Explores the confrontation between the woman who has everything, including emptiness, and a penniless poet who has nothing but the ability to fill a wealthy woman's needs.
The incredibly rich writer Sissy Goforth lives alone with her servants and nurses on the top of a Mediterranean island, on which she makes her own rules. Her days consist of dictating her autobiography and begging for injections. Here comes Chris Flanders, a.k.a. the angel of death - he has the weird habit of paying visit to unfortunate ladies shortly before their death. Sissy dresses him like a Japanese warrior, and he contemplates in that outfit the waves breaking against the rocks below. The witch of Capri - a neighbour - is invited to share their dinner, a larger than life - and still moving - monster of the sea.
Elizabeth Taylor ... Flora 'Sissy' Goforth
Richard Burton ... Chris Flanders
Noel Coward ... The Witch of Capri
Joanna Shimkus ... Miss Black
Michael Dunn ... Rudi
Romolo Valli ... Doctor Luilo
Fernando Piazza ... Etti
Veronica Wells ... Simonetta
Howard Taylor ... Journalist
I recently saw this film as it was meant to be seen, in a theater with a packed audience of Gay men and Lesbians (and don't panic, some token Heteros too)! This was at the 2nd Annual Provincetown Film Festival, and this evening was hosted by John Waters. (If I need to explain who he is, then forget EVER seeing this movie)
John Waters informed us that this was the movie that he shows to friends of his as his "litmus" test, if they don't enjoy it, he claims to never speak to them again! I'm inclined to agree.
If you're a fan of camp, SEE THIS FILM! If you're a fan of Elizabeth Taylor, SEE THIS FILM! If you're a fan of Joanna Shimkus, well I don't know what to say then, except congratulations! You're the first one! (although, she is great in this movie)
What more can you say about a film that has Elizabeth Taylor decked out in Kabuki-Vegas drag holding an intimate bitchy dinner party with an aged and drunken Noel Coward (in a role written for a woman, and first offered to Katharine Hepburn!) To watch Miss Taylor in action, is to behold a true screen legend fully embrace her diva acting self. She lets rip with such abandon and power, she manages to wipe everybody else off the screen, including HERSELF!
While Richard Burton, Noel Coward, Joanna Shimkus, and Michael Dunn (of Ship of Fools and Wild Wild West[tv version, please!] fame) manage to deliver the goods in this Tennessee Williams free for all, it is the incredible Miss Taylor who grounds this late 60's arthouse flop, and manages to transcend it's failing qualities, to make it a screen orgy of bad taste and over the top drama!
Try and keep a straight face during Miss Taylor's prolonged coughing fit on the balcony! I thought I was going to be sick just watching her hack up her lungs. Watch Richard Burton somnambulistically maneuver his way through a role played on stage by Tab Hunter! (I can't help but think, that this film might have actually been pulled off as a straight drama with the original casting of Simone Signoret and Sean Connery!)
We lovers of camp and all things over the top should revel in this failed artistic masterpiece!
This film gets a 10 Star rating as Camp, and a 4 Star rating as anything else!
When this film opened in 1968, most patrons at the cinema either walked out or stayed and scratched their heads. I came back to see it several times. Everything about it is delightfully overdone. Elizabeth Taylor, while too shrill, is wonderful to watch. I am not sure she understood the role she was playing, but she attacked the film with a lot of gusto. This signalled the end of the big Taylor-Burton films of the 1960s, and would be the death knell of Elizabeth Taylor as number one at the Box Office. In the 1970s, I managed to see this film several times on television, and I remember finding additional delights on re-viewing. I recommed this to all Elizabeth Taylor fans.
`Boom' is a blast! This is one of the most fun of the Burton - Taylor films. "Boom" is also a gassy misfire that draws one into the veiled world of aging homosexual desire disguised as a heterosexual struggle between an aging, dying woman and the unattainable youth in the angel of Death.
