In the course of decades of obsessive crate-digging, I’ve turned up plenty of oddities. Most of them stay in the bins, but there will always be things too weird or wonderful to resist. But a really good dig is one which results in me exclaiming aloud in the store, to no one in particular, “HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS AND HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF IT BEFORE?”
A couple weeks ago, that record was Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds—apparently a massive phenomenon in the UK and Australia (live productions and tours are frequent and extremely popular), but it’s arcana for the connoisseur in the US, where its initial 1978 pressing and its few subsequent reissues all failed to chart. Wayne was the son of a theatrical producer, and had scored his father’s production of A Tale of Two Cities in 1966. In 1973, after a career of composing music for TV ads, he distinguished himself in the rock world by producing and playing keyboards on David Essex’s unkillable beast Rock On, meaning we owe Mr. Wayne indirect thanks for that great Patton Oswalt bit about blowing Michael Damian behind the Tilt-A-Whirl at the state fair. Wayne was able to parlay that massive success into the rights to create a War of the Worlds concept album and interest from CBS Records in funding and releasing the massively ambitious (not to say BLOATED, no sir, nuh uh) project.
The result was a double LP of slick lite-prog laced with disco’s rhythmic tropes, featuring the voices of Sir Richard Burton, Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, The Moody Blues’ Justin Hayward, and—surprise!—David Essex, adapting H.G. Wells’ novel for narration and song. Other notables in the credits include guitar ace and Sex Pistols demo producer Chris Spedding, and musical theater vet Julie Covington, an alum of Godspell, The Rocky Horror Show, and the first singer to record “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina.” The album comes packaged in a gatefold with a book containing the complete script and some awesome paintings, mostly by noted Lord of the Rings cover artist Geoff Taylor, a few of which we’ll gladly share. Clicking spawns an enlargement.
As all true John Waters fanatics know, the Pope of Trash’s favorite film of all time is Boom! director Joseph Losey’s utterly preposterous adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Waters considers Boom! a bit of a litmus test: He’ll show it to friends and if someone doesn’t like it, he won’t talk to them anymore. Seems a bit much, but he’s John Waters and I respect that! Waters described the film to Robert K. Elder in his book The Best Film You’ve Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love as “beyond bad. It’s the other side of camp. It’s beautiful, atrocious, and it’s perfect. It’s a perfect movie, really, and I never tire of it.” You’ll notice that he doesn’t say that it’s good. And he’s right, it is beyond bad. Wow. Boom! is in a category by itself, even among films starring Liz and Dick when they were shitfaced, okay?
Boom! reveals itself as a cinematic atrocity almost from the film’s very first frames—not that this is a bad thing, mind you. A clearly drunk—and I do mean clearly drunk, okay?—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton star, respectively, as Sissy Goforth, the richest woman in the world (“married to five industrial kings!”), and Chris Flanders, a penniless poet who has the uncanny knack for showing up just when some rich lady is about to kick the bucket, ready to relieve them of their personal possessions. We know this because Flanders’ nickname is “The Angel of Death.”
When we meet her, La Taylor is seen swanning about her private island wearing insanely elaborate Karl Lagerfeld clothes and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bulgari jewels. She is attended to by fawning servants (including a surly dwarf!) as she dictates her memoirs and asks for constant “injections” for her pain (as if she could feel any due to all the booze).
Burton arrives on her island and is nearly ripped apart by a pack of guard dogs. She asks him to stay and offers him a change of clothes, which includes a Samurai sword which he sports—inexplicably—for much of the film! Why not? They spend much of their screen time engaged in (obviously) drunken screaming matches. It’s AWESOME!
At one point, Noel Coward (as “The Witch of Capri”) shows up for a dinner party of “boiled sea monster”—carried on the shoulders of one of her servants and shouting “HOO HOO SISSY!” as he arrives—and gives her all the hot gossip on Burton/Flanders, who he thinks is a gigolo and warns her of his “angel of death” reputation. (It’s worth noting that the role of the “the Witch of Capri” was originally offered to Katherine Hepburn who was insulted and turned it down.)
Director Losey admitted that all the principals on Boom!—including himself—were shitfaced drunk for the entire filming. Burton later fessed up that there were several films he made in the 60s that he literally had no memory whatsoever of making. Odds are strong that Boom! is one of them!
