TechnoFILE is copyright and a registered trademark © ® of
Pandemonium Productions.
All rights reserved.
E-mail us Here!
Hidalgo on DVD

Hidalgo on DVD

SPOILER ALERT: this review does give some things away.

Viggo Mortensen takes off his Middle Earth crown and dusts up a cowboy hat in this Touchstone flick that tries to be too many things.

Still, it’s a beautiful looking film and DVD, and it has its moments.

Mortensen is Frank Hopkins, half white man and half Indian (a fact hidden from the white men among whom he lives). He and his Mustang Hidalgo are famed as legendary long distance racers but, after witnessing a brutal massacre of his Indian friends at Wounded Knee, he turns to drink and becomes little more than a clown in Buffalo Bill Cody’s traveling wild west show.

His billing as the world’s greatest long distance racer comes to the attention of Arab sheik Riyadh (Omar Sharif), who sends an emissary to ask Cody to either cease and desist from using the billing that the Sheik feels more properly belongs to the champion of "The Ocean of Fire," a dangerous 3,000-mile horse race across the Arabian desert, or have Hopkins enter the race and earn the title on his own.

Hopkins could have pulled a Teresa Heinz Kerry and told the Sheik to “Shove it,” but instead he decides to enter the race – not only for the title and the money but to help exorcize some of the demons he’s been carrying inside himself since the massacre at Wounded Knee.

So off he goes to the sands of Arabia, where this “quintessential” American cowboy and his mutt of a horse are met with derision, even hate, and the vested interests who want to see him lose put every type of pressure they can think of on him to withdraw.

But Frank’s made of sterner stuff than the Arabs – who, at least as portrayed in this movie, appear to be a brutal “little and silly” (to paraphrase Lawrence of Arabia) people determined to live in the middle ages.

So we’re off to the races! The contest portrayed here seems kind of like a modern day long distance car rally where the participants travel at their own speed, on their way across brutal terrain to a half way point at which they can enjoy a day of rest. Traditionally, many participants don’t make it that far, let alone to the end, and our hero – the stranger in a strange land – is hard pressed to keep up considering the horrible conditions and the conspiracies against him.

He prevails, of course, but along the way we see plans within plans, corruption in high places, and a side trip that more than proves Frank’s mettle.

It’s all pretty predictable, and it goes on far too long; Hidalgo seems much longer than it really is, which isn't a good sign.

And the movie can’t decide if it’s going to be a “white man’s guilt” film, a race movie, an action adventure flick, or whatever. As such it careens – well, plods would be more like it – from one type of movie to the next, never really settling on a style or theme, while beating you over the head with whatever style or theme it happens to be following at that particular time.

Some of the things we’re beaten over the head with include some budding feminism, some “Arabs and Indians are basically the same noble people because they live for horses” claptrap and more political correctness than we care to see in what’s supposed to be a basic epic adventure flick.

It’s surprisingly violent, too, though there’s no superfluous gore. This was undoubtedly a violent time in that part of the world (and so much has changed, eh?) and director Joe Johnston captures the cheapness of human life there very well. But it may be a tad intense for younger viewers and we would have thought those younger viewers would have been a prime audience for a film such as this.

Then there are the parts that strain credulity. For example, for a man who professes to love his best friend Hidalgo, Frank seems to be pretty irresponsible. Now, we’ll admit that we know nothing about horses or racing, but after Hidalgo suffers a large and painful-looking gash from an upraised spear, he shows no signs of being lame after Frank helps him out of the trap they’re in. Later, the horse is on the ground ready to die – and Frank’s about to put him down - but because of some haranguing by opponents Hidalgo gets to his feet again and convinces Frank to continue a race he had pretty well conceded.

Then, as the finish line draws near, this nearly worn out horse, who still has that severe gash in his shoulder, is running flat out, bleeding from his nose, and has the right stuff inside to blow the saddles off the competition.

We think that if Frank had truly loved Hidalgo he would have put the horse’s welfare before the race, especially since he’d already been offered substantial sums of money to take a dive.

Then again, it's only a movie - but then again, it should still hang together logically.

Mortensen does a credible job as Frank Hopkins in a role very different from Aragorn of the Lord of the Rings. And it’s nice to see Omar Sharif again; the man brings class to whatever movie he graces, even such silly romps as Top Secret!

There’s some great cinematography, too, including some beautiful shots that seem inspired by (or maybe “swiped from”) Lawrence of Arabia – and, hey, if you’re going to be inspired by/swiping from a movie, that’s a pretty darn good one to use as your inspiration.

The THX-certified DVD is very good. The picture is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and it’s excellent. The image is very clean and clear and crisp, with comparatively little edge enhancement showing. Colors, and this is a very colorful movie, are rich and bright and deep.

Audio gives you the choice of dts or Dolby Digital 5.1 surround modes, which we like, and the overall audio quality is very good. Surround use is effective, though not ubiquitous, and your subwoofer will also get some nice exercise.

Extras include “Sand and Celluloid,” a ten minute long “making of” featurette, as well as the “enhanced computer feature” called “America’s First Horse,” which runs just over 20 minutes.

In all, Hidalgo is a terrific DVD that’s well worth a look; it’s just too bad the movie took itself so seriously that it ended up falling so short of its potential.

Hidalgo, from Touchstone Home Entertainment
136 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital and dts 5.1 surround
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Omar Sharif,
Produced by Casey Silver,
Written by John Fusco, directed by Joe Johnston


Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think













Support TechnoFile
via Paypal

TechnoFILE's E-letter
We're pleased to offer
our FREE private,
private E-mail service.
It's the "no brainer"
way to keep informed.

Our Privacy Policy