Skip to main content

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

I'll be honest with you: I'm not a movie person. I have trouble sitting still. I'm impatient. I'm constantly looking at the time, or picking up a book, or doing something else while the movie plays. So a movie that actually captures my attention is pretty rare.

"They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" is Sydney Pollack's 1969 film adaptation of the 1935 novel written by Horace McCoy. It takes place in the 1930s, during the American depression, when people were desperate and willing to do anything for money, such as marathon dancing. Marathon dancing was one of the seedier money-making schemes in the '30s, and that is vividly shown in the film: people would eat, sleep, and even die while in a state of constant movement. The film depicts all of this, as well as the concept of the "derby" - vicious high-paced races around the dance floor - in a stunning, grotesque manner.

The film focuses on a varied group of people desperate to win the dance marathon and the corrupt emcee who urges them on. Robert (Michael Sarrazin), a dreamer, is recruited to dance at the last moment and is intermittantly shown to be at the center of some unnamed crime. His dance partner is Gloria (a young Jane Fonda), a woman who masks her depression and emptiness with a cynical veneer of nastiness. Other characters include Rocky (Gig Young), the emcee; Harry (Red Buttons), a sailor; and Alice (Susannah York), a hopeful actress. They all need the prize money - $1500, virtually worthless by today's standards - to survive, to become happy. Here's a spoiler: in the end, we are all animals, aren't we?

This is a vicious film, not meant for the weak at heart. At turns it's gruesome, disgusting, cruel, and horrifying. A pregnant, homeless, penniless woman and her husband vie for the money; the sight of the woman grasping her stomach is horrible. Alice's breakdown is heartwrenching. And the ending made my gut drop.

And it all really happened. It's a reality TV show, well before they had televisions. It is honestly one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. I don't regret watching it - but I don't think I could watch it again. I watched this film two weeks ago and I've had trouble writing about it because I haven't been able to find the words to describe it. I can't recommend this film highly enough.

Comments

  1. well you sold me on this one. ill track down a copy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good! It really is a great movie. It was $13 on Amazon just a couple of weeks ago, and it's also available on a few torrent sites.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

3 New Lana Songs Come Out From Upcoming Album "Blue Banisters"

Not even that far off from "Chemtrails Over The Country Club" being released this past March, Lana Del Rey dropped three new singles off her upcoming project, "Blue Banisters." They include the title track, "Text Book," and "Wildflower Wildfire." All three songs seem to merge the worlds of "COCC" with "Norman Fucking Rockwell," specifically Lana's mouthful of a track "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me To Have But I Have It." They also seem uncharacteristically more confessional than most of Lana's catalog to date, specifically "Wildflower Wildfire," which alludes to a conflict with her mother. She even starts the track with "Here's the deal," readying to show more of her backstory than she ever has in her decade-plus-long career. The three songs are gorgeous - especially "Text Book," which has a haunting quality to it (she mentions "Black Lives Matter" i

Tusse releases French Language Version of "Voices"

In case you missed Eurovision this past weekend - and if you're an American, you likely did - there were some truly talented acts among those competing for this year's prestigious title. There were some pretty boring acts, and there were only a few of truly strange contestants this time around (bummer).  Sweden's act Tusse was pretty talented; his joyful and uplifting track "Voices" was actually one of the few that seemed rather memorable to me. Turns out he's releasing it in French - which makes sense, as Tusse is Kongo-Kinshasa born. Tusse is enormously popular in Sweden from what I can tell, having won both Melodifestivalen (Sweden's precursor to Eurovision) and Swedish Idol. He's a talented guy, and I'm sure we're just seeing the start of what is bound to be a long and prolific career.   (you might not be able to watch this outside of Sweden so, see below) The French version of "Voices" is available for streaming here .  Also, whi

"Round the Bend" - Zoon (Beck cover)

My favorite album of Beck's has long been "Sea Change," for approximately the 20 or so years it's been out. I would probably regard it as one of my personal favorite records, for its wistfulness and its beauty. When I heard about Zoon (aka Zoongide’ewin) - the musical project of Daniel Monkman - covering the "Sea Change" track "Round the Bend," I was somewhat skeptical simply because the album holds such a place in my heart. Now, prior to hearing about this cover, I wasn't so familiar with the work of Zoon. And now, I've got to say, in my best Owen Wilson - Wow.  Apparently we both hold the 2003 Beck album in high esteem. Said Daniel about "Sea Change," "After my first listen I was so moved and at the time I was going through a pretty bad break up and this album helped me process my depression. Throughout my time away from music I’d always have a copy beside me; it kept inspiring me that I could try any kind of music style. I