John Waters used to tour with Boom! screening the sole existing print of the film available during his lectures. He told Vice:
[Tennessee Williams] said it was the best film ever made. Which to this day only he and I can agree on. He’s right though. The play was called The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, but that was too long to put on the marquee so they called the film Boom!, which is the sound of a bomb going off—ironic, considering how hard it bombed.
It’s so awful it’s perfect. My favorite bit is when Elizabeth Taylor pukes into a handkerchief, looks down and there’s blood, and she says, “Ah! A paper rose!” The script is ridiculous. Come on, it’s about the richest woman in the world, called “Sissy Goforth,” and the Angel of Death. Maybe everyone does need an angel of death who comes to them when they die and so what if your angel of death steals something from you.
The point is, it’s a staggering movie and it’s worth seeing it with a live audience because you just don’t know how to react at the beginning. You think, What is the tone of this? That’s the thing that is so bizarre. Apparently Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were drunk for the whole time they were filming it. Elizabeth Taylor kept wanting to buy the set and it had a roof and they had to tell her it wasn’t real. She wanted to live there and they had to say, “We’re making a movie! This isn’t a real house!”
I remember I met Elizabeth Taylor and the first thing I said is, “I loved Boom!” and she got real mad and shouted, “That’s a terrible movie!” And I said “It isn’t! I love that movie! I tour with it at festivals!” Then she realized I was serious. Because it is a great movie. I feel like if you don’t agree with that I hate you. If you don’t like Boom! I could never be your friend. Right now I live by the water and every time I see a wave hit a rock I shout, “Boom!” like Richard Burton.
Humphrey Bogart on the set of 1951 film, The African Queen with his buddy, Gordon
As I’m sure many of you are right now preparing for tomorrow, a day when you will be attempting to brush away vodka-coated cobwebs from your eyes, I thought it would be fun to share some stories and images of some of the best-known boozers and professional drunks in history. One is amazingly still with us, and the others have sadly long since gone on to the great barroom in the sky. I’m going to start this post off with one of my favorite mythical drinkers, Academy Award-winning actor, Humphrey Bogart.
Here’s Bogie (pictured above) on the set of the 1951 film that won him that Academy Award, The African Queen. While Bogart played the part of a gin-guzzling riverboat captain, Charlie Allnut, in real life he didn’t show a particular affinity for any one kind of liquor, but seemed to love them all, especially Scotch. While most of the cast and crew of the The African Queen fell ill during the filming (which was shot on site in Uganda and the Congo in Africa), Bogart was claimed that he didn’t get sick, and whenever a fly bit him “it dropped dead” thanks to his steady diet of beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whisky. Bogart’s fascinating life and love affair with booze is beautifully detailed in the 2011 book, Tough Without a Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart (which I highly recommend you read if you are at all a fan of Bogart).
Hunter S. Thompson
Easily known as one of history’s most irresponsible consumers of booze and drugs is much loved and often hated gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. As well known for his contributions to the literary world as he is for his rabid intake of alcohol, Hunter enjoyed his all of his vices in excess - whether it be booze, amyl nitrate, cigarettes, guns or women. If it was bad for you, Hunter always had a lot of it around. A drunk after my own heart, Thompson was known for ordering several drinks at a time so he didn’t have to wait for a refill.
If you’ve ever read any of Thompson’s work and are also acquainted with documents concerning his actual life , it quickly becomes clear that his “fictional” exploits were much more close to the actuality of his day-to-day life on the edge. What more could you expect from a man who lived for sleeping late, having fun, getting wild, drinking whisky, and driving fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested? That’s right. Nothing.
Keith Richards and his ever present bottle of brown liquor
As I mentioned, many of the subjects in this post are unsurprisingly no longer among the living. There are a few notable, now (mostly) reformed booze-hounds still celebrating birthdays and among them is Keith Richards. Keef turned 72 on December 18th and like Ozzy, many refer to Keith as a “medical miracle” of sorts. After reading Richard’s 2010 memoir Life, I felt like I needed to check into rehab after digesting his tales regarding his daily, decades long diet of Jack Daniels and cocaine.
Like many vice-loving individuals, Keith periodically dried out here and there through the years. But 2006 wasn’t one of those times. While filming Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Keith was so loaded on set that it became director Gore Verbinski’s “job” to get Richards’ to “sit up properly.” To anyone who suspected Keith was playing “method” in that film, congratulations! Take two drinks.
