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Equus (1977)

A psychiatrist attempts to uncover a troubled stable boy's disturbing obsession with horses.

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Writers:

Peter Shaffer (play), Peter Shaffer (screenplay)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Richard Burton ... Martin Dysart
Peter Firth ... Alan Strang
Colin Blakely ... Frank Strang
Joan Plowright ... Dora Strang
Harry Andrews ... Harry Dalton
Eileen Atkins ... Hesther Saloman
Jenny Agutter ... Jill Mason
Kate Reid ... Margaret Dysart
John Wyman ... Horseman
Elva Mai Hoover ... Miss Raintree
Ken James Ken James ... Mr. Pearce
Patrick Brymer Patrick Brymer ... Hospital Patient
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Storyline

A psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, investigates the savage blinding of six horses with a metal spike in a stable in Hampshire, England. The atrocity was committed by an unassuming seventeen-year-old stable boy named Alan Strang, the only son of an opinionated but inwardly-timid father and a genteel, religious mother. As Dysart exposes the truths behind the boy's demons, he finds himself face-to-face with his own. Written by Serenleono <verax@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A moment of love becomes a crime of passion. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Mystery

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

20 October 1977 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Fliehende Pferde See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Writer Peter Shaffer and director Sidney Lumet worked for over a year in development and pre-production preparing Shaffer's "Equus" stage-play for this film version. Lumet had agreed to do the film as a favor to Shaffer. See more »

Goofs

Some of the horses blinded in the final scene in the stable are obviously just puppets. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Martin Dysart: Afterward he says, they always embrace. The animal digs his sweaty brow into his cheek, and they stand in the dark for an hour, like a naked couple. And of all nonsensical things, I keep thinking about the horse, not the boy. The horse and what he might be trying to do. I keep seeing the huge head, kissing him with its chained mouth, nudging from the metal some desire absolutely irrelevant to fulfilling its bearing or propagating its own kind. What desire could this be? Not to stay...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in By Sidney Lumet (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Rum Punch
(uncredited)
Music by David Berkwood and Eton Blocka
KPM Music Ltd
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Superb Film on its Own, Different Terms
9 April 2002 | by chrstphrtullySee all my reviews

One of the most intriguing comments I've heard about this film is that it pales in comparison to the stage production. On the one hand, this is true in that the film loses much of the inventive staging that was inherent in the play (e.g., convention of having the "horses" played by actors in black with horsehead headdresses, the tight focus of the action within a small perimeter). The problem, however, isn't so much Sidney Lumet's concept of the film as it is the limitations of the medium itself -- devices which are striking on stage simply don't work on film. Indeed, those directors who have tried to make such conventions work usually end up shortchanging the material.

And it is here where Lumet's genius comes in. If there is one thing that Lumet has a feel for, it is the gritty, down-to-earth feel of everyday life. While this usually means New York life, he does a marvelous job in this film of capturing the drab sterility of Dysart's world, as well as that of the Strang home. When these are compared to the vivid, almost ethereal shots of Alan in the stables or with the horses on the field (also, compare the striking image of horse and rider on the beach with the remainder of the beachgoers), we can fully understand Dysart's frustration about "looking at pages of centaurs trampling the soil of Argos" while Alan "is trying to become one in a Hampshire field". Alan has found a way to completely escape the drabness of his world, while Dysart has become sterile trying to find ways not remind himself of it. Similarly, the tight perimeter of the stage play has been replaced by tight focused shots which, more often than not, achieve the same result through a claustrophobic effect.

Likewise, the absence of theatrical staging does nothing to dampen the power of Shaffer's text, which remains as potent as ever. Indeed, what's often overlooked about this play is that, while the visual images of the staging are striking, they are, in most instances, completely detached from the central thrust of the text, both as a mystery and as a commentary on the consequences of society's demand for "normality" at any cost.

In this regard, the performances are outstanding. Richard Burton gives one of his last great performances as Dysart, showing us the literally crumbling facade of the doctor's spirit, while at the same time giving us a complete character (contrast his cynicism throughout with the moments of tenderness, such as those shown to Alan's mother and to Alan himself after the final session). Likewise, Peter Firth presents us with a cipher, wrapped up in television jingles, who is revealed to us piece by piece through moments of vulnerability until we see in full force what has made his character commit these horrible crimes. The rest of the cast -- notably Joan Plowright, Colin Blakely and Jenny Agutter -- do wonders with the limited dialogue they have to work with.

Put simply, Equus is an astonishing film to watch, provided that you're ready to watch it as a film, rather than as a filmed stage play. For those who hold to the notion that only the stage devices can make this play work, I'd advise them not to watch any film adapted from a play, as they'll almost certainly be disappointed every time.


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