An excellent drama, well worth a watch
- They Shoot Horses, Don't They? review by RP
Set in 1932 in the depths of the American recession, Robert (Michael Sarazzin) and Gloria (Jane Fonda) enter a dance marathon, with the last couple left standing supposedly picking up a $1,500 prize. The all-knowing, cynical, rabble-rousing MC (Gig Young) eggs on the contestants (including Susannah York), driving them to greater and greater feats of endurance with his rabble-rousing cry of 'Yowza, yowza, yowza!' The competition is, of course, a scam.
The film captures well the desperation that must have driven on real-life contestants and Gig Young won a well-deserved Oscar for his role. It really is a quite remarkable performance.
An excellent drama, well worth a watch. 4/5 stars.
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Political Allegory (with spoiler).
- They Shoot Horses, Don't They? review by Steve
Faithful adaptation of Horace McCoy's bitter, despairing political allegory of American capitalism. It is set at a dance marathon in LA in 1932 during the long American depression. Poor, desperate couples dance around the clock for weeks to win a large cash prize, ignorant that the last pair will just pay for the staging of the event out of their winnings.
It is a grotesque depiction of social Darwinism. The strongest survive, but the game is crooked. As failed actor Gloria (Jane Fonda) laments, 'maybe it's just the whole damn world is like central casting: they got it all rigged before you ever show up'. The event is staged to entertain a crowd. Poor people pay to watch other poor people suffer. They talk about Hollywood movies like the medieval idea of heaven.
This was a breakthrough role for Fonda as the strong minded agitator, helplessly mangled in the gears of the free market. Like the rest of her community, she is at liberty to make a choice; take it or leave it. The film is most memorable for Gig Young as the cynical, manipulative, indifferent MC and Susannah York who is heartbreaking as a vulnerable would-be actor driven to madness.
The film is directed with flair by Sydney Pollack who ornaments the cinemascope frame with imaginative impressionist touches and haunting close-ups. The period recreation is wonderful and the soundtrack of standards adds atmosphere. The film is tragic, but real. When Gloria can't go on, she asks her partner Robert (Michael Sarrazin) to shoot her. It is a mercy killing. She is in too much pain. The last line of the film is devastating. It is the title.
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