Pablo Picasso in his studio with a few bottles of the “Green Fairy”
Painter Pablo Picasso’s weapon of choice was absinthe and he drank it in alarmingly large quantities. For a time absinthe was a drink only available to the wealthy. But once it was available for mass consumption, even poor starving artists such as Picasso could afford to ride the “green fairy.” Although absinthe became prohibited in many countries in the early 20th century, it remained legal in Picasso’s home base of operations, Spain. In 2010, Picasso’s painting “The Absinthe Drinker” (which if you look at it long enough might make you feel drunk) sold for over 50 million dollars. And as we were just speaking of medical miracles, the hard-drinking Picasso lived to the ripe-old age of 92. Ceremoniously, on his deathbed, Picasso’s parting words were, “Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.”
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor knocking a few drinks back
Probably one of the most famous drunks in Hollywood, it was rumored that actor Richard Burton could throw back four bottles of vodka a day. In 1972 while filming Under Milk Wood, Burton “cut back” to one bottle a day telling director Andrew Sinclair that he “wasn’t drinking” on his film, which to Burton translated to a deviation away from his normal “three or more” bottles a day.
Elizabeth Taylor having a drink on the set of the 1963 film, Cleopatra
Together with Burton’s on-again/off-again drinking partner, Elizabeth Taylor, the pair brought new meaning to the phrase “life imitating art” in the 1966 film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Taylor wasn’t as much as a heavy drinker as Burton, and he tried to hide his penchant for drinking vodka for breakfast from her during their two marriages. Burton’s tragic relationship with alcohol is excruciatingly detailed in the 2012 book, The Richard Burton Diaries. If you’d like to get the bed spins without having to drink like Burton, you can just read some of the excerpts here.
Charles Bukowski in his happy place, in bed drinking with a pretty doll
As there is no shortage of our alcohol-fueled war stories out there that concern all too many of our heros, I’m going to cap off this post with a man who is as synonymous to drinking as anyone else in the history of booze—poet and raconteur, Charles Bukowski. There’s a bar in Prague named for Bukowski who entices its patrons with not only the best cocktails in Zizkov, but also having the “cleanest toilets.” There’s also the Bukowski Tavern in my old hometown of Boston whose website will tell you about “Today’s Fucking Specials” which include “White Trash Cheese Dip” and the “Bukowski Mad Dog,” which is just a hotdog made cooler by attaching Bukowski’s name to it. Neither of which, with all due respect, would have been frequented by Charles Bukowski.
But as food is not a topic drunks much care for anyway, let’s talk about Buk’s liver-drowning drinking habits. When times were good financially, like any drinker, his apartment would be stocked with expensive wine and whiskey. When he was broke, he’d turn to cheap beer for comfort. Like most people, Bukowski started experimenting with booze when he was a teenager and it is strongly rumoured that while he was writing his first novel, 1971’s Post Office, that he would down two six-packs of beer and follow that up with a pint of Cutty Sark. Bukowski once wrote that all he really wanted to do was stay in bed and drink saying that “when you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.” And on that note, I bid you dear Dangerous Mind reader, a Happy New Year. Res ipsa loquitur - Let the good times roll.
Steve McQueen was one of several Hollywood celebrities placed on a “Death List” allegedly compiled by Charles Manson. The other names were Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones.
On August 9th, 1969, members of Manson’s “Family” carried out the brutal murder of Sharon Tate and 4 of her friends.
McQueen had briefly dated Tate, and had planned to visit the actress the night of her death.
In December 1969, Manson and the killers had been arrested.
When McQueen heard he might be targeted by Manson’s followers, he started carrying a gun. In October 1970, a still cautious McQueen wrote to his lawyer to find out if any “Family” members were still active, and to have his gun license renewed.
A SOLAR PRODUCTION
October 17, 1970
Mr. Edward Rubin
Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp
6380 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90048
As you know, I have been selected by the Manson Group to be marked for death, along with Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Tom Jones. In some ways I find it humorous, and in other ways frighteningly tragic. It may be nothing, but I must consider it may be true both for the protection of myself and my family.
At the first possible time, if you could pull some strings and find out unofficially from one of the higher-ups in Police whether, again unofficially, all of the Manson Group has been rounded up and/or do they feel that we may be in some danger.
Secondly, if you would call Palm Springs and have my gun permit renewed, it was only for a year, and I should like to have it renewed for longer as it is the only sense of self-protection for my family and myself, and I certainly think I have good reason.
Please don’t let too much water go under the bridge before this is done, and I’m waiting for an immediate reply.
