Not My Favorite Horse Racing Movie

Sax von Stroheim writes:

Dead Cert (Tony Richardson, 1974)

It looks more exciting than it is

It looks more exciting than it is

Something the Brits do pretty well: take their decent-to-classic mystery novels and turn them into solid-to-great TV programmes and movies. It’s rare to come across one that doesn’t have at least a few redeeming qualities. So that’s why it was surprising, if not stunning, to see one, made by a “real filmmaker”, that’s so sloppy. I have no idea what drew Richardson to this material: it doesn’t seem to fit in with his other work at all. He may have been hoping it would be a hit, but he just doesn’t have the touch for this kind of thing. Dick Francis’ novel is, at best, a light entertainment: full of shallow characters and predictable plot turns. Its main virtue is its backstage tour of English horseracing. The characters are too thin for Richardson to make their inner lives very interesting (a Richardson specialty in his other movies), and he flubs a lot of the basic set-up, which makes it a pretty poor tour guide. There is some good footage of horses racing and jumping, but the editing is so jumbled that I never got a sense of what was supposed to be happening in the races themselves. The movie is spatially confused throughout, though: Richardson cuts back-and-forth from close-ups to crowded, Altman-like long shots in such a way that I was always left wondering exactly who or what I should be looking at in any given scene.

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4 Responses to Not My Favorite Horse Racing Movie

  1. Related Query: Do people still read the Dick Francis novels? The Manolo can remember twenty or thirty years ago, when Dick Francis was mandatory reading for all of the Manolo’s literarily-inclined friends.. And now, it seems to him that he has not heard that name in the very long time, although the quick look at the Wikipedia shows that the last Dick Francis book came out in the 2010, the year Francis died. Has he fallen so completely out of the fashion?


    • Sax von Stroheim says:

      My answer, based only on anecdotal evidence, is that, yes, he has fallen out of fashion, but I’m not sure exactly when it happened. Although I’m not really sure why he was a big hit in the first place.


    • Blowhard, Esq. says:

      In high school (early 90s) a friend of mine who was really into horses always had a Dick Francis book with him. But for that friend, I would never have heard of Francis. He was really that admired?


      • The Manolo was thinking more of the late 1970s, early 1980s, when several smart, older peoples of the Manolo’s acquaintance were pushing various English mystery novels on the young Manolo. The Manolo’s reaction? Dorothy Sayers and Edmund Crispin, yes please, very much. Dick Francis, meh, not so much.


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