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A film adaptation of the famous play by Peter Shaffer, Equus stars Richard Burton (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1984) as Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist who takes on an unusual case: a young stable boy (Peter Firth, The Hunt for Red October) who, in a frenzy, has blinded six horses. Their sessions reveal that the boy has a quasi-religious fetish for horses and he rides them in the dead of night, experiencing an ecstasy unlike anything Dysart has ever known. Dysart begins to question: Is the pursuit of normalcy worth the loss of individual passions? Equus features a lot of hokum--its therapy scenes are absurd crescendos of revelation and insights. But its central question has substance, the direction is energetic, and the performances are powerful; Burton, handsome and haggard, brings a complex self-loathing to his role. Also featuring Jenny Agutter (Logan's Run) and Joan Plowright (Enchanted April). --Bret Fetzer

Customer Reviews:

  • movie equus review
    A well-directed arthouse style movie. It is disturbing but necessarily so...brilliant performance by Richard Burton!...more info
  • Nice for certain things, but not a complete success
    The script is full of ideas and keeps one awake and thinking, and Richard Burton's rich development of the character is an intellectual feast. There are also many ideas which are wonderfully presented and connected with each other purely through visual storytelling. From that point of view it's a much better film than I had expected.

    On the down side, Joan Plowright is overrated by general standards - perhaps it was a highlight for her, but in comparison with Burton she is emotionless. Peter Firth's performance is terribly overrated: his approach to the role is horribly external and stagey, complete with some stock 'stick-walk' for the mental patient he portrays, which is just maddening. His most marketable contribution to the film is visible in the many scnes he performs 'al fresco'.

    This movie is definately worth buying - because it deservs repeated viewings. It's a pity the character of Alan (Peter Firth) isn't better portrayed: he's just by far too stagey and deliberate. Buy it for the writing, buy it for Burton, but know it's flawed....more info

  • A blurred line of sanity and insanity
    What I found most interesting about this movie was the similarities and differences between the psychiatrist and the patient. The movie seems to blur the lines of sanity and insanity. I know that the plot line of this movie will probably turn some people off, but I found it to be very intesting and intriquing. I work in the psychiatric field and we are very concerned about "normality" and what it means to the client. I found the movie to be very intesting, the plot very strong and the acting very believable. See the movie for yourself. I do recommend this movie to people that like things a little "different"....more info
  • Burton's soliloquy is deep!
    What are we doing, fundamentally...more info
  • Loses in film translation
    Having recently seen the London production with Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths, Equus is best left alone with its minimilist stage and representative 'horses' instead of live animals. Richard Burton, however, always a favorite of mine is intriguing to watch, and listen to with his famous voice and delivery, and I would have loved to have seen him do this production live. This film served as a good background for more modern productions, but is a pale substitute for a live performance....more info
  • The Script is a masterpiece!
    A flawlessly-written script with mythical undertones presented with brilliant performances -yet this is a very disturbing story for horse lovers such as myself. However, its passionate flow and the beauty of language and landscape keep one fixed to the screen. I would have liked to see the stage version, however I did not. But the outdoor scenes in this movie were stunning - and I would not have gotten that from a stage performance. This movie is high art....more info
  • About A Boy And His Horse...
    While I have never seen the Eqqus on stage, I can still say that personally this is a powerful and moving movie. In a nut shell, it deals with religion and how our upbringing can destry our lives. I highly reccomend that everyone should see this movie again and agian...Each time I see the movie, I see more and more sybolism. You'll never look at horses the same way again....more info
  • Welcome to the madness!

    When the time comes for you and personally decide to make a list of the most remarkable films in any age it' s impossible not including this cult movie. This is a tour de force film; complex and provided of multiple angles. A fascinating horror tale with an obsessed boy and his strange object of affection. The doctor will be involved at such level that... Well the rest runs for you.

    Go for this adult drama and enjoy once more a superb performing of Richard Burton another actor who never won an Academy Award (incredible don't you?) and the supreme direction of this well deserved awarded in the recent entry: Sidney Lumet.

    ...more info
  • Magnificent Extraordinary
    Magnificent performances by Colin Firth and Richard Burton. Extraordinary !