Looking at the glorious cover art for Severin’s recent release of the 1978 action film, The Wild Geese, one can just feel the epic sturm und drang emanate from it. We’re talking macho splashes of earth tones, weathered faces and a sense of complete, virulent action, all telling you that this is not your average uber-masculine, gun-toting, white-knuckling film. No, because while The Wild Geese has all the key elements to make your garden variety violence loving film fan happy, it also has more on the ball than that. This is a film that you can love for more than just its body.
The Wild Geese stars Richard Burton as Col. Allen Faulkner, a highly seasoned mercenary who is hired by the impossibly rich industrialist, Sir Edward Matherson (Stewart Granger), to put together a team of the best mercs in the business. The reason? To pull off a rescue mission for President Limbani (Winston Ntshona). Limbani has been imprisoned in his own African nation after being overthrown by a rabid dictator. The goal is to get him to safety and set off the domino effect to get the dictator out and to get their fair, if sickly, President back in his original position.
The real fun begins as Faulkner starts to put together his dream of mercenaries, including the dashing Sean Flynn (Roger Moore), single dad and the Colonel’s best friend Captain Rafer Janders (Richard Harris), retiree and gardening enthusiast Sandy Young (Jack Watson) and the wild card from South Africa, Pieter Coatzee (Hardy Kruger), among others. After one fantastic hard-boiled training sequence, the men are ready. The mission is pulled off with all the finesse and fine honed technique of a Russian ballet, but the worm turns and their employer pulls a double cross. It is then up to the titular Wild Geese to get out of Africa alive.
The Wild Geese is a quality film with an interesting and initially, controversial history. The film was protested for being (falsely) assumed to have sympathetic leanings towards Apartheid. Naturally, the protestors had not seen the film and in fact, pointedly refused to even read anything informative about it. In fact, while the film was partially filmed in South Africa, the integrated cast were kept together and left alone by the government. The stench of Apartheid is one that still haunts modern history and with The Wild Geese, there is a crystal clear message of unity at its core. This is especially true with the interactions between the initially hostile Pieter and the infinitely more patient Limbani. Both of them Africans, with the President at one point telling Pieter that for the greater good of their homeland, they must work together, race be damned. Given how much the action genre gets criticized for being anti-intellectual, this is some sweetly refreshing stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are still enough explosions and bullets to satisfy your inner Old Testament blood lust, but it has something for the ole noggin as well.
Of course, the most standout feature of The Wild Geese is undoubtedly, the cast. Richard Burton shines the brightest as the adroit, tough but with a heart leader Faulkner. Burton, in his early 50’s here, has the perfect blend of talent and manly gravitas that seals the deal. Richard Harris is sweet, in a rough and tumble, whiskey drinking, I’ll-kick-your-ass sort of way. The real revelation though is Roger Moore, who is not only more suave but also more virile here than he was in any of his Bond films. He’s wooing the ladies (well, like the one out of two women in the whole film), when he isn’t flying planes, dodging the mob or giving drug pushers their just desserts. Veteran character actor Frank Finlay, whose resume ranges from I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname to Polanski’s The Pianist, stands out in his brief role as a hot tempered priest. He gets one of the best lines with, “Good luck to you, you Godless murderers!”
The Wild Geese is a piece of cinema rich with blood, 80-proof sweat and tears. While the film was a massive success overseas, it never soared past cult status in the States, namely due to Allied Artists, which had backed the film, folding right before the release. Now thanks to the fine folks at Severin Films, The Wild Geese has a chance for the US Market again, with this loving and thorough DVD/Blu Ray release. In addition to being remastered, there are also some choice extras, including interviews with Roger Moore, Director McLagen, audio commentary, trailers and more.
The only real misstep here is the film’s over-dramatic theme song, courtesy of Joan Armatrading. Nothing against her body of work, but it does not fit the film at all. The Wild Geese may have some heart but it’s still covered by a calloused, hard bitten exterior. If the film was more purely a political creature, maybe, but its action roots are too strong for extra-reaching folk music.
If you’re wanting to ring in 2013 with one fine, cult-action film with a cast that would make any repertory theater with a well stocked liquor cabinet happy, then check out Andrew McLagen’s The Wild Geese
This is a post from our guest-blogger, Peter Choyce of KXLU radio in Los Angeles
I’m surprised how few people nowadays (well, Americans anyway) have heard the ROCK OPERA version of War of the Worlds. The timeless classic, penned by HG Wells over a century ago and adapted by Orson Welles into a radio play in the late 1930s that drove people on the east coast bonkers, also enjoyed a life on vinyl, double vinyl, even, before becoming a musical play.
