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They Shoot Horses, Don't They? [DVD]

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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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Product description

Product Description

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.

From Amazon.co.uk

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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By Kona TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Nov. 2005
Format: DVD
The story opens at the height of the Depression in a seedy, boardwalk auditorium. A Dance Marathon is about to begin; couples who have neither money nor hope have a chance to win a grand prize of $1500 by dancing the longest. We get to know and empathize with several couples as they dance for hours, days, and weeks before a strange crowd of spectators who throw pennies and cheer for the "show." Bitter and tired-of-life Gloria (Jane Fonda) is paired with Robert (Michael Sarrazin), a wide-eyed innocent from the country. The marathon is incredibly grueling and dehumanizing, and that's just the way the manic host (Oscar winner Gig Young) likes it.
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.
Kona
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Format: DVD
You could go down the list: Fonda, Sarazin, York , Gig Young, Red Buttons, Bruce Dern, Bonnie Bedalia, all turned in the performances of their careers under Pollack's taught direction. This really is a sadly neglected masterpiece. I've never found it in a video store and certainly wouldn't expect to see it popping up any time soon at the local megastore. I ordered it in the widescreen VHS version from Amazon, which was fine. Then the DVD came out and I snatched it up immediately. It's eassy to report that am just as impressed as I when I saw it on its inital theatrical release back in 1969. This film probably had as great an impact on me as any movie-going experience I've had before or since. Revisiting it now I see that it wasn't only its appeal to disillusioned youth. The film is a stark statement about the human condition, of the "as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods" variety.
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Having seen this when it first came out at the cinema it remains my absolute favourite film of all time.
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.
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Format: VHS Tape
To me Pollack & company perfectly realized Horace McCoy's saturnine vision. This is the most relentless, hard-knuckled, diabolically-paced piece of filmmaking ever. There is not a dishonest moment in the movie. It's also the greatest example of ensemble acting I've ever seen on screen as well. Everyone involved in the production gave every ounce of themselves and it shows. It may have finished off Gig Young. His portrayal of the "Yowzer, Yowzering" MC is the most cynical, world-weary characterization ever expressed on celluloid. It doesn't surprise me that he checked out in real life shortly after winning an Oscar for his supporting role. Jane Fonda gives the performance of her life as Gloria. She would have won an Oscar here if she hadn't recently received one for Klute. There's no use in singling out anyone else, though Suzannah York truly deserved her Oscar as well. Everyone in this movie deserved an Oscar. I would have given one to the second-grip, if there were an award for that.
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.
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