    Peter Schaefer takes modern society and modern psychology to task. Passion, Pain, and Worship is what is most lacking according to Schaefer. He makes the case that passion and pain are inextricably linked. And that the greatest danger for the individual in our modern world is boredom and sterility.
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  • The fantasies of a not-so-stable stable boy
    Hollywood gets mixed reviews on its ability to present plausible psychiatrist-patient relationships on film. On the tacky end of the scale are DAVID AND LISA and FINAL ANALYSIS; on the "deeply moving" end of the scale are ORDINARY PEOPLE and GOOD WILL HUNTING. Most, like THE THREE FACES OF EVE fall somewhere in the middle--interesting though unsubtle stories that reduce the patient's neurosis to a single mystery that needs to be unlocked by an indefatiguable professional who is egoless and has the blank personality to prove it.

    Sidney Lumet's adaptation of the Peter Shaffer's stage play EQUUS is exceptional for its ability to transport to film the full emotional complexity and intensity of a psychiatrist's relationship with one of his patients. And this is done almost entirely through the skill of the actors: Richard Burton as the psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart, Peter Firth as the disturbed stable boy who inexplicably blinded several of the horses in his care, Colin Blakely and Joan Plowright as the boy's religiously incompatible parents, and Eileen Atkins as a judge who has asked Dr. Dysart to take on this challenging case. This is not to minimize other contributions--the cinematography is exceedingly intelligent and unobtrusive. It's simply to say that Lumet seems to have realized that he had assembled a dream cast and made every effort to stay out of their way and to let each actor shine. Burton's performance is perhaps the best of his film career. Though intense at times, he is completely devoid of the stagey "haminess" that has marred some of his other film performances. Firth, as the patient, moves easily from jingle-singing dissociated boy, to surly rebellious youth, to a sort of highly eroticized mythic being. It is truly fascinating to watch. Because the psychiatrist has issues of his own, and because the story is as much about his coming to terms with his own demons as with those of his patient, EQUUS is not your typical Hollywood psychotherapy movie. It delves into the mythology and religion as well as the human condition. In the end, the film gives you a lot to think about after you've hit the stop button on your remote. A disturbing but powerful film....more info

  • Not as good as the stage version
    I remember looking forward to the release of this movie, only to be initially disappointed. I had seen the stage play here in Detroit when the NYC company first went on tour - it was a theater experience that totally blew me away. The "horses" were actors wearing black body suits, and each had a custom made "horse outfit" - a metal frame suggesting a horse's head and hooves. The final scene in Act 1, where the lad steals off in the night and rides naked was incredible, with the "horses" disengaging a stage gadget which allowed them to spin that part of the stage where he was riding the steed. If ever you have a chance to see this version live, do so by all means.

    The major disappointment with the film was Richard Burton, in one of his last roles. He was a good actor, but I was ever reminded that this was just "Richard Burton" acting a role - I would have much preferred an unknown to play Dysart. The movie is gripping, and disturbing. I remember purchasing a copy of the play and quoting from it in a paper I wrote for an abnormal psych class I had in college (got an A!).

    See this for the great drama it is....more info

  • Weird.. weird..and even weirder
    The first time I saw Equus, I was gripped and deeply moved by the film's themes and uses of the horses as gods. It combines a young boy's passion with a religious bent (possible inherited from his mother) and twists both into a fantastic and sometimes deeply disturbing storyline, both played to perfection by Peter Firth; the young Alan Strang and Richard Burton; Dysart the psychiatrist. I strongly reccomend this particular play to anyone willing to change their perspective on the world and religion....more info
  • Obviously a stage play adaptation
    I have torn feelings over this movie. Some of the acting, especially Richard Burton with his soliloquies, was gripping. At the same time... soliloquies says something too. This felt like a stage play adaptation. There are lots of long speaking bits and very few settings. I'm not against adapted stage plays, but this didn't feel like a movie, and it's strong points made me more curious about seeing it as a play than anything else.

    Equus unfolds from a therapist asked to analyze and work with a teenage boy who had a seemingly normal life, who suddenly and for no apparent reason gouged out the eyes of several horses at a stable where he worked part time. The therapist, meanwhile narrates about his dreams and oddities, and finds in the teen parrallels to himself. The movie is as much about the therapist as about the teen.

