This week's rental suggestion is the fascinating 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starring Jane Fonda, Susannah York and Gig Young all of whom were Oscar nominated for their work. Gig Young has the Cabaret MC type of role and he won the supporting Actor Oscar. Jane Fonda is warming up for her even greater bitch-on-wheels Oscar winning tour de force in Klute(1971). But of the three performances I was must stunned by Susannah York who has one particularly yowza scene featuring one of the most chilling and sustained loss-of-sanity bits I've seen from an actor in aeons. The film is set during the great Depression but, in reflection of the late 60s reality-bites mindset is not some Seabiscuit/Cinderella Man style inspirational-triumph-of-the-human-spirit "we're all winners" uplift. They Shoot Horses is a spawn of the "life is hell and then you die" school of filmmaking. But you already knew that all period pieces eventually tell us more about the time in which they're made than the time that they're about, didn't you?
Not that They Shoot Horses... doesn't also educate us. It's a well-made snapshot of a bizarre lesser known moment in history which involved practically unthinkable marathon contests. The narrative casts a fascinating light forward on today's reality television show hijinks and also way back to ancient inhuman entertainments like Christians thrown to the lions. This is a crazy intense film. Highly Recommended
Oscar Trivia: Film buffs take note this is the biggest Oscar-miss in history. Despite nine nominations there was no correlating Best Picture bid.