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groupie2686

Boom! (1968) - Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton

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Does anyone know where I can find Boom! on DVD? I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and I'm trying to see all of the movies they made together. I can't find this one on DVD and as far as I know, TCM hasn't shown it.

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The legendary nuttiness of this movie makes it a must-see. John Waters has called it his favorite film; in the scene in Pink Flamingos where Babs and Cracker break into the Marvel's home (actually Waters' own) to lick all the furniture, the poster for Boom! is featured prominently in the stairwell.

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I just ran across a good widescreen print on YouTube the other day. I'd forgotten that Tennessee Williams himself wrote the screenplay, but that didn't really make it less of an embarrassment. It was based on his play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Her Anymore, but I'd forgotten the significance of the new title, BOOM. The "angel of death" character played by Richard Burton reacts to the booming of the surf below by saying "Boom. The shock of each moment, realizing you're still alive." Williams walked a fine line between poetry and claptrap and I think he may have stumbled over that line here.

P.S. I've always remembered an exclamation point in the title when I've seen it in print, but the main title sequence in the movie just says BOOM, so I guess that's official.

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I'm a staunch fan of Tennessee Williams but this flick I'd rather forget than remember. Whew.

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I watched this film last night on YouTube after reading about it on this thread. This morning I re-watched the ending. There's a lot going on with the acting, and I think Williams' screenplay is quite good. 

The weakest link for me was Noel Coward...I guess I expected a bit more depth out of him. He seemed like he had another interpretation of the story, rather different from what Taylor & Burton were trying to accomplish. Sidney Poitier's wife didn't have much to do, and I figure her role was de-emphasized so the focus would remain on the lead stars.

But for the most part I really enjoyed it. It sort of flows from CLEOPATRA in terms of the Italian architecture and on-location filming. And it also flows from VIRGINIA WOOLF in terms of Taylor's performance. Plus I think some of the outdoor stuff takes its cue from THE SANDPIPER. It's like everything they had done before made its way into this film. They combined those elements and applied it to Williams' writing. 

As for Williams, I'd say BOOM (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore) is an extension of THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE. Sissy Goforth seems like she's meant to be an older, sicker, lonelier, more desperate version of Mrs. Stone. And Burton's character, the angel of death, is one of those men who come in at the end of Mrs. Stone's life to provide comfort yet take advantage. Actually, I think there's an unexplored backstory with Burton's character. The speech where he talks about helping an old man die in Baja California gives us a glimpse into what his earlier life was like.

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17 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I watched this film last night on YouTube after reading about it on this thread. This morning I re-watched the ending. There's a lot going on with the acting, and I think Williams' screenplay is quite good. 

The weakest link for me was Noel Coward...I guess I expected a bit more depth out of him. He seemed like he had another interpretation of the story, rather different from what Taylor & Burton were trying to accomplish. Sidney Poitier's wife didn't have much to do, and I figure her role was de-emphasized so the focus would remain on the lead stars.

But for the most part I really enjoyed it. It sort of flows from CLEOPATRA in terms of the Italian architecture and on-location filming. And it also flows from VIRGINIA WOOLF in terms of Taylor's performance. Plus I think some of the outdoor stuff takes its cue from THE SANDPIPER. It's like everything they had done before made its way into this film. They combined those elements and applied it to Williams' writing. 

As for Williams, I'd say BOOM (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore) is an extension of THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE. Sissy Goforth seems like she's meant to be an older, sicker, lonelier, more desperate version of Mrs. Stone. And Burton's character, the angel of death, is one of those men who come in at the end of Mrs. Stone's life to provide comfort yet take advantage. Actually, I think there's an unexplored backstory with Burton's character. The speech where he talks about helping an old man die in Baja California gives us a glimpse into what his earlier life was like.

I think you're right that past pairings of Taylor and Burton were used as reference points; so often Williams was the imitated, but here he became the imitator. The most troublesome visual reference would be from The VIP's, because Liz is, as you said, supposed to be "older, lonelier, more desperate" (and, specifically, sicker), yet she appears in all her jet-set finery, without much hint other than those bloody handkerchiefs and occasional injections that she's about to meet her maker. Liz was capable of deglamming (ie: Virginia Woolf), so it's all the more disappointing that she not only didn't in BOOM but went so determinedly in the other direction (that disco ball headpiece), undermining the credibility of the whole enterprise. Overall, I'm a fan, but Elizabeth often went the "My fans want to see me in jewels and gowns" route that other movie divas have fallen victim to and that look wasn't appropriate in every situation. In The Sandpiper as an off-the-grid artist and in The Only Game in Town as a "working girl" chorus dancer she appeared professionally coiffed, made up, and costumed, instantly making her less than credible in what were intended to be "serious" roles. It showed that Liz wasn't really interested in falling in line with new trends and standards in filmmaking which began to emerge in the 1960's and BOOM is an example of that. Maybe it was part of Williams' point that not even the ultraglamorous are spared the inevitability of death, but the visuals seemed to me to be too often at odds with the script.