Orchestrated by Jeff Wayne (Not ELO’s Jeff LYNNE as I once thought) the piece has its base in prog rock stylings but with a classical string section, too. Recorded in 1977 and released in ‘78, the album boasts such talents of the day as Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, David Essex, Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott, and even featured a deep-throated narration by Richard Burton.
The lyrics are by Gary Osborne (who wrote a lot for Sir Elton) and lets not forget to mention contributions from Chris Spedding, Manfred Mann’s Chris Thompson and Evita’s Julie Covington as the damsel in distress.
AOR radio stations in the US played the single from the LP, “Forever Autumn,” back in the day and rotated it respectably like it was a new single from the Moody Blues. Hayward’s number was pleasant enough but it was really the anomaly, having little to do with the album’s narrative and deep, haunting theme. “The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one…but still, THEY COME!” was heard all over the LP but was not part of the “pretty” song—the only song anyone here really remembers.
However, the LP sold hundreds of thousands of copies in other countries and spend a mighty 290 weeks in the UK top 100, a feat surpassed only by Dark Side of the Moon. It had a snazzy booklet with artworks by Peter Goodfellow and others that propelled the story along. I ripped the book apart so I could hang the pictures of the aliens on my wall in my teenage room.
David Essex, best—and perhaps only—known stateside for his “Rock On” hit, does a good job acting in the dramatic scenes and also sings lead on many of the tracks. Essex has always been popular in his homeland, a one-time member of the Royal Opera who recorded a number of pretty cool records that never really made it out of the UK. Most of the songs clock in at more than eight mins. All good prog rock need to take their time ‘specially when there is so much going on with the whole world to burn up and conquer before ultimately succumbing to Earth’s atmosphere and dying oh-so-ignominiously.
Perhaps the best part of the record is how the Martians are embedded into the score. Using a decidedly Wagnerian technique, they appear as leitmotifs, which in this case are synthesized repetitions of key sounds. Their musical voice is anguished and misunderstood. The arrangement is real spooky and way scarier than that old radio broadcast that allegedly drove a few gullible New Jersyites to suicide.
Like Tommy and Jesus Christ Superstar before it, in 2006, War of the Worlds was turned into a live musical spectacular that has toured the world, and also a video game. An updated release will surface later this month under the title War of the Worlds “The New Generation” with a couple of new songs, more attention paid to the script and Liam Neeson taking over for Richard Burton as the narrator/journalist.
For now I encourage you to clicky the linky below. You’ll be glad you did. It’s the original LP from 1978 in its entirety. The whole thing. Quite scrumptious.
This is a post from our guest-blogger, Peter Choyce of KXLU radio in Los Angeles
Candy should, I repeat should be off the scale incredible. But it’s not.
Candy was a film that was always talked about, but no one ever saw it. The poster of Candy topless in the airplane cockpit would always be for sale in the back pages of magazines like “Famous Monsters of Filmland” next to ones of King Kong and Frankenstein and it became a familiar image of the era. But the movie you never saw. Not on any late night movie show, never on a Sunday morning “Million Dollar Movie” or anything like that, Candy was seemingly banned from TV for being too racy and for whatever reason was never released on VHS either. Nor was it ever on HBO or Showtime. It was the great lost movie in my eyes.
I became mildly obsessed with this film I could never see and went about collecting movie posters, lobby cards, publicity photos and I own several different versions of the novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg with different groovy covers. The mythical Candy became a cult movie Holy Grail for me. I really built it up in my mind. For years I tried to get hold of a copy in the tape trading underground, but the best I was ever able to find was still unwatchable. Then finally it came out on DVD. It was like Christmas had arrived.
But it sucked! Really sucked. It was such a let down!
I mean just LOOK at the cast: Ringo Starr (Emmanuel, the Mexican gardener), Charles Aznavour (the horny hunchback), Marlon Brando (Grindl, the horny (fake) Indian guru), Richard Burton (MacPhisto, the drunk, horny Welsh poet), James Coburn (egotistical surgeon), John Huston (dirty old man doctor) and Walter Matthau (horny military general). Sugar Ray Robinson and Anita Pallenberg make cameo appearances. How could you go wrong with a cast like that?
