Studio: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
Film Length: 116 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Screen
Subtitles: English & French
Release Date: September 09, 2003
Based on the short story "Ruidoso" by John McPhee, director Martin Ritt has brought it to the screen as Casey's Shadow. A story of a boy's love for a horse and a father's struggle for pride and fame against the will of his family makes this story a pleasurable family viewing.
Lloyd Bourdelle (Walter Matthew) is a poor man who is a horse trainer living in Louisiana. Left by his wife, he raises his three sons. Oldest is Buddy (Andrew A. Rubin), who has the most common sense in the family and tries to keep his father in line when he has too much alcohol or makes bad decisions. Next is Randy (Stephan Burns), and when not thinking of girls and going out with friends, he is the rider of the trained horses when entering races. The youngest boy is Casey (played by Michael Hershewe), who has a natural attachment to the horses his father trains. The three boys help Lloyd and hope one day they will score big in the races.
After being sent out to find a colt by Lloyd's employer and horse owner Calvin Lebec (Harry Caesar), that hope one day may come true when Buddy comes back with a mare. Calvin is displeased by Buddy's choice of buying an old mare who he sees as unable to make him money in races and a loss of money by paying off Lloyd caring for it. But Buddy is convinced his purchase was the "deal of the century" when he reveals the mare is pregnant by Sure Hit, the finest producing male horse stud alive who's offspring has always produced winning horses. Calvin agrees to keep it, and Lloyd will train it.
The mare gives birth the colt that Casey becomes immediately attached to. Lloyd names it "Casey's Shadow". After a surprise run with the horse, Lloyd is impressed with the horse's speed that he sees it as an opportunity to make a name for himself in the books and to win the million dollar prize at the All-American Quarter Horse Futurity, "the world's richest horse race". But Lloyd isn't the only one who sees potential in this horse as Sarah Blue (Alexis Smith) and Tom Patterson (Murray Hamilton), two of Lloyd's race competitors, are battling it out on highest bids to Lloyd for Casey's Shadow in five digit numbers. But both of their terms require the horse to be run under their names at the All-American in New Mexico. After winning in the trials, Lloyd declines their offers and believes he can win under himself as long as Casey, who has an attachment to the horse during upbringing, stops being naïve when running the horse as he unintentionally causes accidents to the horse's legs that could leave him unusable for future races...and the bidders don't want a broken-down horse.
Sarah coaxes Buddy to work for her in hopes she can obtain the horse. Casey's Shadow is still healing and the race is only ten days away. Pressure from Calvin is put on Lloyd as he threatens to sell the horse, but he convinces Calvin otherwise. Others seem to want Lloyd to fail as well. With all sons not wanting Lloyd to enter the All-American because of Casey's Shadow's healing legs, will Lloyd risk running in race to boost his pride and to win the million at the expense of respect from his employer and his family?
The film itself I found to be quite enjoyable. At 116 minutes it is well paced and the acting by Rubin and Matthew is very believable. Despite being Casey's Shadow, the film revolves more around Lloyd and his perils. At times, there are scenes in the film that are drawn out to show a little more detail of what is involved before a horse race. It certainly adds to setting the mood. If one has children who enjoy horses this movie will delight. This film is rated PG for a little course language, Louisiana style.
Unfortunately this film is presented in a 4:3 full screen version of a 2.39:1 film. The back jacket has a diagram of a 1.78:1 image in the aspect ratio box with 1.33:1 written inside of it. Someone got their rectangles wrong. I haven't watched full screen in a long time, but I can definitely feel the sense of tightness in the 4:3 frame.
Picture quality is good to mediocre. At times the image takes on a sharp and detailed look with well balanced colours. But because the image varies scene to scene, at other times it is soft, and interior images and colours seem plugged up and lacking detail. There is a pink-red tint that is quite common though many of these scenes which I found distracting because flesh did not always look natural. There is also minor film grain that was noticeable mostly in dimly lit scenes.
At the beginning of the film there was a minor 'jump' annoyance - every 20 seconds or so it seemed there were a few frames missing and the image seemed to jump forward a little. An anamorphic widescreen version on the disc would definitely been good to include.
Audio on the disc jacket is incorrectly labeled Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, when in fact it is DD 2.0 mono. The sound is limited in fidelity, but the '70's music score can sound good at times, even having a little bit of bass with some instruments, but it doesn't last long. There is little background hiss and I didn't find it distracting because it is almost inaudible. Dialogue was dead-on sequence with lip motion, but can sound thin, and at times I couldn't understand what was said so I enabled English subtitles to find out. Subtitles are also available in French.
There are no special features on this disc. There are three theatrical trailers for newer Columbia TriStar films. There is no trailer for Casey's Shadow. I think a little feature like 'the life of a horse trainer', or about horses that race and the sport in general would have been interesting to watch. But unfortunately there isn't.
Not having a widescreen version available may be disappointing for those of you who may have grown up with this film, and for those of us wanting to view the film in its original art form. Still, I don't think children will care widescreen or not when they watch it, as they'd be more concerned about the many horses in the film and how events will unfold for Casey and his father. Recommended.