“People are the ultimate spectacle” – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? movie tagline
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD from KL Studio Classics, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is an acclaimed adaptation of Horace McCoy’s Depression-era novel about a grueling dance marathon in 1930s Chicago and the increasingly desperate contestants who try to endure in order to win a valuable cash prize. Gloria (Jane Fonda) and Robert (Michael Sarrazin) are strangers brought together for the contest, which becomes even more sadistic and brutal as it drags in — leading to a shocking conclusion I wouldn’t dare reveal here. Originally released in December of 1969, the film became a much-discussed hit, eventually nominated for nine Academy Awards (Gig Young won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the smarmy MC who proceeds over the competition). It’s bleak storyline mirrored the societal tumult of the late ’60s and foreshadowed the gritty aesthetic that would come to dominate 1970s cinema. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was an early masterpiece for director Sydney Pollack, who followed it up with equally acclaimed films like Tootsie and Out of Africa. As challenging as the film can be — this is not a feel-good film by any means — its power remains as potent as ever.