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This one features a superb cast. Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Red Buttons,
Bruce Dern, Bonnie Bedelia, and Michael Conrad, among others. It's set in the Depression,
it's about the unlucky contestants in a sadomasochistic dance marathon to win a hefty cash
prize, and it's one of the most truly downbeat films of its time.
It's a seedy postcard about American poverty in a cheapskate dreamscape, but screenwriters James Poe and Robert E. Thompson (who adapted Horace McCoy's cult novel), and the director Sydney Pollack (who's made superb films like Three Days Of The Condor, Out Of Africa, and Havana, all with Robert Redford) invest the drama of hopelessness and desperation with a scathing comedic element that, thankfully, is based around the various characters' motivations, not their actions.
As gruelling, in its way, as the earlier Night Of The Living Dead, this is a movie concerned with the loss of humanity. Any similarity between Romero's shambling zombies and the shuffling of exhausted dancers here is (probably) unintentional, but the analogy remains a significant influence on this film's critical standing.
DVD extras: original publicity notes, trivia page, biographies of the stars and director with quotes, and a photo gallery in slideshow format.
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