    Something that for me was weak about this movie is that it seemed to be trying way too hard to be sexual. The teen is naked in approaching half his scenes. He rides horses naked. He stands naked next to horses and pets them during some long narration. He falls back completely naked into blackness in some type of visual methaphor over and over again during some long narration. He gets naked in therapy, which I'm assuming is OK only because this is set in England, and therapy is run differently there. Beyond the copious nudity, some of the language is, once again, over the top. In a flashback showing his quirks preceeding the blinding, he's whipping himself (probably naked here too) and screaming some type of geneology for Equus (his personal god). This geneology is a bit over the top as most of it reads like "Pankus begat Spankus... Spankus begat Equus." Seriously, "Spankus" is in there.

    I recommend avoiding this movie, although maybe be open to it as a play. Turning it into a film certainly didn't add anything, and altough this has some good acting, it seems at best as if it's trying to hard....more info
  • Amazing film!
    This was quite simply one of the best films I have ever watched. The actors are brilliant, the script superb and the directing very much resembles a theatrical play (of course, that is logical since the film is based on a play).
    Richard Burton is giving his best performance and all in all I think that everybody should see this movie!...more info
  • No doubt about it!
    This movie is without a doubt the best movie I've ever seen. It asks all the most essential questions posing modern theory vs. ancient "myth" and leaves the viewer to search for their own answers. Truley wonderful!...more info
  • Brilliant Rendition of the Shaffer Play
    This film has often been derided as lacking the emotional impact that the stage production contained (much of it deriving from the unconventional staging of the piece), but I think these criticisms are often misguided and, frankly, wrong.

    The story is as strong as in the stage play: a burned-out psychiatrist (Richard Burton) takes on the case of a stable-boy (Peter Firth) who has blinded six of the horses in his care, and through his treatment of the boy, further exacerbating the psychiatrist's sense of detachment from the primitive side of his personality --a side he longs to be reunited with. In the process, we see how the twisted interrelation between sex, religion, guilt, parental love (or the absence thereof) and idolization (in most of its forms) combine to motivate an otherwise good teenager to commit such an act of cruelty.

    The acting is absolutely flawless. Burton gives what may be the best performance of his career (and one which was inexplicably denied the Oscar) as the psychiatrist; Firth is his match as the inscrutable stable boy; and Jenny Agutter is superb as the young woman who unwittingly sets the final steps of the story in motion.

    As for the complaints about the "staginess" of the film, Sidney Lumet's direction does a marvelous job at highlighting the contrasting personalities of Burton's and Firth's characters -- Burton's monologues shot in extreme close-up, highlighting the claustrophobic isolation into which his character has retreated; Firth, by contrast, given more leeway with the camera, only mirroring Burton's claustrophobia in those scenes in which his Freudian/religious guilt imposes itself upon him.

    In short, Peter Shaffer's play is astounding material and it clearly survives its transition to film. Not a happy film, by any means, but certainly a brilliant one....more info

  • Superlative performance
    Unequivically the best movie ever made. Burton's performance is stellar. Don't miss it....more info
  • an example of what was wrong with the 1970s
    This film encapsulatates most of what was wrong with the culture of the 1970s. An insane boy mutiliates a bunch of animals. Burton (a psychiatrist) sets out to "help" the boy (somehow) by probing the boy's insane view of the world.

    Then we get to the typical 1970s crisis of conscience. We are essentially told through Burton's character that trying to cure an insane person who multilates horses is wrong. That in trying to cure him, his "uniqueness" as an individual (his insane view of the world) will be destroyed. All that was missing at the end was a call for a government program to maintain, protect and develop this unique boy along with his community of horses.