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10 minutes ago, DougieB said:

I think you're right that past pairings of Taylor and Burton were used as reference points; so often Williams was the imitated, but here he became the imitator. The most troublesome visual reference would be from The VIP's, because Liz is, as you said, supposed to be "older, lonelier, more desperate" (and, specifically, sicker), yet she appears in all her jet-set finery, without much hint other than those bloody handkerchiefs and occasional injections that she's about to meet her maker. Liz was capable of deglamming (ie: Virginia Woolf), so it's all the more disappointing that she not only didn't in BOOM but went so determinedly in the other direction (that disco ball headpiece), undermining the credibility of the whole enterprise. Overall, I'm a fan, but Elizabeth often went the "My fans want to see me in jewels and gowns" route that other movie divas have fallen victim to and that look wasn't appropriate in every situation. In The Sandpiper as an off-the-grid artist and in The Only Game in Town as a "working girl" chorus dancer she appeared professionally coiffed, made up, and costumed, instantly making her less than credible in what were intended to be "serious" roles. It showed that Liz wasn't really interested in falling in line with new trends and standards in filmmaking which began to emerge in the 1960's and BOOM is an example of that. Maybe it was part of Williams' point that not even the ultraglamorous are spared the inevitability of death, but the visuals seemed to me to be too often at odds with the script.

Taylor's glamour in the film doesn't really throw me. As you said, the point could have been that an ultra-glamorous woman still had to face death.

As good as Taylor's acting is, I actually think this film would have been better with Vivien Leigh in it. Unfortunately Leigh had died a year earlier. Leigh had tuberculosis in real life, and she probably would have played it more truthfully. Plus, since the storyline seems to be linked to THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE, having Leigh play the lead role would have been logical.

I really wanted some flashbacks in this movie. I wanted to see glimpses of Sissy Goforth's earlier escapades. And I especially wanted to see the scene where Burton's angel of death had drowned the old man in Baja. Williams' writing is often rich with imagery, but having these images remain stuck in the dialogue, without showing us visually some of these representations, keeps it stage bound and not as cinematic as it could be.

As for earlier films, the arthouse feel to BOOM links it to REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE. Where there's all this sexual tension and an irreverent way of looking at a couple in distress.

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So many films probably would have been better with Vivien Leigh in them. Plus it seems as though she had a special affinity for Williams' material. Liz was really good in Suddenly Last Summer but the really "Williamsy" characters were Sebastian's mother and aunt, not so much Cathy. I think Margaret Leighton originated the role of Sissy on stage and someone of her caliber might have been better, though she wasn't much of a (movie) marquee name. 

I agree that backstory-through-dialogue, which is fairly standard in theater, isn't as satisfying on film, where there are so many narrative alternatives. BOOM moves around from room to room and patio to patio, but it never really loses that set-bound feel, as you stated.

Definitely an arthouse film, as you said. Very high concept. You're so right that the irreverence links it to Reflections in a Golden Eye. That's one of Liz' de-glammed roles that I hadn't thought of, in which she proved beyond a doubt she could survive without all the designer duds and jewelry.

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28 minutes ago, DougieB said:

So many films probably would have been better with Vivien Leigh in them. Plus it seems as though she had a special affinity for Williams' material. Liz was really good in Suddenly Last Summer but the really "Williamsy" characters were Sebastian's mother and aunt, not so much Cathy. I think Margaret Leighton originated the role of Sissy on stage and someone of her caliber might have been better, though she wasn't much of a (movie) marquee name. 

I agree that backstory-through-dialogue, which is fairly standard in theater, isn't as satisfying on film, where there are so many narrative alternatives. BOOM moves around from room to room and patio to patio, but it never really loses that set-bound feel, as you stated.

Definitely an arthouse film, as you said. Very high concept. You're so right that the irreverence links it to Reflections in a Golden Eye. That's one of Liz' de-glammed roles that I hadn't thought of, in which she proved beyond a doubt she could survive without all the designer duds and jewelry.

I looked up the play (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore) on the Internet Broadway Database. The first production ran for 69 performances in early 1963, with Hermione Baddeley playing Sissy, which seems like an odd bit of casting. Paul Roebling played the angel of death. Then Williams revised it. He added a framing device involving stage manager characters (which was dropped for the screenplay). 

The second production occurred in early 1964 and only ran 5 performances, with Tallulah Bankhead as Sissy and Tab Hunter as the angel of death. Bankhead received terrible notices and it was the last time she appeared on Broadway.

My ideal casting for it (stage and film) would have been Vivien Leigh and Michael Parks. I also think Ingrid Bergman would have been a good choice-- she would have honed in on the Camille-like aspects of Sissy's illness and done a fine job.

