D: Sidney Lumet
United Artists (Lester Persky & Elliott Kastner)
UK 🇬🇧 1977
W: Peter Shaffer [based on his play]
DP: Oswald Morris
Ed: John Victor-Smith
Mus: Richard Rodney Bennett
Richard Burton (Dr. Martin Dysart), Peter Firth (Alan Strang), Colin Blakely (Frank Strang), Joan Plowright (Dora Strang), Jenny Agutter (Jill Mason)
Despite receiving a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in this film, 1977 wasn't the best year for Richard Burton. Eager to get his career back on track following the awful sequel to The Exorcist (see Exorcist II: The Heretic), he started in this adaptation of Peter Shaffer's stage play, which was an unfortunate and surprise flop during its cinema run. However, this shouldn't be deemed as a slight on the quality of the film, since it is a solid adaptation of a controversial piece of theatre.
Burton plays Dr. Martin Dysart, a psychiatrist whose latest patient, Alan Strang, has a very troubled mind and an unhealthy obsession with horses, committed to a mental care facility after blinding a stable full of the animals with a metal spike.
The performances of the two main characters are without criticism, neither is the standard of filmmaking, with director Sidney Lumet packing plenty of symbolism into a story which itself had metaphorical references to homosexuality.
The film's failure at the box office can only be attributed to the fact that it came out a decade too early, when the subject matter was a little too taboo for conservative audiences.