    The film is a badly written mix of shock horror and the idiotic social ideas of the 1970s. I watched it because of all the critical acclaim that was showered on it. Its difficult to comprehend how this was nominated for acadamy awards, but it was. Its only value is in showing how artistically messed up that era was....more info
  • Something Went Horribly Wrong!
    Directed by Sidney Lumet, creator of Network, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and The Pawnbroker; with the screenplay written by Peter Shaffer, the author of the original play, which is one of the great plays of the Twentieth Century; and starring Richard Burton, one of our finest dramatic actors; the movie version of EQUUS should have been both a thrilling visual and emotional experience. Something, however, went horribly wrong in translating the play to the screen. Nothing seems to work. For example, the blinding of the horses in the stage production is totally believable and so overpowering. Using men wearing metal horses' heads works completely. The similar scenes in the movie with actual horses are so brutal as to be almost unwatchable. The nudity is not at all gratuituous in the play but seems unnecessary in the movie adaptation. The spare set complements the acting in the play and is so effective. That is all of course lost in the movie version. Martin Dysart's talking to the audience is so moving in the play; in the movie it comes off simply as both artificial and boring. (It doesn't help matters that Burton has three volumnes: loud, much louder and too loud.) The psychiatrist's musings as to whether the young man should be "fixed" and brought into the mainstream but never be able to "run" free again are at the heart of the play; here they just appear trite.

    Not every great work of art can be translated into another medium. I'm not sure this great play could ever be made into a good movie. Maybe a film should have been made of a good stage production in order that this truly great play could be seen by a larger audience....more info

  • Offbeat, engaging look into the soul
    If a viewer did not know the film Equus was an adaptation of a play, it would become apparent rather quickly as the tone and dialogue are highly theatrical. The film explores the question of why a quiet teenage stable boy (played by Peter Firth) would suddenly go on a rampage and blind six horses. As the film moves along, the intriguing answer begins to unfold.

    The boy is sent to a hospital where he is under the care of psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Richard Burton.) In treating the boy, Dysart begins to confront his own inner struggles, which are almost as, if not more, fascinating than the boy's. He wrestles with questions of how to live well and passionately and whether a sense of awe and connectedness are possible in the world. Is he (Dysart) a healer or a hack?

    Whether you agree with Dysart's conclusions (playwright Peter Shaffer's conclusions?) or not, the film raises the questions very well--questions that are relevant and engaging to anyone.

    Although highly dramatic and stylized at times, the film is true to its theatrical roots and it works. It is reminiscent of Ordinary People, taking a journey into the soul--if you liked that film, you will like this one as well. Highly recommended.

    ...more info
  • Wilbur and Mr. Ed were never like this.
    Peter Shaffer's weird stage play makes for an even more oddball affair as a film. Most casual fans of director Sidney Lumet ("Network", "Dog Day Afternoon", "Prince Of The City") probably won't believe that he made this one until they watch the credits themselves. Richard Burton heads the all-British cast as a psychiatrist probing the mind of a stableboy (Peter Firth) who has committed an almost unspeakable act of animal cruelty in a bizarre fit of psycho-sexual pique. As you may have guessed already, a good portion of the film takes place in the doctor's office, with the requisite "flashbacks" telling us the story behind the patient's mental meltdown. Burton's rich, cathedral voice, Firth's twitchy performance and a fair amount of unabashed sexuality (fans of Jenny Agutter will definitely want this one for thier, uh, collection...) should keep most viewers from drifting off, but the film is probably too static and "stagey" for today's typical attention spans....more info
  • Equus = no good...
    The stableboy is
    a monster who should have been put to death for his acts. The film is a horrible waste of time, and yet another example of the worst of the '70s attempts to show how a film adaptation of a novel and stage play can be put to the screen and still manage to rope in suckers and even win some awards. These types of films generally suck plain and simple, but this is among the notoriously worst of its kind. Would you care about the boys psychological make-up and rehibilitation if he had done this cruel act to a group of children? I think not. Richard Burton is better served in films such as 'Candy' and 'Bluebeard' - Stick to comedies, horror films and period pieces and forget this bogged down, heavyweight crappola! Sentimental poop! God rest Richard Burton's soul for this one!!...more info
  • "I Am Yours and You Are Mine."
    A young man (Alan Strang played by Peter Firth) blinds a half dozen horses with a spike and sings as his response to queries when hauled in front of the magistrate. He must be nuts, the thinking goes, and suitable mental health is sought.

    Richard Burton's character, Dr. Martin Dysart, doesn't just try to help his severely neutrotic and psychotic patients, he often leads them in a dysfunctional romp through the nethermind and disregards ordinary boundaries.

