By 1968, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were one of the most famous couples in the world, their glamorous lifestyle documented in newspapers and magazines. However, both were dealing with dimming film careers due to recent box office disappointment. Naturally, they hoped their latest big screen pairing would turn things around. Both had starred in successful film adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays, Elizabeth Taylor in the iconic Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Richard, in The Night of the Iguana. So, Liz and Dick took on Tennessee Williams together.
Based on Williams’ play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (it only lasted 69 performances on Broadway) he adapted his own work for the screen. Joseph Losey (The Servant) directed this overwrought tale of about death, mysticism and spirituality. As far as I can tell, anyway!
Loud, booze-swilling, pill popping Flora ‘Sissy’ Goforth (Taylor) lives on her isolated island estate in the Mediterranean with a cadre of servants. She is busy dictating her autobiography. Having outlasted five or six husbands, she now in denial over the fact that she’s dying. Into her retreat arrives the middle-aged Chris Flanders (Burton). Though she is leery at first, Sissy’s only friend and frequent visitor, the Witch of Capri (Noel Coward) Flanders is an angel of death. Intrigued, a twisted relationship blossom between the two.
Taylor never makes us feel anything approaching sympathy for Sissy. Burton’s dulcet voice is buried by useless chatter and confrontational gymnastics that lacks any real meaning. If histrionics were a category at the Oscars, Elizabeth Taylor would have been the clear winner. Sissy’s suffering is pure Hollywood camp. It’s little wonder Boom! was a notorious failure, largely rejected by critics and fans alike.
Filmed in Sardinia, the look of Boom! is beautiful looking film. Cinematographer Douglas Douglas Slocombe (Raiders of the Lost Ark) effectively captures the glamour of the set pieces, as well as Taylor’s elaborate wardrobe and impressive Bulgari jewelry. Though his screen time is limited, Noel Coward is a welcome presence. One wonders what he, a fellow playwright, thought of Tennessee Williams’ Boom!.
It’s unusual for me to discuss extras within review, but I’m making an exception here. On this Blu-ray, Shout Factory has included an audio commentary with filmmaker John Waters (Serial Mom), which is essential to the viewing experience. A longtime fan of the film, he talks about the one time he met Elizabeth Taylor. When he told her he loved Boom!, she assumed he was making fun of her! She eventually realized he was serious. Listening to him, it’s obvious Waters has seen the film countless times and his love for it remains strong. Watching Boom! John Waters commentary just might become a semi-annual tradition around my house!
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Shout Factory’s 1080p transfer is impressive. While the film’s age results in some cinematography limitations, the bright colors of the Mediterranean are well preserved, as is a nice sense of distance. The cottons and silks of wardrobe show up nicely as well. Faces show a nice level of detail. Colors are quite vibrant throughout. The only issues are occasional specks and a scratch or two.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix shows its age a bit more than the video. Production limitations are an issue, with flat voices on occasion. Slight volume fluctuations are in evidence, but nothing severe. Dialogue is always clear. John Barry’s score comes through nicely. Atmospherics are loud. A slight hiss is noticeable at several points throughout the presentation.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available.
- Audio Commentary with Director John Waters: As I stated earlier, I would suggest watching the film with this commentary. Waters loves this movie and his passion comes through.
- The Sound Of A Bomb: Contextualizing Boom! (HD, 19:28) Critic/author Alonso Duralde discusses the film. It’s safe to say Taylor and Burton were dealing with addiction during production.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:21)
- Photo Gallery Color (HD, 4:34) Lots of photos of Liz in the films extensive wardrobe.
- Photo Gallery Black and White (HD, 4:50) Lots of film and publicity stills.
- Photo Gallery: Publicity (HD, 3:50) Press kit pages, newspaper ads and more. Some of it is from John Waters’ personal collection.
Movie title: Boom!
Director(s): Joseph Losey
Actor(s): Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton , Noël Coward, Joanna Shimkus , Romolo Valli, Michael Dunn
Genre: Drama, Surreal, Fantasy