching people dealing with horses on the hoof. Running, stampeding, chasing, being caught, trained and pacified. There is a lot of it. Outlaw, the black horse of the title, was apparently an award winning stallion back in the day, and something of a celebrity in the screen horse world. But otherwise the dialogue is thick with exposition and for the most part is incredibly perfunctory. Only the quiet moments of unspoken interaction between Aldis and Ti are dramatically very interesting.
Black Horse Canyon is a movie for people who like plenty of horse action in their tales from the Old West. For everyone else, there’s not much to see.
Black Horse Canyon is out on DVD now.