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Film / A Man Called Horse

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A Man Called Horse is a 1970 American Western directed by Elliot Silverstein and starring Richard Harris. English aristocrat John Morgan is captured and enslaved by a tribe of Sioux Indians, who refer to him as "Horse" and use him as a pack animal. Deciding that his best chance at freedom is to gain status within the tribe, John kills two Shoshone warriors, is accepted as a warrior himself, and sets out to become leader.

The movie spawned two sequels, The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976) and Triumph of a Man Called Horse (1983).

A Man Called Horse contains examples of:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: John's hired workers drunkenly fire their guns at a metal tub, attracting the attention of nearby Sioux.
  • And Starring: The opening credits start with "Richard Harris in A Man Called Horse." Most of the other people are grouped into "Also Starring," "Co-Starring," and "Featuring," ending with "And introducing Corinna Tsopei."
  • Cat Scare: While bathing in a river, John hears cawing. He looks up in alarm, only to see a flock of geese overhead. A minute later, he's attacked by actual Indians hiding behind nearby bushes.
  • Clothing Damage: After passing out during his initiation ceremony, John hallucinates his European clothes being blown away, leaving only a loincloth.
  • Crippling Castration: Batiste, a man who has been a prisoner of the tribe for five years, was castrated as punishment for an escape attempt.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: John's guides Ed and Bent are lazy, disrespectful drunks, but they grow more alert when they see signs that the Sioux are about to attack. When the attack happens, one of them manages to stab a Sioux to death before dying while the more competent Joe fails to accomplish the same thing.
  • Friendly Address Privileges: A weird example - John orders his hired workers to call him John, becomes frustrated when they keep calling him Your Lordship, and seems insulted when one of them asks to be called Joe instead of Maddock.
  • Going Native: By the end, John seems to have fully accepted his tribe membership and lost interest in escape.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: John's pregnant wife, Running Deer, is killed during a Shoshone raid.
  • Initiation Ceremony: John is initiated into the tribe by standing still for an entire day, then being dangled by hooks dug into his chest.
  • Jitter Cam: During one of John's escape attempts early in the movie, there's a P.O.V. Shot from the perspective of one of the warriors chasing him on horseback.
  • Language Barrier: John and the Sioux can only communicate by using Batiste as a translator.
  • Macho Masochism: Nothing says "I'm a Sioux warrior despite being born an English gentleman" like hanging yourself from the ceiling by your skin.
  • Mighty Whitey: John becomes not only a respected tribe member but eventually its leader.
  • Nepotism: Back in England, John resigned his commission in the guards because he hadn't earned it - he'd been born into it, like everything else he had.
  • Nobody Here but Us Birds: The Indians communicate by making bird calls.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Batiste pretends to be insane so his captors won't kill him.
  • Spiteful Spit: Batiste, whose father was French, spits at John when he says he's from England.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: John spends most of the first hour shirtless.
  • What a Drag: After his capture, John is tied up and dragged behind a horse.