Critics and audiences detested this Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton film about a poet labeled the “Angel of Death” because of his attraction to wealthy women nearing their ends. Even one of its greatest fans, John Waters (1972’s Pink Flamingos), labels it “beyond bad. It’s the other side of camp.” Yet Tennessee Williams—who adapted the screenplay from his The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, which flopped twice on Broadway—considered it the best screen version of any of his plays. Despite critics’ complaints, the film has an almost irresistible charm. Part of the fascination is watching the actors play characters with parallels to their own lives. Taylor is Flora “Sissy” Goforth, a woman who has survived multiple marriages without losing her uncanny beauty. Burton is a poet whose spark of genius makes him catnip for the ladies (and one gentleman, the Witch of Capri, played by Noel Coward). In addition, a team of top professionals—including director Joseph Losey and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe—have made the picture captivatingly beautiful. Losey did location work in Sardinia, where the Mediterranean has an almost unearthly blue. The studio sets are baroque masterpieces, while Taylor wears a stunning collection of black-and-white costumes. The results are so dazzling you won’t want to tear your eyes from the screen.
(d. Joseph Losey, 110m, 35mm)