Tuna hit all the analytical highlights below, and I
agree completely in every detail. The film is talky, too slow, and
Richard Burton is at his hammy worst in bellowing his pompous
soliloquies at the camera. I know that Peter Shaffer is the genius who
wrote Amadeus, but I knew Amadeus, Senator Equus, and you are no
The sad thing is that this should
have been a good movie. All of those philosophical ruminations from
Burton were unnecessary and many of them were probably out of
character for a trained psychiatrist. For example, all of Burton's
endless nattering about how he should not make the boy normal by
removing what makes him special - no way. If you're talking about a
dotty patient who is deluded and profoundly happy, and who represents
no danger to himself or society, maybe such thoughts can be a part of
a psychiatrist's self-reflection. But Burton's patient here is
unhappy, knows there is something wrong with him, and wants to deal
with it, even though he doesn't know exactly how to articulate his
feelings in so many words. He wants to be "cured", and society needs
him to be "cured", because he just stuck a scythe into the eyes of six
horses, and nobody knows what other violence might be inside of him.
This is not a harmless, inspirational guy like the character in They
Might Be Giants. In addition, a confident psychiatrist would have to
believe that he could get to the core of his patient's violence and
delusions without stripping away his passion for life. Therefore,
virtually all of Burton's philosophizing could have been cut, and
absolutely 100% of his pompous monologues could have been cut. If you
slash this script back to about 100 minutes, have it drive quickly to
the point, stick to the kid's story, and eliminate Burton's bellowing
and scenery-chewing, you have the rudiments of a good, interesting
mystery which can be revealed gradually like a complex puzzle, and can
provide intellectual stimulation for the audience.
Oh, well, if this film were made today, it would be
shortened that way, but it couldn't have happened then. 1977 was
another time. Back in the 60s and 70s, they were not yet really ready
to distinguish acting from oratory, thus explaining just about all of
Burton's career. Burton, a powerful stage presence, but arguably the
worst screen actor in history, a guy who makes Bill Shatner
seem subtle and understated, was nominated for a bunch of awards for
good acting. Such was the fashion of the time, when a resonant
voice, energetic posturing, and good diction were equated with
"classy" performing. People actually believed (and still believe,
judging from the IMDb comments), that the film was actually improved
by Burton's rhetorical pontifications delivered sonorously to the
DVD info from Amazon
Widescreen letterboxed 1.66:1.
no meaningful features
The transfer looks rather
nice, but the DVD is virtually devoid of special features,
and, frankly, this film could use commentary.
.... ah, the way we were.
Compare that to today. Patrick Stewart is a similar
but far greater actor than Burton. He has the voice and the presence
of a Burton, but none of Burton's weaknesses. He doesn't bellow,
doesn't overact, is far more graceful than Burton, remembers his
lines, and concentrates on his character rather than the sound of his
beautiful voice. If Stewart had been a star in the 60s and 70s, he'd
have a suitcase full of Oscars. In today's world, he's just kind of a
sophisticated, intelligent, highly respected curiosity, and nobody
really seems to know how to use him effectively.
Equus is an adaptation from a very disturbing stage play, and
concerns a 17 year old boy (Peter Firth) who suddenly blinds six
horses with a metal spike. He is
referred to psychologist Richard Burton. Burton eventually gets to
the bottom of the boy's problems, which involve a strange mixture of
strict religious upbringing, and a love of horses. Along the way, Burton
realizes that this boy has experienced more passion than he
himself ever has, and wonders if curing the boy, and making him
"Normal" is really a disservice.
The boy became obsessed with horses
at a young age, and his personal God became "Equus", a spirit who
lived inside every horse, at least according to his theology.
After he reached puberty, his relationship with horses became sexual.
In the stable where he worked weekends, he would
sneak out at night, and ride a horse bareback in the nude until he
climaxed, then spend hours cuddling with the horse. The problem came
when Jenny Agutter offered himself to him in the stable. He
couldn't perform with a woman because Equus was watching. His only solution was
to blind the horses, so Equus couldn't see him.
On stage, the horses were played by actors wearing horse heads.
Those who saw both say the play was far more powerful. While Equus
was probably a daring, disturbing and effective stage play, it
didn't translate well to the screen. While the soliloquy is a
time honored stage tradition, there is a reason films are called
MOTION pictures, and long speeches to the camera don't help the pace
or hold most people's interest. Granted, when you need someone to
deliver 137 minutes of pretentious dialogue, much of it directly to
the camera, Richard Burton is a pretty good choice. Indeed, Burton
and Firth won Golden Globes best actor and best supporting actor
respectively, and were nominated for Oscars as well.
There are some interesting
concepts here, and the film was fairly daring in terms of nudity and
animal gore for 1977, but it was just too talky for me. I had
trouble staying awake.
Burton and Firth won
Golden Globes for acting. Agutter won a BAFTA for acting.
The film was nominated for four other BAFTA awards,
including two more supporting performers, music, and
screenplay. Burton, Firth and the screenwriter were
nominated for Oscars.
|The meaning of the IMDb
score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of
excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars
from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm
watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars
from the critics. The fives are generally not
worthwhile unless they are really your kind of
material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics.
Films rated below five are generally awful even if you
like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one
and a half stars from the critics or even less,
depending on just how far below five the rating
guideline: A means the movie is so good it
will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not
good enough to win you over if you hate the
genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an
open mind about this type of film. C means it will only
appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover
appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but
will be considered excellent by genre fans, while
C- indicates that it we found it to
be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you
like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if
you love the genre. F means that the film is not only
unappealing across-the-board, but technically
inept as well.
Any film rated C- or better is recommended for
fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is
recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C-
that often, because we like movies and we think that most of
them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know
that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below
Based on this description, this
film is a
C (Tuna) to C- (Scoop). Intelligent movie in many
ways, but monotonous and most useful if you're having trouble