Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)


Where the Red Fern Grows is the heartwarming and adventurous tale for all ages about a young boy and his quest for his own red-bone hound hunting dogs. Set in the Ozark Mountains during the Great Depression, Billy Coleman works hard and saves his earnings for 2 years to achieve his dream of buying two coonhound pups. He develops a new trust in God as he faces overwhelming challenges in adventure and tragedy roaming the river bottoms of Cherokee country with “Old Dan” and “Little Ann.” The movie follows the inseparable trio as they romp relentlessly through the Ozarks, trying to tree the elusive “Ghost” raccoon. Their efforts prove victorious as they win the coveted gold cup in the annual coon-hunt contest, capture wily ghost coons and bravely fight a mountain lion. Through these adventures Billy realizes the meaning of true friendship, loyalty, integrity and heroics, in this timeless and poignant coming of age story.


 A while back, I reviewed the 2003 version of Where the Red Fern Grows. Knowing good and well that wasn’t the version I remember from elementary school. In case you haven’t checked out that review, I wasn’t a fan.

This 1974 version is the one that almost all of us have seen at some point or another (probably after reading the book in elementary school).

I seriously need to go back and re-read that book again, but as far as I remember, they stick real close to the source material.

There isn’t much to say in terms of special effects because there aren’t any. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it is possible to make a film without the use of some kind of fancy camera tricks, computers, explosions, etc.

Without the distractions of special effects, one can actually focus on the story and the beautiful countryside of Oklahoma.

Granted, the acting isn’t that great, but you have to remember this was a TV movie from the early 70s. Do you really expect it to be Citizen Kane?

Like the book, this film does seem to drag on a bit, especially if you’re not into dogs or hunting, but seeing as how this isn’t an action flick, it is forgivable.

I won’t spoil the ending for those of you that haven’t seen this or read the book, bt I will say that it is quite sad, however, I felt that the way it was done in the book added that extra little bit of feeling and brought the audience into it. Something that they left out in this film for some strange reason.

I didn’t grow up in Oklahoma, so I can comment on how people talk/act around there, but I can say that these people reminded me a bit of the characters from The Andy Griffith Show, only without the comedic exaggerations.

I could bring up something about Billy being selfish and hoarding all that money to pay for his dogs when he could have just as well helped out his dad and chipped in for a new mule, but they ended up paying for themselves, so it all worked out.

Everytime I see something about this film, it is usually accompanied with a comparison to Old Yeller. I don’t understand these comparisons. The only thing similar are that they are dog films with sad endings. Of course, I’m not a dog person, so there might be something I’m missing. Should you see this? Why, of course, and totally avoid that 2003 bastardization version. It is nothing but a waste of time!

4 out of 5 stars

2 Responses to “Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)”

  1. […]   The King’s Speech               Goodfellas                         Where the Red Fern Grows (1974)                         Best Comedy: here are the nominees   The Blues Brothers […]

  2. […] animal deaths in movies that really chokes people up. Bambi’s mother, Mufasa, the dogs in Where the Red Fern Grows, etc. all send folks headed for their tissues. I’m perhaps one of the biggest fans of magic […]

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