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BOOM! (director: Joseph Losey; screenwriter: Tennessee Williams/based on the Tennessee Williams short story The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More; cinematographer: Douglas Slocombe; editor: Reginald Beck; music: John Barry; cast: 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); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: John Heyman/Norman Priggen; Universal; 1968-UK/USA)
“The mostly negatively reviewed film did little to help the plummeting careers of Burton and Taylor.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Joseph Losey (“The Prowler”/”The Servant”/”Secret Ceremony”) awkwardly and loosely adapts it from the Tennessee Williams play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. It’s a serio-comedy that pray tells about an unlikable and hysterical aging wealthy beauty, Flora ‘Sissy’ Goforth (Elizabeth Taylor), awaiting death in her comfortable home to only find comfort in the attentions of a penniless freeloading poet, Chris Flanders (Richard Burton), known as the Angel of Death because he always seems to around when rich women die.

It’s a $5-million color film that has been rewritten in an overwritten way by the playwright, that is insufferably caught between a real world (of vanity and suffering) and a symbolic one (fuzzy overtones of Indian mysticism, Christian theology and Greek mythology). The only thing that comes through as clear and straight is the beautiful location shots on the coast of Sardinia.

Sissy Goforth is a bawdy, booze-swilling, pill-popping, stingy and fearful middle-aged shrew who lives on an isolated villa on her Mediterranean island, where she’s occupied with dictating her memoirs into a tape recorder when not swearing at her servants. She’s outlasted five or six husbands, and is now in a state of denial that she’s dying. Into her mountain retreat arrives the middle-aged Chris (if you add a ‘t’ to the end of his name, you have a rough idea where the author is going with this dog) and he takes charge over the last 36 hours of Sissy’s life. In effect, he acts like a drunken priest who arranges her safe passage out of her miserable existence on earth. Sissy’s only friend, a frequent visitor, is the Witch of Capri (Noel Coward), a wickedly gossip-minded homosexual.

Liz Taylor never makes us feel her vulnerability or want to really care about her. While Richard Burton has a mellifluous poetical voice, but is done in because the confrontational chatty scenes have a gloomy air of self-importance and lack dramatic inspiration. The highly stylized film is ineffective in conveying that this a study of universal suffering and instead remains fascinating only in a Hollywood way, as its questionable worth is to watch the famous stars emote in such a flowery but pretentious manner. The mostly negatively reviewed film did little to help the plummeting careers of Burton and Taylor, or to change the public’s negative opinions of their volatile personal lives.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”