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Equus  (DVD)


Stars: Peter Firth, Richard Burton. Jenny Agutter, Colin Blakely, Joan Plowright, Harry Andrews, Eileen Atkins, Kate Reid

Director: Sidney Lumet

I can well imagine this being magnetic on stage, and indeed the play was a huge hit. But, in this (very long) adaptation of Peter Shaffer's story, all the cracks are magnified, even though the wallpapering of director Lumet is as expert as can be.

Burton has one of the most demanding parts of his later years as the psychiatrist who tries to find out why a strange youth (Firth, much later a stalwart of TV's Spooks) blinded six horses in a fit of frenzy.

It has to be admitted that Burton doesn't always pass this test with flying colours, especially when asked to deliver a long soliloquy, addressing the camera.

Firth, though, is excellent as the youth, Alan Strang, and by far the best thing in a distinguished cast, almost all of whom, with the exception of a young Agutter, tend to give actorly performances whose mechanics show all too near the surface.

Despite Firth's efforts, however, in the unforgiving medium of film the strange piece all seems such poppycock, even if exceptionally well done in places, notably in some of the scenes between psychiatrist and patient.

But Lumet's pretentions to a masterpiece are everywhere, slowing the thing down to what it surely could never have been in the theatre - an on-off bore.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 1977. UK Distributor: BFI (originally United Artists). Colour.
137 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 17 Aug 2020