The annals of independently made family films from the ’70s include a few notable successes, such as the canine caper Benji (1974), but more typical of the breed is the cloying and lifeless Buffalo Rider. Apparently based upon the real-life exploits of an unusual character from the Wild West era, the picture delivers exactly what its title promises, and so much less. The movie does indeed feature many scenes of a man riding a saddled buffalo, and the image has considerable novelty the first few times it’s presented. Unfortunately, every other element of the picture’s storyline is beyond trite, and while the actual filming of Buffalo Rider is fairly competent (with special notice due to the production’s animal handlers and stuntmen), the editorial assembly of the piece is rotten. Suggesting there might have been problems with the location recording of dialogue, vast stretches of the picture are smothered in cornpone narration, and by the time 20 minutes of the movie have elapsed, only two inconsequential dialogue exchanges have occurred. That said, once viewers get an earful of the acting in Buffalo Rider, the narration seems like a welcome alternative. Revolving around the exploits of immaculately groomed mountain man Buffalo Jones (Rick Guinn), the story depicts Jones’ caretaking and training of a bison he names Samson. Discovering the animal as a wounded calf, Jones raises the beast in captivity, and then throws a saddle on the buffalo’s back once it reaches maturity. Thereafter, Jones and Samson embark upon a meandering adventure that involves clashes with hunters, scrapes with wildlife, and a vapid idyll with a frontier family. Excepting the fact that hunters try to kill Samson for his hide, and the fact that the buffalo occasionally scares off predators, Samson might as well be a horse, seeing how little impact his specific breed has upon the overall story. Worse, the filmmakers (including three directors and six screenwriters) run out of narrative ideas at regular intervals. For example, one long passage comprises realistic footage of a duel between a cougar and a raccoon, which seems more suitable to a nature documentary than a fictional feature. Oh, and even though an opening credit promises that Buffalo Rider will be “Family Entertainment from Starfire Films,” the climax of the picture involves a character getting trampled to death.
Buffalo Rider: LAME