Scene Of The Crime: Boom!

In 1966, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor delivered a blistering take on marital strife in Mike Nichol’s adaptation of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? After that, they acted together in an adaptation of  The Taming Of The Shrew. Clearly they were developing a taste (and knack) for transferring the magic of theatre to the big screen. Cut to two years later, and the on-off soulmates  attempted to replicate another playwright’s words in another caustic, wordy, near two-hander. The film, Boom! an adaptation by the Southern Gothic maestro Tennessee Williams of his failed play, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, is, hilariously however, a deranged mess. 

La Taylor is Sissy Goforth, a rich, much divorced socialite, now reclusive, who resides on her own private Mediterranean  island, dictating her memoirs and entertaining a gossipy old queen (Noel Coward as “The Witch of Capri”). There is also a militarily garbed enigmatic dwarf on the staff  named Rudi. I wonder did David Lynch mine this for Twin Peaks? Taylor’s part was envisioned for a much older woman (she was 36 at the time). The mysterious stranger, Chris Flanders aka Angelo Del Morte (subtle, he represents death) who enters her world and shakes things up is supposed to be a young failed poet – instead we get a dissipated Richard Burton, seven years her senior.

What then follows is a gloriously camp, histrionic and  debauched through the looking glass peek at the (probably imagined) world of the most famous couple in the world. Taylor swans around in Kurt Lagerfeld gowns and elaborate headdresses. Much play was made of the millions of dollars worth of gaudy jewellery she wore in the film. Burton’s character changes into a samurai-like gown and carries a samurai sword too- why?! They both are clearly two sheets to the wind in several scenes.

Just to remind you, Tennesse Williams wrote many classics, including Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Glass Menagerie, to name a few. None had such ripe dialogue as this though:

Goforth, after Chris’ samurai robe shifts in the wind: “You have a good pair of legs on you…I mean, under you.”
Chris:I find them very useful for climbing mountains.
Goforth: “Good teeth, too.
Chris: I’d love to sink them into some hot buttered toast.”

The best bad scene is probably the one where Burton, engaged in a rambling conversation with Taylor about her character’s past lovers and living habits, hears the crash of the surf below the room (while ridiculously suspenseful music underscores the “drama”) and utters the name of the film…. “Boom. The shock of each moment, of still being alive!” 

There’s no fool like an old fool, it seems. Even up to his death , Tennessee Williams was convinced of the merits of the film. He wrote in his memoirs, “I feel that Boom! was an artistic success and that eventually it will be received with acclaim.” Just like Quentin Tarantino shows prospective girlfriends Rio Bravo “And they’d better fuckin’ like it!” trash meister John Waters is ploughing a lonely furrow championing this film, to the extent that if prospective partners don’t like it, he can never go out with them..

Originally posted 2012-12-10 07:16:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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