    "Why me?" Dysart asks the referring professional when requested to involve himself with this particularly difficult, horse-maiming patient. She's already told him once, but he wants to hear it again, maybe in a new way. The answer is naturally because he's the best. He doesn't argue.

    And so Dr. Dysart sluthes his way through the mind of young Alan, through his broken Stepford mum and embarrassed, muttering dad, and through the evidences of a life that not only has taken the road less travelled, but has gone crashing through the underbrush of a dark, sharp wood where no one else goes.

    When Alan awakens from a nightmare to see Dysart standing above him, he wasn't the only one who wondered, WTF? In fact, Dysart's apparent conversion from general shrink to field forensic psychiatrist who just happens to be everywhere he needs to be was just a little odd. His obsession with the Strang case, however, became understandable.

    Firth was excellent in this, the best part actually. I was afraid after the introduction that Burton's Dysart would be overwrought, but he settled into it well enough with occasional relapses into overacting. The complex repressed sexual themes were interesting and this film will probably appeal to fans of Burton and people interested in well-written tales of the mentally ill. I also appreciated the connection between Dysart's persistent and disturbing dreams in light of the work he did. I enjoyed this film, although it was a bit ponderous at times with Dysart's later various prolonged existential crises....more info
  • Doctor must help a teenage boy with a horse and sex.
    Richard Burton narrates to the audience and stars as a psychiatrist who is to help an english teenage boy, Alan (Peter Firth), who seems to be out of touch of reality. He loves horses and dreams of horses. Alan must see the psychiatrist every day and make progress or he will end up in a mental hospital. He is not allowed to watch television according to his parents, but remebers specific jingles and repeats them often. His behavior at times is erratic. Dr. Martin Dysart had odd dreams of his own and must get to the root of Alan's problem. Alan will relay to Dr. Dysart his own memories as a child and his obsession for a horse. ADULTS ONLY! Includes full frontal male and female nudity and sexual situations. Cast also includes Joan Plowright, Colin Blakly and Kate Reid. Richard Burton and Peter Firth were both nominated for an Academy Award....more info
  • Once it gets rolling... pow!
    Equus (Sidney Lumet, 1977)

    I have to admit that at first, I was kind of unimpressed with Equus. Richard Burton narrating the first dream bit... it just didn't work. It seemed overdone, the symbolism was way too naked, this just wasn't Peter Shaffer. No subtlety. No tact. For that matter, come to think of it, this wasn't Sidney Lumet, either. It was about ten minutes later, during the bit where Alan Strang (Peter Firth) is relaying his first experience with a horse, that the movie really fell into place. I think that has a great deal to do with Firth and not nearly as much to do with Burton, though he does grow into his role as the movie progresses. Firth, on the other hand, gives a powerful, terrifying performance from the get-go here. His mentally disturbed Strang is a perfect fit for Shaffer's celebrated meditation on the potential damage of the mixture of sex and religion. And while Equus, thanks in no small part to its slow, unworkable beginning, never quite reaches the heights of Dog Day Afternoon or Twelve Angry Men, but it remains a powerful and disturbing film, once it takes off. And take off it does.

    The cast entire do a very good job here. Joan Plowright is almost as distressing as Firth, despite being supposedly sane, while Colin Blakely plays her blustering, ineffectual husband excellently. Jenny Agutter (once again fulfilling her role as, in the immortal words of Jeff Murdock, "an advertisement for nudity!") makes a perfect love interest for Strang, teasing and coy, but willing to take the upper hand when necessary, while Burton, once he warms to the role, makes a fine psychotherapist. But what sets this apart is Lumet's interesting decision to keep Alan Strang at the same age in his flashbacks, rather than taking the more conventional choice of casting six-year-old and twelve-year-old actors to play earlier versions of the sixteen-year-old Strang; the scene I mentioned earlier, where Strang recounts his first experience with a horse, is just monumental. While it probably would be had they cast another character, by keeping Firth, the scene also gains an unsettling quality of imbalance; you know he's supposed to be six, but there he is, still his adult self. Amazing stuff.

