The Driver’s Seat AKA Identikit stars Elizabeth Taylor in one of her single most berserk performances and since no one can bring the crazy like La Liz, that is really saying something. This 1974 Italian film is based on a novella by Muriel Spark about a disturbed woman in a foreign country who seeks a man who will tie her up and stab her to death. There is ridiculous (mostly shouted, even screamed) dialogue like: “I sense a lack of absence” and “I feel homesick for my own loneliness.” How about “You look like Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. Do you want to eat me?” She holds up her purse in an airport security check and exclaims “This may look like a purse but it is actually a bomb!?” The best line is this, however: “When I diet, I diet and when I orgasm, I orgasm! I don’t believe in mixing the two cultures!”
The director, Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, seems to have had no control over Taylor whatsoever and it appearss like she is making up her own Dada dialogue on the spot much of the time. Andy Warhol has a cameo in the film playing a British “your Lordship” who has a cryptic encounter with Liz in an airport and they meet again later in the film. His voice is overdubbed with an English voice, which is disconcerting but kind of interesting, too.Why isn’t this cuckoo-pops crazy film better known?
Here is what the AllMovie Guide has to say about The Driver’s Seat:
A beautiful but mysterious woman goes on a journey that has dangerous consequences for her and those around her in this offbeat, arty drama from Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Patroni Griffi. Lise (Elizabeth Taylor) is a woman edging into middle age who is nearing the end of her emotional rope. Needing some time away from her job and responsibilities, Lise flies to Rome, and on the flight she meets Bill (Ian Bannen), an eccentric health food enthusiast who makes it clear he wishes to seduce her, and Pierre (Maxence Mailfort), a curious man who is wary of Lise and goes out of his way to avoid her. Lise informs anyone she speaks with that she’s come to Rome to meet her boyfriend, but it soon becomes clear she has no specific plans nor anyone to see. Lise whiles away the afternoon shopping with Mrs. Fiedke (Mona Washbourne), a chatty older woman from Nova Scotia, and in time crosses paths with Bill again, but it’s not until she meets up with Pierre that her real reason for coming to Italy, as well as the depth of her madness, becomes clear. As Lise wanders through Rome, a team of police detectives is seen investigating a crime that seems to involve her. Also released as Identikit and Psychotic, The Driver’s Seat features a brief appearance from Andy Warhol as a British nobleman.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to stunned silence and it has been suggested that Liz at one point tried to buy up the rights and all prints of the movie. The filming began one day after she filed for divorce from Richard Burton and she reportedly said to director, Griffi, “It takes one day to die, another to be reborn.”
The Driver’s Seat is not out on a proper DVD release, but you can buy often find it at a “99 Cents Only” store. Or watch it here: