With a reputation like this, of course I want to see the film now:
Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968) is one of the most famously criticized and misunderstood films from the late sixties. Its original $3.9 million dollar budget seemed to have ballooned into 10 million by the time shooting stopped and the money was mainly used to pay the million dollar salaries of the film’s two main stars (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), dress Elizabeth Taylor in her amazing Tiziani costumes (many designed by Karl Lagerfeld) and Bulgari jewelery, build a fabulous set and keep the Bloody Marys’ and champagne flowing from dawn to dusk. Critics by and large despised Boom! and many viewers walked out of the theater before the film had ended utterly perplexed by what they had just seen.
Boom! was an uneven European art film masquerading as a mainstream Hollywood movie and the general public just wasn’t interested. They wanted to see Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in more easily defined roles such as “tenacious slut” (Taylor) or “troubled saint” (Burton), and they longed for simpler drama with a basic narrative that was easy to follow. But by 1968 both Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had grown weary of the typical roles Hollywood was offering them and they wanted to make more challenging films together. Boom! would turn out to be one of the most challenging films that the actors ever worked on. But it would also receive the worst reviews of their careers and mark what many consider to be the decline of one of Hollywood’s most glamorous couples. A shared addiction to alcohol and Taylor’s growing reliance on prescription drugs was starting to take its toll on the two actors and their very public marriage. The couple’s wealth, fame and glamorous lifestyle made Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton appear larger than life and at first glance unusual film projects like Doctor Faustus (1967) and Boom! appeared to be self-indulgent vanity projects made without much thought for the general movie-going audiences that had helped make them famous. Resentment seemed to be growing between the popular actors and their adoring fans. And critics were eager to take a swipe at Hollywood’s roy
Boom! was based on one of Tennessee Williams’ least accessible and most esoteric plays called The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (originally published in 1963) [Google books] and Williams was also responsible for the film’s script. After two failed Broadway runs of the play Universal Studios still thought they could turn The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore into a hit film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Both actors had appeared in financially successful film versions of other Tennessee Williams’ plays individually including, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks; 1956), Suddenly Last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz; 1959) and The Night of the Iguana (John Huston; 1964) so Universal assumed the couple could turn The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore into a hit with their double star power.
[Click to continue reading C I N E B E A T S :: Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968) :: March :: 2008]
Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, Netflix does not have Boom! for rental, meaning it was never released on DVD. Perhaps ripe for a Criterion Collection release? There is a Bittorrent (AVI) for the tech savvy
One four minute scene on YouTube