Let’s not forget the amazing opening space travel sequence by Douglas Trumbull who went on to make 2001 with Stanley Kubrick. And the soundtrack by The Byrds, Steppenwolf and soundtrack great Dave Grusin (it’s INCREDIBLE and easy to find on audio blogs). The script was adapted by Buck Henry. HOW could this fail?
It even featured the decade defining pulchritude of Miss Teen Sweden, Ewa Aulin, in the title role of “Candy Christian,” the ultimate All-American girl.
But despite all this Candy is a terrible film and even worse, it’s boring.
One of the things that must have mucked up things badly for the production is—and I am just theorizing here—the contracts for the lead actors. These were THE leading actors of the day, all of them top drawer A-list 60s talent. After watching Candy the thought occurred to me that Marlon Brando’s agent probably asked how much screen time Richard Burton was getting and demanded the same for his client. Then James Coburn’s manager asked the same question and demanded equal time for his client and so on and so until each actor was guaranteed “Most Favored Nations” equal screen time. How else to explain the film’s structure? It’s maddening to watch and Candy feels like it’s never going to end.
STILL, I’m not saying it’s so bad you shouldn’t watch it. Actually I think that if this sounds even remotely intriguing to you then it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s not good, no, we’ve already established that fact, but it is a super insane, trippy, campy relic of the 1960s with some of the most iconic actors of the decade behaving like total hambones, each trying to outdo the other in chewing up the scenery.
As all true John Waters fanatics know, the Pope of Trash’s favorite film of all time is Boom! director Joseph Losey’s preposterous adaptation of Tennesse Williams’ 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore. Waters considers Boom! a bit of a litmus test: He’ll show it to friends and if someone doesn’t like it, he won’t talk to them anymore. Seems a bit much, but he’s John Waters and I respect that!
Boom! reveals itself as a cinematic atrocity almost from the film’s very first frames—not that this is a bad thing, mind you. A clearly drunk—and I do mean clearly drunk, okay?—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton star, respectively, as Sissy Goforth, the richest woman in the world, and Chris Flanders, a penniless poet who has the uncanny knack for showing up just when some rich lady is about to kick the bucket, ready to relief them of their personal possesions. We know this because Flanders’ nickname is “The Angel of Death.”
When we meet her, La Taylor is seen swanning about her private island wearing insanely elaborate Karl Lagerfeld clothes and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Bugari jewels. She is attended to by fawning servants (including a surly dwarf!) as she dictates her memoirs and asks for constant “injections” for her pain (as if she could feel any due to all the booze and prescription painkillers she was on, but I digress).
Burton arrives on her island and is nearly ripped apart by a pack of her guard dogs. She asks him to stay and offers him a change of clothes, which includes a Samurai sword which he sports—inexplicably—for much of the film. They spend much of their screen time engaged in (obviously) drunken screaming matches. It’s AWESOME!
At one point, Noel Coward (as “The Witch of Capri”) shows up for a dinner party—carried on the shoulders of one of her servants—and gives her the goss on Burton/Flanders, who he thinks is a gigolo and warns her of his “angel of death” reputation. (Worth noting that the role of the “Witch” was originally offered to Katherine Hepburn who was insulted and turned it down).
In one bio of director Losey, he admits that all the principals on Boom!—including himself—were shitfaced drunk for the entire filming. Burton later fessed up that there were several films he made in the 60s that he literally had no memory of making. Odds are this is one of them!
Boom! wasn’t even released on VHS until 2000 and it’s never been put out on DVD (except for a recent Region 2 release in the Netherlands). Very occasionally you might see it on TV. Next time it’s on, grab yourself some herbal “entertainment insurance,” invite a few friends over and gorge yourself on the glorious, gorgeous mess that is Boom!
And if you don’t believe me, here’s what John Waters has to say about the film:
Mike Nichols’s film adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened 44 years ago today during a summer of tumult. Not only were massive protests against the Vietnam War hitting Washington DC, but the last trouble-free marriage sitcom, The Dick van Dyke Show, had just aired its last episode. It was on.
Screenwriter Ernest Lehman ingeniously situates George and Martha’s relentless turning-point fight in a well-lit parking lot, giving Taylor the pacing space to sprawl out the argument across the psyche of tortured married couples across America. The pair’s agreement on “total war” seems almost chilling in its self-indulgence in the context of President Johnson’s escalating the horrific bombing of North Vietnam at the time.