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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? [Blu-ray]

 

(Sydney Pollack, 1969)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

Video: Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:59:57.982 

Disc Size: 27,374,485,654 bytes

Feature Size: 26,706,604,032 bytes

Video Bitrate: 25.96 Mbps

Chapters: 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: September 5th, 2017

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1556 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1556 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)

Commentaries:

Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps

 

Subtitles:

English, None

 

Extras:

Audio Commentary by Director Sydney Pollack
Audio commentary by Actress Jane Fonda, Producer Irwin Winkler, Producer Martin Baum, Actress Bonnie Bedelia, Actor Michael Sarrazin, Actor Red Buttons, and Hair Stylist Sydney Guilaroff
Making-of Featurette (6:29)
Reversible Blu-ray Art
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:05)
Coming Home - Theatrical Trailer (2:03)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: Screen legend Jane Fonda (Barbarella) stars in this vivid, fascinating film as a woman driven to seize her last best chance during the very worst of times. A brilliant achievement by director Sydney Pollack (The Scalphunters), They Shoot Horses, Don t They? is a stunning period piece recognized as one of the most highly acclaimed films of its time. In Depression-era America, desperation spawned a bizarre fad: the dance marathon where couples competed to stay on their feet for thousands of hours, and audiences flocked to watch. But Gloria (Fonda) doesn't think of herself as a spectacle. She is a fierce, unforgiving contestant in a battle she's determined to win. At stake is much more than the $1,500 prize; the event is her only hope for dignity, accomplishment and salvation. The stellar cast includes Michael Sarrazin (Harry in Your Pocket), Susannah York (Sands of the Kalahari), Gig Young (Young at Heart), Red Buttons (Hatari!), Bonnie Bedelia (Salem's Lot), Bruce Dern (The Laughing Policeman), Michael Conrad (Monte Walsh) and Al Lewis (The Munsters). Nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Actress (Fonda), Supporting Actress (York), Director (Pollack), Screenplay (James Poe, Robert E. Thompson) and winner of Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Young).

 

 

The Film:

A total of nine Academy Award nominations went to this wildly acclaimed, allegorical drama set amongst the contestants in a marathon dance contest during the Great Depression. Gig Young stars as Rocky, the obnoxious emcee for a dance marathon that offers prize money of $1,500, a small fortune during hard economic times that brings out the worst in several participants. Among them are Gloria Beatty (Jane Fonda), a malcontent who's partnered with a drifter, Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin); a pregnant farm girl (Bonnie Bedelia) and her husband (Bruce Dern); a sailor (Red Buttons); and an aspiring actress (Susannah York). As the marathon winds into a staggering second month, suspicion, doubt and insecurity rages among the competitors and even the decaying and increasingly manipulative Rocky, leading to a shocking crime.

Excerpt from B+N located HERE

It's no secret that modern culture has a strong voyeuristic streak, often focused on public competition and humiliation-think Jerry Springer and Survivor, for just two examples. A few decades ago, this morbid fascination found a popular outlet in dance marathons, wherein a roomful of couples would dance (or shuffle, or wobble, or just try to stay vertical) until they literally dropped, hoping to win a cash prize or at least 15 minutes of meager fame. Although dance marathons have existed for centuries, they were all the rage during the Depression years, when many unemployed Americans found participating in these Social Darwinist exhibitions no more onerous than other forms of grunt labor for getting three meals a day and maybe some pocket money at the end of the ordeal, which typically lasted for weeks and even months of painful, nerve-killing toil.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, directed by Sydney Pollack in 1969, is the Gone with the Wind (1939) of dance-marathon movies. Based on a 1935 novel by Horace McCoy, it gave Jane Fonda her serious-acting breakthrough as Gloria, a cynical cookie who enters a California marathon as a way of staving off poverty until her totally unpromising movie career gets going. When her partner gets disqualified for health reasons, she latches onto a young man named Robert (Michael Sarrazin), who just wandered in to watch for a while. Soon they're trudging around the dance floor with a motley crew of competitors including a wannabe Hollywood star named Alice (Susannah York), an aging Navy man called Sailor (Red Buttons), and a working-class stiff (Bruce Dern) and his pregnant wife (Bonnie Bedelia), who actually won a marathon once. A smooth-talking emcee named Rocky, played with tragicomic brilliance by Gig Young, presides over the show.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray of They Shoot Horses Don't They? looks very strong in 1080P. Detail is pleasing, there is a hint of gloss and plenty of depth. Colors have an earthy brown cast with primaries passive. Contrast supports the image and the few close-ups are impressive. Fine film grain is present. The source is clean, and I noticed no noise or artifacts. This Blu-ray provides a consistent and pleasing viewing in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Thumbs up!

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1556 kbps (16-bit) in the original English language. Effects take a backseat to the film's period music. Composer-pianist-arranger Johnny Green was born in 1908 and his music is in many films from comedies like I Married a Witch, Noirs; The Dark Corner, Body and Soul and many Woody Allen films (Sweet and Lowdown, Deconstructing Harry, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Café Society etc.) and many others. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? has other music by Victor Young , Offenbach, Gershwin etc.  It sounds wonderful in the lossless. The dialogue was easy to distinguish - clean and clear. There are optional English subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

There are two excellent audio commentaries. The first has director Sydney Pollack detailing how he came to the project with production minutia of the filming hurdles and performers. The second has Jane Fonda, producer Irwin Winkler, producer Martin Baum, actress Bonnie Bedelia, Michael Sarrazin, Red Buttons, and hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff each given time to export their memories of the production, personalities - what they learned from and the value of the experiences gained. There is a vintage making-of featurette running 6.5 minutes, an original theatrical trailer and the package has reversible art (see bottom.)

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
They Shoot Horses Don't They? is an extremely well-made film whose topic always made me... uncomfortable. There are so many brilliant performances exuding desperation - Fonda the most notable. I was more impressed with the film in 1080P than in any previous viewings. The Kino Lorber
Blu-ray gives an impressive presentation and the many valued extras, including two commentaries, elevating it to near 'must-own' status. Strongly recommended!  NOTE: At the writing of this review it is 37% OFF at Amazon.

Gary Tooze

August 14th, 2017

 




 

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