Casey's Shadow (1978) starring Walter Matthau, Alexis Smith, Robert Webber, Murray Hamilton directed by Martin Ritt Movie Review

Casey's Shadow (1978)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Andrew A. Rubin and Walter Matthau in Casey's Shadow (1978)

On the Horse Track

Lloyd Bourdelle (Walter Matthau) and his three sons; Buddy (Andrew A. Rubin), Randy (Steve Burns) and 7-year-old Casey (Michael Hershewe) run a horse ranch in the Bayou where they train horses. Things haven't been going well for the Bourdelle's until a new colt is born which they call Casey's Shadow as things begin to turn around for the family as the colt turns out to be a decent race horse with interest from horse owners to buy it even before it races. But when the family head down to New Mexico to race in the All-American Futurity things taken a turn for the worse when Casey's Shadow is injured before the race. With Lloyd desperate for his horse to win the All American he faces a tough choice.

"Oh look another horse movie"; that was how I felt when I came across "Casey's Shadow" and having watched a variety of horse movies I had an inkling as to how this story was likely to play out as we have a poor family, a winning horse, a young child who is close to the horse and a big race. But then "Casey's Shadow" is a product of the late 70s and unlike more recent horse movies doesn't have a cutesy look. Now that is an issue when you come across "Casey's Shadow" as the rough and ready nature of the story makes it feel not like a family movie. What I mean is that in the opening scenes we are taken to a local horse race and it is dirty, raucous and dust is flying up everywhere, basically it isn't pretty which is what you get these days.

Michael Hershewe in Casey's Shadow (1978)

Now whilst I am no expert on horses and the racing scene in the States I would guess there is a more realistic side to "Casey's Shadow" which other horse movies just don't have. Yet it still has that familiar story angle with Casey and the young horse becoming inseparable whilst the horse which Lloyd gives up on because it is born with white hooves turns out to be a winner. And so we have the drama of the big race and the horse becoming injured along with other typical dramatic elements such as someone keen on owning the horse.

But then "Casey's Shadow" has something else and it is Walter Matthau as Lloyd because the movie is as much about his character. Why? Well here we have a father whose wife left him, raising three sons, running a ranch in his own manner which he believes is right and unfortunately for him not always coming up on top for doing things his way. It makes this familiar story evolve in to an interesting drama with a mystery element when it comes to the big race and the consequences of running.

What this all boils down to is that "Casey's Saddle" didn't blow me away because that 70s grit is not my thing. But I get a sense that whilst technically a family movie this is more a movie for families who live around horses and racing who can appreciate the various scenes around the track rather than those seeking something uplifting for the whole family to watch on a Sunday afternoon.