Joseph Losey's Boom (1968)

Joseph Losey's Boom (1968)

No one is immune to the allure of Elizabeth Taylor. It’d be almost impossible – unless you’re only familiar with her way later in life. But dependent upon how late in her life you may have happened upon her, the actress may still have been able to exude some semblance of charm over you.

Her career engulfs a huge segment of the mid twentieth century’s filmic high points. After all, there’s a reason as to why her name resonates in the manner that it does. Oddly, though, as she lived on past the age where acting was no longer something she endeavored to do, a greater mystique arose around Taylor. It’s not exactly the same thing as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or even Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, but to a certain extent, Taylor became a parody of herself much in the same way that Orson Welles and Marlon Brando descended into territory that wasn’t too flattering. But looking back at each of those actor’s work and how important it remains even today, a few years walking around and being perceived as a wacko doesn’t seem too bad.

Either way, by the late sixties Taylor can’t have been said to still be in her prime. Despite being just shy of forty years old, the star landed a role in a filmic adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. Being unfamiliar with that particular piece of writing, it’d be difficult to aptly asses the transition from stage to screen. But what’s more than evident even in the film’s first few moments is that Boom! and its director, Joseph Losey, aimed for it to be high art.

Secluded on an island – and from the looks of it, it’s Easter Island – Taylor’s character Flora Goforth is in decline. The character is still endlessly attired in finery and surrounded by no shortage of servants and even a woman to take the dictation of her memoirs. All of this, though, is turned into fluid, wide shots that are able to take in, sea, the shore, Taylor and the island’s mountainous backdrop. Even if the film itself were a bummer, it all looks nice.

Of course, the fact that Boom! and its narrative are pretty much a bummer should detract from it’s grand visuals. It doesn’t seeing as somehow the approach Losey took, combing beauteous outdoors and a sad sack story, exaggerates everything. The emotional content of the film, with Goforth waiting to die and working to get out all of her memories, is compound by the arrival of Chris Flanders, played by Richard Burton – who himself doesn’t look too fresh. Regardless, Flanders turns out to be the spectre of death, not so much in that he summons friend’s demise, but that he just hangs around and waits until its all over, hoping to acquire some dead people’s wealth.

It’s an interesting variation on the gigolo story – and perhaps more sad. The ending of the entire affair isn’t going to be too surprising - it’s almost a foregone conclusion at the outset. Either way, Taylor, even in decline, can still hold a viewer’s attention no problem.