Equus – 1977
Peter Shaffer (play)
Peter Shaffer (screenplay)
Review by Wayne Malin
Slow and dull,
Stable boy Alan Strang (Peter Firth) has blinded a number of horses and no one can figure out why. Psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Richard Burton) tries to find out why.
I’ve never seen the stage play so I can’t compare it to that but, on its own, this is a pretty dull movie. For starters the main character Alan was an incredibly unlikable jerk. I couldn’t have cared less about what happened to him. I thought it was laughably obvious–I had figured out what was going on long before they actually tell us. The pacing in this one is leaden–every scene seems to be dragged out as much as possible. Also the symbolism and “meaning” of this film is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. I actually started to get insulted that everything was being spelled out for us–and in an incredibly slow manner too. It seems the filmmakers thought the audience was composed of a bunch of idiots. It also has a sequence of truly horrifying violence at the end that really didn’t need to have been shown.
The only thing saving this from being a total disaster was the acting. Joan Plowright is good as Strang’s mother and Firth was also good in a very difficult role. But this is Burton’s film all the way. He’s just superb in his role and manages to single-handedly save this from totally unwatchable. Still, his great acting can’t save this film from being a total bore. A 4–and that’s just for Burton. This was a critical bomb when it came out–it’s easy to see why.