Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Losey
Screenplay byTennessee Williams
Based onThe Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore
by Tennessee Williams
Produced byJohn Heyman
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byReginald Beck
Music byJohn Barry
Color processTechnicolor
  • World Film Services
  • Moon Lake
  • John Heyman Productions
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • 26 May 1968 (1968-05-26) (United States)
  • October 1968 (1968-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
  • English
  • Italian
Box office$2,898,079

Boom! is a 1968 British drama film directed by Joseph Losey and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noël Coward. It was adapted by Tennessee Williams from his own play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.


Flora 'Sissy' Goforth (Taylor, in a part written for an older woman) is a terminally-ill woman living with a coterie of servants, whom she verbally abuses, in a large mansion on a secluded Italian island. Into her life comes a mysterious man, Christopher Flanders, nicknamed "L'Angelo della morte" "The Angel of Death" (played by then-husband Burton, in a part intended for a younger man). Christopher claims to have met her previously, while Flora, for her part, affects not to remember having met him before. Flora is said to suffer from neuritis and several other kinds of "-itis."

In her complex of villas wired for sound, so she can at any moment resume her dictation, Flora is dictating her memoirs detailing her multiple marriages, and her affair with her only love - a now-deceased poet. She is interrupted when her guard dogs attack Christopher as he climbs the cliff side to her estate. She has her secretary Miss Black, (whom she calls 'Blackie' throughout the film), set him up in a villa for him to recuperate. She also provides him with a samurai warrior’s robe, with accompanying sword, to wear in lieu of his clothes that had been shredded from the dog attack.

She invites The Witch of Capri (Coward), to dinner on her terrace. The 'Witch' informs her of Christopher’s nickname and his history of visiting the dying shortly before their demise. Flora becomes convinced that he indeed may be an omen of her own impending doom, though she is in denial of it. Christopher meanwhile flagrantly seduces Miss Black, whose husband had died the year previously.

The interaction between Goforth and Flanders forms the backbone for the rest of the film, with both of the major characters voicing lines of dialogue that carry allegorical and Symbolist significance, such as Flora’s speech to The Witch about present moments becoming instant memories, and Christopher speaking about the crash of the waves on the cliffs signifying "the shock of each moment of still being alive"—the titular "Boom!"

The movie mingles respect and contempt for human beings who, like Goforth, continue to deny their own death, even as it draws closer and closer. It examines how these characters can enlist and redirect their fading erotic drive into the reinforcement of this denial.

Flora begins to become enamored by Christopher, as well as terrified of him. She fluctuates between emotional vulnerability and being bombastic and heated. She drives Miss Black to quit her secretarial job and grows weaker as the day turns into night.

As she lies in bed dying, Christopher tells her a story of how he helped an old man with low quality of life drown and end his suffering. As he speaks, he takes her huge diamond ring—a symbol of taking away his "victim’s" life, but also of relieving her of earthly concerns. Flora dies following the speech and Christopher throws her ring off the cliff. The film ends with the sight of waves crashing and Christopher murmuring, "Boom!"



Elizabeth Taylor's career was in decline by 1968, due to her age and recent box-office failures. She sought to use another adaption of Tennessee Williams's work to revitalize her career. The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore was unsuccessful during its run, but Universal Pictures had already acquired the film rights for the play.[1]

The film was retitled multiple times to Boom, Sunburst, and Goforth before Boom! was selected. The film was shot on Sardinia and a mansion set was constructed for $500,000. Production was delayed after Taylor contracted bronchitis the day that filming was meant to start. During filming Taylor's pet monkey stole a $1,600 jewel case and was missing for a year. Taylor received a $60,000 brooch from producer John Heyman and Bulgari loaned $2 million of jewels for the film.[2] The film cost £1,913,650[3] ($4,592,762) to make.[4]

A trailer that served as her dressing room came loose from its moorings only a few seconds after Taylor stepped out of it, and "plunged over a 150-foot embankment into the sea".[5] Built especially for the film, the mansion of Mrs. Flora Goforth is situated high atop the limestone cliffs of Isola de Presa, a small island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Sardinia. Along the bluffs are replicas of the Easter Island moai heads, six of them, representing perhaps the spirits of the six husbands she outlived. Some interiors of the mansion were sets in Rome.


The film grossed $514,725 in the United States, $20,719 in the United Kingdom, and $2,898,079 worldwide during its theatrical run. It was a financial failure and lost $3,795,452. $1,207,681 was earned from television showings in the United States.[4]

The film was received poorly by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 20% based on reviews from 15 critics.[6] Variety stated that the film was "one of the biggest box-office losers of the year".[7]

Time wrote "They display the self-indulgent fecklessness of a couple of rich amateurs hamming it up at the country-club."[8] The film was referred to as a "a pointless, pompous nightmare" by Newsweek, an "ordeal in tedium" by The Hollywood Reporter, "outright junk" by Saturday Review, and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner asked "Why was Boom! ever filmed in the first place?".[9]

Richard Schickel, writing in Life, stated that the "title could not be more apt; it is precisely the sound of a bomb exploding."[7]

Filmmaker John Waters admires the film,[10][11] and chose it as a favorite to present in the first Maryland Film Festival in 1999. The film's poster is visible in Waters' 1972 film Pink Flamingos. In an interview with Robert K. Elder for his book The Best Film You've Never Seen, Waters describes the film 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."[12]

In October 2022, the 17th Rome Film Festival saw the premiere of the "making-of" documentary L’estate di Joe, Liz e Richard (A Summer with Joe, Liz & Richard), written and directed by Sergio Naitza, the behind-the-scenes story of Boom! and its Nachleben, featuring appearances by John Waters, Joanna Shimkus, Patricia Losey, Michel Ciment, Gianni Bozzacchi, Valerio de Paolis, Gianni Bulgari, and Viram Jasani, with Giulia Naitza acting as tour guide on the film's locations.


  1. ^ Medved & Medved 1984, p. 106.
  2. ^ Medved & Medved 1984, p. 107-109.
  3. ^ Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 361
  4. ^ a b Caute 1994, p. 221.
  5. ^ "Trailer Takes Plunge Into Sea, but Not Liz", Chicago Tribune, 8 October 1967, p18
  6. ^ Boom! at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ a b Medved & Medved 1984, p. 110.
  8. ^ "New Movies: Boom!". Time. 31 May 1968.
  9. ^ Medved & Medved 1984, p. 109-110.
  10. ^ Abraham, Amelia (12 August 2015). "John Waters on the Terrible, Trashy Films That Changed His Life". Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Trash and Treasure: John Waters on Boom!". MovieTime. ABC Radio National. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  12. ^ Elder, Robert K. (2013). The Best Film You've Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love. Chicago, IL (published 1 June 2013). ISBN 9781569768389. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

Works cited