    The subject matter, in today's political climate in both Britain and America, is probably deeply unpopular; if anything, that's even more a reason to get your hands on a copy of this at your earliest convenience and indulge yourself. ****
    ...more info
    EQUUS is one of those plays you never forget after you see it. Although the theatrical version is matchless, this film adaptation succeeds in bringing into the widescreen the painful drama of these two characters who represent - in many aspects - the torments of modern society. Brilliantly interpreted by Burton & Firth, this is a theatrical adaptation not to be missed. Due to the brutal explicity of some sequences, it sounds understandable that a good number of viewers may feel shocked and tend to underrate the whole piece. I think this play - although written in 1973 - has a lot to say about us, about modern society, sexuality, religion and existential values. Give it a try and reflect upon it once you see it. ...more info
  • Once you start it, you'll have to finish
    I made the mistake of starting this movie late one evening, with the intention of only watching it for a while and finishing it later. Didn't work out that way...I found myself glued to the spot on the floor where I had sat after popping the tape in the VCR. The acting was simply incredible, although one of the aspects most fascinating to me was the transformation between play and screenplay and the different ways in which the same story was told. Deep stuff and a little freaky, but definitely an extraordinary piece of work that leaves you thinking....more info
  • Strange, Beautiful, and Sad
    When Alan Strang (Peter Firth), a profoundly troubled young stable worker, blinds several of the horses in his care he is sent to Dr. Martin Dysart (Richard Burton). The psychiatrist is determined to unravel the mystery of why Alan would do such a thing. In a series of flashbacks it is learned that a horseman, sex and religion are mixed into the skewed psyche solution. Before the tragic events, when Alan is simply working with the horses, there are lots of visually stunning, almost ethereal scenes of the animals being groomed and ridden. Especially pretty horses were cast in this film; probably so the audience would feel even sorrier for their plight. Equus is based loosely on a true incident, and a play by Peter Schafer (I also strongly recommend reading the play in book form... it's beautifully written, especially the opening passage).

    Staci Layne Wilson
    ...more info
    Absolutely stunning film version of the Tony-winning play. Richard Burton is fine as psychiatrist Dr.Dysart who tackles a disturbing case involving a young stablehand, Alan(Peter Firth) who has inexplicably blinded six horses. Alan has become obsessed with the mythological horse god Equus and secretly worships horses in religious/sexual frenzy. Dysart (who has problems of his own) tries to uncover what led up to the mutilations and discovers the boy's parents were aware of some of his strange rituals but coldly did nothing. Joan Plowright is excellent as the mother who reveals too late her own shortcomings. Beautiful Jenny Agutter is also fine as the girl whose seduction of Alan in the stables leads to the tragic occurrance... but Peter Firth is simply fantastic as the mentally fragile Alan. His performance carries the film and his role requires him to be nude through much of it. But titillating this is not. It is a wrenching film and the blinding of the horses is almost unbearable to watch. This is the kind of film that challenges the viewer and leaves much open for discussion. On that level alone, it is recommended highly. Others beware that the bizarre subject matter may put some viewers off. Nonetheless, it's an excellent film and an unusual journey into the psyche of a most unusual (and sad) young man. Excellent direction by Sidney Lumet. Rather "bare bones" DVD but it looks and sounds great. A collector's item....more info
  • Disturbing and terrifying
    This movie lacks all imagination that could have been put into the production. There is just a lot of male nudity and gore, and eerie sexual tension between the boy and his horse....more info
  • Horse Feathers
    For a good portion of "Equus" I thought I was watching one of the worst films I've seen in my life. The film's basic premise of a stableboy who blinds some horses being treated by a clinical psychiatrist who is having a mid-life crisis should have been a tip-off that this film is a dog. For the most part the narrative is incoherent, loaded with flashbacks that make no sense, unintelligible psychobabble, and monologues by Richard Burton as the psychiatrist that seem to go on forever. Peter Firth as Alan Strang, the stableboy, has the unenviable task of making sympathetic a character whose done the unspeakable;he doesn't succeed. I was well prepared to give this film one star if it were not for the performance by Richard Burton as the world-weary psychiatrist. He does the impossible by making us believe that he cares about the monster he's treating. Jenny Agutter does a good job as one of Firth's co-workers who takes a shine to him. Joan Plowright also makes sympathetic her part as Firth's mother who, on paper, should be less sympathetic....more info


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