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15 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I looked up the play (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore) on the Internet Broadway Database. The first production ran for 69 performances in early 1963, with Hermione Baddeley playing Sissy, which seems like an odd bit of casting. Paul Roebling played the angel of death. Then Williams revised it. He added a framing device involving stage manager characters (which was dropped for the screenplay). 

The second production occurred in early 1964 and only ran 5 performances, with Tallulah Bankhead as Sissy and Tab Hunter as the angel of death. Bankhead received terrible notices and it was the last time she appeared on Broadway.

My ideal casting for it (stage and film) would have been Vivien Leigh and Michael Parks. I also think Ingrid Bergman would have been a good choice-- she would have honed in on the Camille-like aspects of Sissy's illness and done a fine job.

Good homework. I don't know where Margaret Leighton came from....some weird memory ripple. Apparently Williams was constantly revising stuff. Truman Capote told about visiting Williams once (when they were both living in New York, I think) and he was reworking a scene for Streetcar, many years after it had premiered on Broadway and presumably been set in stone.

Tab wrote about that production with Tallulah in his book. Older woman/younger man makes so much more sense for casting, so someone like Michael Parks is a good idea. Richard Burton was too time-worn, to put it kindly.

Ingrid did something similar in Vincente Minnelli's last film, A Matter of Time, as a woman haunted by her past and anticipating her end. The film around her didn't hold up all that well, but she herself was luminous, already half on the side of the angels, which is what I think the character of Sissy calls for as well, a woman with a foot in both realms. (Camille-like, in your words.) 

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6 minutes ago, DougieB said:

Good homework. I don't know where Margaret Leighton came from....some weird memory ripple. Apparently Williams was constantly revising stuff. Truman Capote told about visiting Williams once (when they were both living in New York, I think) and he was reworking a scene for Streetcar, many years after it had premiered on Broadway and presumably been set in stone.

Tab wrote about that production with Tallulah in his book. Older woman/younger man makes so much more sense for casting, so someone like Michael Parks is a good idea. Richard Burton was too time-worn, to put it kindly.

Ingrid did something similar in Vincente Minnelli's last film, A Matter of Time, as a woman haunted by her past and anticipating her end. The film around her didn't hold up all that well, but she herself was luminous, already half on the side of the angels, which is what I think the character of Sissy calls for as well, a woman with a foot in both realms. (Camille-like, in your words.) 

Thanks. Yeah, I mentioned Michael Parks, because he had that James Dean quality in the 60s. It had to be someone gorgeous/hunky, where we can buy into a woman in failing health wanting sex with him. But it had to be someone who could act. I don't think Tab Hunter was a strong enough performer. Parks' acting would have been almost as good as Burton's.

screen-shot-2019-03-18-at-6.08.19-am.jpg

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Caution when using the term, 'high concept' as it means exactly the opposite in Hollywood these days.

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8 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Caution when using the term, 'high concept' as it means exactly the opposite in Hollywood these days.

I'll concede that. I was thinking of Joseph Losey's highly stylized direction and visual style combined with over-the-top production values, as well as eccentric casting choices like Noel Coward and Michael Dunn. I get that nowadays "high concept" means "King Kong meets Terms of Endearment", a facile precis to sell a package.

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If you want genuine nuttiness, you had to see the original production.

Herminone Baddeley, Mildred Dunnock and Paul Roebling were mesmerizing.

It went as far as it could go - and then even further.

I kept waiting for Mildred Dunnock - to levitate.

(It had only 69 performances - because it fell victim to a newspaper strike.)

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Sounds amazing. Which character did Mildred Dunnock play? Was she the "Witch of Capri" or Sissy's secretary/companion or something else? I love Mildred Dunnock and can absolutely see her in a Williams role.

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22 minutes ago, DougieB said:

Sounds amazing. Which character did Mildred Dunnock play? Was she the "Witch of Capri" or Sissy's secretary/companion or something else? I love Mildred Dunnock and can absolutely see her in a Williams role.

She played the witch character. Only the character had a more formal sounding name (Vera Condotti).

Cast details:

https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-production/the-milk-train-doesnt-stop-here-anymore-2978

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Mildred Dunnock's "Witch of Capri" was superior to Noel Coward's in the film.

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35 minutes ago, rayban said:

Mildred Dunnock's "Witch of Capri" was superior to Noel Coward's in the film.

I didn't see the Broadway production, obviously, but no doubt Dunnock would have been superior to Noel Coward in this film. I do like the idea of the witch being played by an out gay man. But Coward does not seem to be in sync with Burton & Taylor, and his style does not mesh well with theirs. As incredible as it sounds, he's miscast.

I would have picked someone like Emlyn Williams. Clifton Webb might have worked, if the goal was to make the witch character more prissy and snarly. 

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3 minutes ago, rayban said:

There was an Of-Broadway revival with Olympia Dukakis -

4.158917.jpg

Who's the actor in the photo?

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