Return to Snowy River






Rated: PG        Running Time:  110 min/ 99 USA         Year:  1988      Produced by Walt Disney Pictures (US) and Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures (US)


Release Dates

Australia:  March 24, 1988

USA:  April 15, 1988

West Germany:  April 18, 1989 (video premiere)


Awards and Nominations

  1. Nominated for the 1988 AFI Award/ Best Achievement in Sound (Terry Rodman, David Harrison, Ron Purvis, Tim Chau, Peter Burgess, Gary Wilkins
  2. Nominated for the 1989 Golden Reel Award/ Best Sound Editing/Sound Effects (Tim Chau)


Gross Income:  Gross

$13,687,027 (USA)
AUD 7,415,000 (
Australia) ( 1988)


Filming Locations

Mansfield and Victoria, Australia


DVD info

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Rating: RColor - 104 min
Released 11 March 2003
List Price: $14.98


Memorable Quotes

Mrs. Darcy says, “Broaden your minds -- have another beer. Have two!


Harrison says, “You haven't been outside this house in days.”
Jessica sarcastically responds, “I thought this is where you wanted me -- looking decorative, waiting for the suitors to call.”




          The story of Return to Snowy River begins right where The Man from Snowy River left off.  Perhaps, it is therefore necessary to briefly outline the plot of The Man from Snowy River.  The story in this first film follows the main character, Jim Craig, as he struggles to make a name for himself after his father is killed in accident involving a horse stampede.  He is forced out of the mountains by the other mountain men until he can prove himself as a man rather than a mere boy.  He ends up working on a wealthy American landowner’s, Harrison (played by Kirk Douglas in the original), cattle ranch.  Soon he has fallen in love with the Harrison’s headstrong daughter, Jessica.  They spend a lot of time breaking in an expensive colt against daddy’s wishes, which ultimately ends in Jessica’s running away from home to be rescued from a cliff by her hero, Jim.  Harrison of course hates Jim by this point and blames him for the release of his colt (in reality it was one of the other ranch hands).  However, Jim finally proves himself a man by not only managing to catch the colt, but also the whole lot of mountain horses that run with the notorious “Stallion”.  Of course, there are a lot of other twists within this first movie that complicate the characters relationships.  We are left with a scene of Jim galloping into the sunset in order to “make a start” before he can come back for Jessica, the perfect ending to lead into a sequel. 

          The Return to Snowy River only real difference from the original is

the replacement of Kirk Douglas with Brian Dennehy as Harrison.  However, Dennehy does a good job of playing the dominant, temperamental Harrison once the viewer becomes acclimated to the change.  The plot of the sequel is even more simplistic than that of the original.  Jim has come back to the mountains, and has, as promised, made a start for his life with Jessica.  He has an impressive canal of horses as well as a small ranch horse with (in true western style) a breathtaking view of the mountains.  Unfortunately for Jim, some things have changed since he left.  Jessica is being pursued by the son of an arrogant banker, Alistair Patton.  Alistair Patton is quickly shown to be, for lack of a better work, a creep.  The viewer is let in on this fact immediately by the shot we see him take of the beloved Stallion, even if Jessica is left slightly in the dark.  However, daddy desires this union due to his prospects with the bank and Jessica doesn’t quite know what to do to make everyone happy.  Of course, Jim convinces her that she needs to make herself happy and be with him.  Once this is settled the plot turns to the villainy of Alistair Patton who attempts to steal Jim’s horses and even kill Jim.  The audience knows that Jim isn’t really going to die the whole time; the film was made by Disney after all.  Instead, we are left with a climatic fight in which Jim decidedly kicks Alistair’s bum, but generously allows him to live.  We get the expected Disney fairytale ending, with Jim and Jessica living happily ever after in the house on the mountain.  The Stallion is happily allowed to remain free after saving Jims life and allowing him to ride him (from the first movie, we know that this is an amazing feat).  Even Harrison ends up accepting Jim and even rides on his side to reclaim the horses.  Jim and Jessica are married and the villainous greedy landowners go back down to their ranches and leave the mountain men alone. 




The Man from Snowy River and the Return to Snowy River were inspired by the poem “The Man from Snowy River” by Australian poet Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson(1864-1941)


Here is a link to the poem that inspired the films:



Return to Snowy River Cast

Producers:  Geoff Burrowes, John Kearney, Kent C. Lovell, and Dennis Wright

Director:  Geoff Burrowes

Writers:  Geoff Burrowes and John Dixon

Music by:  Bruce Rowland

Cinemetography by:  Keith Wagstaff


The Cast of Return to Snowy River


v  Tom Burlinson…as Jim Craig

v  Sigrid Thornton... as Jessica

v  Brian Dennehy… as Harrison

v  Nicholas Eadie… as Alistair Patton

v  Mark Hembrow… as Seb

v  Bryan Marshall… as Hawker

v  Rhys McConnochi… as Patton Sr.

v  Peter Cummins… as Jake

v  Cornelia Frances… as Mrs. Darcy

v  Tony Barry… as Jacko

v  Wyn Roberts… as Priest

v  Alec Wison… as Potton’s Crony

v  Peter Browne… as Reilly

v  Alan Hopgood… as Simmons

v  Mark Pennel… as Collins



The Main Stars


Tom Burlinson…biographical link:,,



Sigrid Thornotn…biographical Link:,



Brian Dennehy…biographical link:


Brian Dennehy



Biographical information for Director/Producer, Geoff Burrowes:


Director Information


          Geoff Burrowes was the producer of The Man from Snowy River while George Miller directed.  However, he acted as director and producer in Return to Snowy River.  He is a native Australian born in Melbourne in 1945.  The only other film he has directed is Run (1991).  He produced Backstage in 1988 as well as Return to Snowy River.  Before these, he had produced Running From the Gun (1987), Cool Change (1986), “Anzacs” (1985), and The Man From Snowy River (1982).  The best known of these films would definitely be the original Man From Snowy River.  Return to Snowy River was apparently Burrowes attempt to transition into directing from producing.  However, since has only directed one film and has not produced any since Return to Snowy River, it does not appear he had much success.  This would seem to indicate that Return to Snowy River did not impress a lot of people in the industry or make enough of an impression propel his directing career.  He apparently also tried his hand at writing and even acting within Return to Snowy River.  He co-wrote the script and played a Crack Rider in the film.  He has not written or acted in any films since.  The other writers and the cinematographer of this film did not have any significant work after this film.


