- Actors: Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Gig Young, Red Buttons
- Directors: Sydney Pollack
- Writers: Horace McCoy, James Poe, Robert E. Thompson
- Producers: Irwin Winkler, Johnny Green, Robert Chartoff, Theodore B. Sills
- Format: PAL
- Language: English
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 15
- Studio: Fremantle
- DVD Release Date: 8 April 2002
- Run Time: 120 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- ASIN: B00005CC0U
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,738 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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They Shoot Horses, Don't They? [DVD]
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During the Depression, a group of young couples enter a dance marathon in return for three square meals a day and a chance at winning the $1,500 prize. Their number include farm workers Ruby and James (Bonnie Bedelia and Bruce Dern), drifters Gloria and Michael (Jane Fonda and Michael Sarazin), veteran dance marathon contestant Sailor (Red Buttons) and hopeful young starlet Alice (Susannah York). Exhaustion and fatigue cause the dancers to fight amongst themselves, and the increasing tension leads toward a tragic conclusion.
They Shoot Horses Don't They? is set in the dark years of the l930s, when dance marathons became popular as a way for desperate people to compete for prize money. Sometimes the events would drag on for weeks as contestants pushed themselves far beyond the point of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, the dancers shambling around the floor in a half-dead stupor. People would then pay to sit in the bleachers, watch the event and cheer on their favourites. Taken from hard-boiled pulp writer Horace McCoy's novel of the same name, Jane Fonda plays a bitter young woman paired up with Michael Sarrazin for the ordeal. Gig Young portrays the unctuous MC of the event, bringing equal parts compassion and sleaze to his role. Many of the film's images are unforgettable, such as "the derby", a heel-and-toe race around the dance floor with bouncy, light-hearted music to accompany the miserable spectacle. It's a powerful, tragic period piece that reminds us of the privations of the Great Depression. In the largest sense, the film has existential overtones that go far beyond the story of enervated dancers staying on their feet for a month or more. This film brought home a string of Academy Award nominations for the cast and director Sydney Pollack and a win for Young. --Jerry Renshaw, Amazon.com
On the DVD: The disc offers film trivia and notes on the main cast and director, along with a short slide show and original publicity notes in an attempt to furnish valuable information about the film. However the layout is visually unimpressive and the information is merely standard film trivia offering little insight into the film itself--the quotes from Jane Fonda are surely aimed at hardcore fans of the actress only. It all feels like a selection put together in a bit of a rush. --Nikki Disney
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a fascinating look at the dance marathons that really took place in America during the Depression, when people were willing to risk their health (and their lives) for the meals that were provided and a chance at the money. Each of the dancers we meet is unique, sympathetic, and believable. Fonda gives a masterful performance as the hopeless Gloria, and at the end she utters the wonderfull and haunting title line. Sarrazin is good, but doesn't quite have the star quality to match Fonda's. It's a sad film that brings to mind the days of Romans holding their thumbs up or down while bloodied gladiators fought to the death. The story is fittingly left unresolved, just like the bleak lives of the contestants. I recommend this outstanding film, directed by Sydney Pollack.
The movie motivated me to seek out McCoy's novella upon which it's based, and I would heartily recommend it also. It and Nathaniel West's Day of the Locusts are probably the most hard-edged accounts of life in Hollywood in the 30s that I have come across. As noted, Gig Young won an Oscar for his performance here. The fact that he blew his brains out shortly thereafter is not only sadly ironic, in lieu of the ending of this film, but also understandable. The level of world-weariness that he portrays on the screen must have been close to what he was feeling in real life. But all the characterizations in TSHDT are remarkably vivid. I can't guess why Fonda didn't receive an Oscar for her portrayal of Gloria. It certainly surpasses her performance in Klute. Sure, she is given some of the most priceless lines ever scripted, but her delivery is flawless.
Actually, everything about this movie is flawless.Read more ›
Reality TVhas nothing on this. Based on the dance marathons of the 30's and 40's you get drawn into the lives of the characters and find yourself rooting for them all at one time or another.
You'll understand the title right at the end.
The soundtrack is absolutely first-rate. I owned it on vinyl, but can't find it on CD unfortunately. If anyone out there is aware of a CD release, would you please send me mail? I've never known another soundtrack that served as such perfect accompaniment to the action on screen. Sometimes it served as a great vehicle for irony (as if this film needed any more of that!). The second "Derby" sequence is a great case-in-point. As The Sailor (Red Buttons) is literally expiring from exhaustion, the band is playing "By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea." The dancehall is situated on a pier above the Pacific. The metaphors come fast and furious in this movie. It rewards repeated viewings. McCoy's novel is pretty good too, along the lines of Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust.
...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beware : the original film was great but this DVD (from Lovefilm) is woefully in the wrong aspect ratio - like an old tv presentation, the credits start in widescreen (2. Read morePublished 7 months ago by bill diver
This is a film where I was expecting something to happen, but it doesn't. It's just people dancing round a room for hours on end. Read morePublished on 26 Feb. 2011 by Johns
This I saw when it first came out and it was one of those films I never forgot.Susannah york gives, what I consider, the best performance of her career. Read morePublished on 13 July 2010 by R. Poole