This is story wearing a beard. Taylor's role is really that of an aging rich gay man who is trying to hang on to youth and the beauties that great beauty attract. After all, her name is `Sissy'. Burton's role is that of the hustler who is all that is left for the old queen to attract. But as with so many Williams works it all must be encrypted and coded so that the America of the late 50's and early 60's could handle his true intentions, the soft underbelly of his plays. Burton is too old for the role that was written for a man in his twenties and Taylor is too young and too healthy looking to be the dying Sissy. But despite that, the story of a struggle of great wealth against the inevitable grows from loopy strangeness to a compelling and moving ending. Here Taylor gives one of her oddly finest post Virginia Woolf studies in a dramatic/comic performance. There is in fact so much subversive humor in her performance that she is at times hilarious. Her vocal range dances from the shrill to the silly to the grand dame and all to serve her imperious and ultimately terrified Sissy Goforth. In the last desperate half hour of the film she does some of her finest work. Burton is rather cool and distant at first but builds his Angelo De Morte into a truly fine character study. In particular, listen to his fine delivery of the speech about the old man in the sea.
Particular note should be made of the cinematography, which is gorgeous, and the stunning sun washed bone toned opulent glamour of the sets. I understand that the Burtons owned the house in Sardinia for a while after the film was completed. The spare and haunting score by John Barry is an added delight to his impressive repertoire. And for you jewelry fans there is plenty of Miss Taylor's own jewelry on hand. So get out your copy of `My Love Affair With Jewelry' my Elizabeth and thumb along as she parades her diamonds in the Mediterranean sun.
Campy? Yes! Great? Maybe we will know about that in another 40 years. Is it worth your time? Only if you like a challenge and are willing to let the Burtons take you into the world of Tennessee Williams camp classic.
How can a film be a 10 and a 1 at the same time? As serious art, Boom is a bomb. Yet, as a testimony, a very camp testimony, to the lives of Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Noel Coward, and Tennessee Williams, it is literally hysterical. As the Age of Aquarius was dawning on America, what were these pioneers of love, lust, decadence, and existential meaning to do? What is there to say, to do, to perform, two years after Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1968. the play Hair is delighting Broadway. The hippies have overtaken the Beats. Where can the stars go? To the Old World, Europe, Italy, Capris... The movie reveals their state of mind: preoccupation with death, the emptiness of wealth, sex, and luxury. As we watch this undeniably amusing costume melodrama, we can't help wondering just what Taylor and Burton's "real" life there in Sardinia must have been like. Did they throw tantrums when their whims went unsatisfied, or was it the opposite? I'll have to leave the answer to the biographers. But this film makes it impossible not to imagine them all there in Italy, trying with desperation NOT to be what they were portraying. That is what makes the film intriguing.
* James Bernard was considered to write the film score.
* Tennessee Williams stated that it was the best film version of any of his plays that was ever produced. The rest of the world seemed not to agree, for the monumentally expensive production bombed at the box office.
* Topol passed on this project
* The movie is based on the Tennessee Williams' play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore", which flopped on Broadway, closing on 16 March 1963 after just 69 performances. Director Tony Richardson, hot after the release of his film Tom Jones (1963), directed the revival that opened with Tallulah Bankhead as Gloria Goforth and 'Tab Hunter' as Chris in January 1964. The revival was a disaster, closing after just 5 performances. The dual failures of "Milk Train" signalled the end of Williams' greatness as a playwright.
* Despite the twin Broadway failures of the play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore," it was thought that Elizabeth Taylor and Tennessee Williams were an irresistible combination, after the sucess of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), both of which won Taylor Oscar nominations as Best Actress. It was a fatal miscalculation on the part of the producer.
* Tennesse Williams lobbied Sean Connery to play Chris, but he declined.
* The play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore", and thus this movie, are based on Tennessee Williams' short story "Man Bring This Up Road".
* According to Lord Melvyn Bragg in his biography Richard Burton: A Life" (1988), director Joseph Losey was drinking heavily during the shooting of "Boom!" due to personal problems. Bragg attributes some of the responsibility for the failure of the film to this.
* Chris as envisioned was a young poet, and Richard Burton was considered by most to be terribly miscast as well as too old for the part. The bust of "Boom!" seriously damaged Elizabeth Taylor's standing at the box office, though Burton had two more major hits with Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) after the fiasco of its drubbing by both the critics and movie audiences.
* The first mainstream British film to include the expletive "shit" in its dialog (see Quotes section).
* According to the book, “Infinite Variety” by Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino, the characters of Flora Goforth and the Witch of Capri were both partly inspired by the infamous Italian eccentric and patron of the arts, the Marchesa Luisa Casati (1881-1957).