Production and Public Reception


Return to Snowy River was produced by Walt Disney and released in the United States and Australia in the box office.  It was released in 1,021 theatres total and grossed a total of $3,023,248 on opening weekend.  As far as films for 1988, it came in at 76 out of 238 movies documented for that year (as far as gross income).  It is also the 8th most successful film in the “Horse” genre from 1980 until the present.  Of course, there were only eighteen films listed within the genre.  Overall, it appears that the film had a mediocre reception.  Judging from the ratings of the viewers on the site I obtained this information from, Box Office Mojo (, the film is still judged as average by most.  It averaged a ‘C’ by viewers on this site.  However, on other sites, it has been given a number of positive reviews by the public.


Critical Reception


I honestly wasn’t able to find a large amount of responses to this film.  I found a few reviews from respectable papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post, but that was pretty much it.  From those two reviews as well as the professional reviews posted on several websites, responses tended to unenthusiastic while not completely cynical.  Most critics seemed to find the film mediocre at best.  A few were disapproving.  The lack of substance within the plot was remarked upon frequently.  However, some critics accepted this as a feature of a film that was only attempting to provide a wholesome and pleasurable family entertainment.  Others, not only found the plot lacking but chauvinistic as well.  The cast is credited with a mediocre performance and the director is acknowledged to have followed the safe, if unimpressive, route.  Overall, I would say the critics would describe Return to Snowy River as a mediocre film at best, but not a bad film to view with the children. 





External Reviews, Opinions, and Information


1.     Washington Post Review by Rita Kempley, April 15, 1988:

2.     New York Times Review by Caryn James:

3.     Doug Pratt’s DVD Review:

4.     Some of the Public’s Reviews:

5.     Viewer Responses:

6.     More reviews and general information about the film, cast, and crew:

7.     General film information:

8.     General film information:

9.     General film information:


My Review


        Return to Snowy River, was merely an entertaining family film.  It was not a great film by any means, nor was the plot all that convincing.  However, I found it fairly easy to watch, even if extremely predictable.  It accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish in providing a fairly simplistic form of entertainment for all age groups.  There was a large amount of still shots that captured the fantastic scenery of the blue mountains where much of the film was shot.  However, as was noted within several of the reviews I read, there was not great deal of dialogue.  Most of the movie was merely scenes of different chases, horses, and the mountains.  The plot of the original at least was a bit more complicated with the inclusion of the character Spur and his situation with Harrison.  For a sequel, I suppose this film was better than average with its mediocre plot and fairly decent acting when the cast actually had to speak. 



Return to Snowy River’s Place in Australian Cinema


Thanks to films such as the original The Man from Snowy River and Crocodile Dundee, the 1980s was a decade when the Australian film had several international box office hits.  In 1987 Crocodile Dundee was released and is still the most successful film released in Australia.  It was also extremely successful in the United States and Great Britain (ABS, 1989).  However, the success of films in the 1980s is thought to have possible altered Australian Cinema for the worse.  The focus turned to commercial and business interest during this decade and away from a desire to preserve Australian culture and create quality art (ABS, 1989).  According to this article other films during this time period to achieve critical and financial success that parallel that of the two Crocodile Dundees (Faiman, P, 1986) include Return to Snowy River as well as The Lighthorsemen (Wincer, S, 1988), Rikki and Pete (Tass,N, 1988), and High Tide(Armstrong,G, 1987). 

However, these films don’t compare to the success of the films released from the US and Great Britain.  Australian films began being marketed to compete with this market during the 1980’s, but other than a few blockbusters such as Crocodile Dundee and the original Snowy River, these films are successes but on a much smaller scale. The films that are created with the goal marketing well in the US and Great Britain often tend to sacrifice quality for widespread appeal of clichéd romance and violence in order to generate profit.  Return to Snowy River was obviously created with the international market in mind its quality has definitely been called into question despite its attraction to generally wide market.  It is a family Western that has managed to maintain all of this genres clichés with a moderate amount of violence.  It is still a bushranger film as well as a western, but its emphasis is on the romance and the horses rather than on the relevant aspects of Australian culture because these would generate less guaranteed income.  If we examine Crocodile Dundee, while a commercial success, we find the same lack of true Australianness that is even more generally replaced with comic clichés.


The Quest for Information


            I began my search for information on the internet.  I used search engines such as Google and Excite to locate relevant information.  However, there was not a large amount of information on this film anywhere.  Instead most of the sources I found only contained general material.  I was unable to locate any valuable literature in books or journals.  There also did not appear to be any interviews from any of the primary cast or crew.  I found a lot more information on the original film, The Man from Snowy River (Miller, 1982).  However, there were no interviews from that movie either.  I think that, considering it is an Australian sequel, there was probably quite of data available on the web.  Most sequels are not as popular as their originals and generate much less publicity.  Therefore, although it was a little frustrating, there was some interesting information available. 



More References accessed April 30, 2005.



Year Book Australia:  1989 Special Article-The Australian Cinema- An Overview.  The Australian Film Commission.  1989 (ABS cat. No. 1301.0).