Rocking Horse Winner, The (1949)

The Rocking Horse Winner (1949), directed by Anthony Pelissier.

Young Paul has a nice family with a suburban house and garden, but his father gambles and his mother spends too much. The house whispers to him "need more money, people are laughing at you." If he rides his toy horse in a frenzy he is able to predict horse race winners. But the money is never enough and he rides so hard he burns out.

From the DH Lawrence story. John Mills produced and plays the working-class handyman and ex-jockey. Vivid score by William Alwyn.

If made a few years later they would have played up the occult thriller nature of the story. As it is, it's a mildly dark fantasy with a few striking scenes. In a bitterly sad bit, Paul's adult partners continue to place their bets even after he falls ill. The theme is the sins of the parents visited on the young, with intimations of the wild ride of puberty everyone must endure.

Great job by the kid, and by Valerie Hobson as the mother, who is initially irresponsible but has almost psychic knowledge of the crisis after it is too late.

It's been ages since I read Lawrence, but I remember this one and I recall his short stories were rather good and his novels bad.

The DVD includes a 23 minute short version: The Rocking Horse Winner (1998), directed by Michael Almereyda and featuring Eric Stoltz and Paula Malcomson (later together in the Caprica TV series). It was shot in "Pixel Vision" with a PXL-2000 toy digital camera producing 120x90 resolution at 15 frames per second. It's interesting as experimental low-rez film art.