3 December 2008 | bkoganbing
No Kid's Film Here
This particular D.H. Lawrence story has been done three additional times since this version came out in 1950. They would have to go some to compete with this film for drama and suspense.
I had never seen this film before tonight and the title is so incredibly deceptive. I expected a charming children's fantasy, but got something quite a bit different. One thing I would never do is allow small kids to see The Rocking Horse Winner. They will have nightmare's for years and will NEVER want to get on a rocking horse if you have one.
Hugh Sinclair and Valerie Hobson play a pair of post World War II self indulgent parents who are living way beyond their means, like a lot of folks are today on both sides of the pond. He gambles and she spends money on luxury items like there's no tomorrow. Her brother Ronald Squire bails her out a lot, but he's having no more of it.
All this is having an effect on the United Kingdom's best known child star of the time John Howard Davies. He's the oldest of the three kids and a withdrawn, but sensitive kid who knows there's something wrong.
Davies makes friends with the new handyman John Mills who is a wounded war veteran and before the war used to work as jockey in his youth. When Davies gets among other things a rocking horse for Christmas, Mills shows him how to ride ace-deuce, jockey style. Davies becomes obsessed with the horse and after a while he starts imagining the horse telling him about winning tips at the local track. When he's "really sure" these ponies have a habit of coming in.
Given these plot premises it sounds like you're setting up a comedy, but actually what we get is tragedy here, a stark a bitter tragedy.
Anthony Pellisier wrote and directed and John Mills produced this film for J. Arthur Rank. Pellisier used some unique and terrifying camera angles and makes the rocking horse an incredibly sinister figure. And he doesn't do too bad with his human players either.
The Rocking Horse Winner after almost 60 years still holds up well as one of the most sinister films I've ever seen. Don't be fooled by the title, definitely NOT one to have the kids view.